Volkswagen brands Audi and Porsche are set to decide their future in F1 in the coming month, with the former rumored to have approached McLaren to discuss a buyout offer according to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.
Formula 1's future engine rules, which are expected to be introduced in 2026 but have yet to be set in stone, have enticed both Audi and Porsche to join the grid.
Both companies have had a seat at the table in recent talks between F1, the FIA and the sport's manufacturers over how the next generation of power units shall be defined.
With the future architecture, which is expected to enhance the hybrid component of F1's current engine, aligned with Audi and Porsche's own vision, both companies look set to invest in F1.
However, according to AMUS, Audi and Porsche are reportedly mulling whether to buy a team outright or to partner with an outfit as a mere engine supplier.
The German website's report contends that four teams have been approached by the Volkswagen subsidiaries: McLaren, Red Bull, Williams and Sauber.
There doesn't appear to be any tangible evidence that Audi has effectively approached McLaren about a buyout, or if the German manufacturer's plans involve a takeover of the entire McLaren Group or just its racing subsidiary.
Regarding the conjecture, it would seem improbable for McLaren to sell out to Audi when Formula 1 is surging, and with a cost-cap business model that will only increase the value of each team's franchise.
Furthermore, as AMUS's Michael Schmidt notes in his report, McLaren only recently restructured its shareholder base, selling a 15 percent interest in McLaren Racing to US sports agency MSP Sports for £185 million, a stake the latter would like to increase in the future.
Any buyout offer by Audi would likely involve a massive premium to convince McLaren's current shareholders to part with their holdings, especially after McLaren racing boss Zak Brown's recent comments about the growing value of F1's teams.
"I think Formula 1 teams can definitely be worth billions," he said. "McLaren will be a profitable racing team in the not-too-distant future. Before the budget cap came into place, I don’t think you could have said that.
"It was a sport where you had to spend as much as the biggest spender in the sport, so the franchise was more about who could afford to lose the most and that’s not a very attractive franchise model for a lot of people. So I think that fundamentally changed things."
On any case, a takeover of the Woking-based outfit by a major automobile manufacturer, although unlikely, would not go down well with McLaren's loyal fans, with the team's long-term future becoming dependent on the whims and disposition of Volkswagen's board of directors.
Regarding Porsche's own F1 ambitions, a tie-up with Red Bull Powertrains appears much more plausible.
Red Bull's engine subsidiary is planning on building its own power unit for 2026, when its IP agreement with Honda comes to cease.
The Milton Keynes-based unit could certainly undertake its preparation work with Porsche before a full partnership between the two parties is put on its rails.
However, according to AMUS, an association between Red Bull and Porsche would ruffle more than a few feathers at Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault as the two partners would have "twice as many test bench hours" as their fellow engine suppliers which would be "a violation of the cost cap", with two manufacturers working on one engine with twice the budget.
As the rumor mill continues to spin, and events and decision unfold in the boardrooms in Wolfsburg, Stuttgart and Ingolstadt, the December 15th deadline is impatiently awaited to find out if two of motorsport's more prominent manufacturers will join the F1 grid.
In the meantime, enjoy Sean Bull's superb renderings here above, because that may be as good as it gets when it comes to Audi and Porsche in F1.