Before a change of heart, Porsche was nearly ready to pull the trigger on returning to Formula One. In 2017, the German brand was far along in development on a new 6-cylinder engine that would have complied with FIA regulations for F1 at the time.
According to a report from Autosport on Friday, in 2017 Porsche was busy working on the 6-cylinder engine for its LMP1 program in the World Endurance Championship. It so happened the engine would also work in F1 with proposed changes. Back then, Porsche was part of the FIA's Manufacturers Commission, and it was possible the regulatory body was ready to drop a requirement for energy recovery from the exhaust gases. With the change, the new engine would have worked.
2017 Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1 race car
Porsche's head of motorsport Fritz Enzinger told the website a 40-person team was developing the engine. The team had concrete orders from Porsche's board of executives to move ahead on the engine, even as Audi dropped out of the WEC, because an F1 engine would "also be interesting for a super sports car," he said. Notably, Mercedes-AMG uses an F1-derived engine in its One hypercar.
As work progressed, Porsche inched closer to returning to F1 for the 2021 season. The last time Porsche competed in F1 was in 1991, and it failed rather spectacularly. Finally, the VW Group made the call to end Porsche's LMP1 program, which put an end to any F1 prospects as well. Instead, Porsche decided to enter Formula E along with Audi.
A Porsche F1 team would have certainly shaken things up on the starting grid alongside the other big names still committed to the motorsport. However, we'll never know how Porsche would have fared. We'll instead see how the brand performs in Formula E for the series' sixth season when it kicks off on June 21.