Vice president of Porsche Motorsport Fritz Enzinger revealed in an interview that Porsche is testing a concept for a next-generation Formula 1 engine, one that could leave the door open for a future Porsche F1 program.
Enzinger told Autosport that Porsche has a hybrid six-cylinder engine of similar spec to those used in F1 "complete and running on the test bench," with "20 to 25 technicians" using it "for analyses and further orders with regard to series relevance."
"The possible use for this six-cylinder engine was completely open," Enzinger told the publication. "If it had been decided to send Porsche 2021 to Formula 1, we would have made it the way we did in 2018."
He explained that the roots of this engine can be found in tandem six-cylinder racing engine programs launched by Porsche Motorsport in 2017. Porsche's winning LMP1 car, the 919 Hybrid, was then powered by a turbocharged, hybrid 2.0-liter V-4, though a six-cylinder replacement for this engine was reportedly in the cards. Given that the engine would be a low-displacement, turbocharged and hybridized six-banger built for durability, the potential to adapt this WEC engine for F1 use was obvious.
"Of course, we thought about what would have to change if the engine were to be used in Formula 1," Enzinger said.
A second engine program reportedly arose—one based around adapting the engine concept for entry in F1 in 2021—when the power unit regulations are scheduled to change. Originally, F1's regulators sought to delete the "MGU-H" exhaust gas energy scavenger from 2021's engines, the goal being to reduce costs and encourage new entries. Due to pressure from F1's current engine suppliers, however, the scheme has reportedly been scrapped, and Porsche reacted by backing off on its F1 engine program, the engine being designed around not having an MGU-H. But that doesn't mean the engine's development ceased.
"At the end of 2017, we received a concrete order from our parent company to further develop a highly efficient six-cylinder engine, despite its LMP1 withdrawal," Enzinger continued. "Not only on paper but actually as hardware and with the idea that this engine will be put to the test in 2019."
Porsche's as-of-yet potential F1 engine is on the back burner, though Enzinger's confirmation that the project is still underway could suggest we'll still see the power of Porsche's take on an F1 engine—maybe even in a road car. Enzinger said that such an engine, sans MGU-H, could "also be interesting for a super sports car."