Porsche and parent company the Volkswagen Group are considering entering Formula 1.
Any move depends on the direction of the sport’s next engine regulations, which are due to be introduced in 2025.
Porsche Motorsport vice-president Fritz Enzinger told BBC Sport: “It would be of great interest if aspects of sustainability – for instance, the implementation of e-fuels – play a role in this.
“Should these aspects be confirmed, we will evaluate them in detail within the VW Group and discuss further steps.”
E-fuels are carbon-neutral fuels that can power internal combustion engines without the environmental impact of traditional fossil fuels.
They come in a number of forms, including bio-fuels, which are made from bio-mass, and synthetic fuels, which are manufactured by an industrial process that captures carbon from the atmosphere.
F1 has committed to making e-fuels a central part of the sport from 2025.
Senior F1 figures say Porsche has been involved in the discussion around the new engine rules.
Enzinger said: “Porsche and Volkswagen AG are observing the constantly changing regulations in all relevant racing series around the world. This is also the case with regard to the emerging new engine and drivetrain regulation for Formula 1 from 2025.”
Talks between relevant parties over the new F1 rules have moved on to the detail of regulations, which are part of a wider plan for the sport to achieve net-zero carbon status by 2030.
Enzinger said Porsche and VW were “currently not actively represented in these forums”.
Which team could Porsche and VW join with?
If Volkswagen Group (VAG) did commit to entering F1, it would be likely to be with either its Porsche or Audi brands, sources say.
And it is not clear whether any entry would be as a full works team, in the manner of Mercedes, or as an engine supplier to an existing entrant.
VAG is said to have had initial exploratory talks with three teams – Red Bull, McLaren and Williams.
Red Bull have obvious appeal because of their level of competitiveness and absence of ties to a car manufacturer.
Their engine partner Honda is pulling out of F1 at the end of this season and Red Bull have struck a deal to take over the Japanese company’s power-units and run them until the end of 2024.
Red Bull have not commented on Porsche but team principal Christian Horner said last month they were open to a partnership with a car manufacturer, also known as OEMs.
“If an exciting partner comes along, then of course it makes sense to look at it very seriously, whether it be an OEM or another type of partner,” said Horner.
Meanwhile, Williams’s recently appointed chief executive, Jost Capito, has had a long career as an executive at VAG.
The 62-year-old was head of VW Motorsport from 2012 to 2016 and returned to the German giant in its high-performance road-car division in 2017 after a brief period at McLaren. Capito also worked at Porsche between 1989 and 1996.
Williams declined to comment.
McLaren – whose team principal, Andreas Seidl, is the former head of Porsche motorsport – is embarking this season on a new customer engine contract with Mercedes.
A McLaren spokesperson said: “We never comment on speculation.”
New F1 president Stefano Domenicali is also a former VW Group executive.
The 55-year-old joined F1 in January after five years as CEO of Lamborghini, which is part of VAG.
Before that, he was VAG’s head of future projects. He was working on an F1 feasibility study for the company when it was hit by the diesel-gate emissions scandal, which curtailed the plans.
That was the second time in the past decade that VW Group shied away from an F1 programme after investigating the idea.
It was also involved in discussions over the current engines at the start of the 2010s before ultimately deciding to focus on endurance racing.
What will F1’s new engines be like?
The 2025 F1 engines will centre on hybrid power – combining internal combustion engines with an electrical and regenerative element. The aim is to have a larger proportion of their total power output created by electricity and energy recovery than the current F1 engines.
The high-tech turbo-hybrid engines used in F1 since 2014 have instigated a technical revolution in terms of thermal efficiency – the rate of conversion of fuel-energy into usable power. They have a thermal-efficiency rating of more than 50% compared with the 30% of a typical road-going petrol engine.
However, they are complex and expensive and F1 bosses say they want to ensure the new engines are more cost-effective.
Many road-car manufacturers are interested in e-fuels as a solution for carbon-neutral power as there are limitations to the practical implementation of electric cars for all purposes.
And Porsche is already building its own manufacturing plant for synthetic fuels in southern Chile.
E-fuels could also be of use in areas in which batteries are not suitable, such as air travel, where a battery sufficient to power an aeroplane would make it too heavy to fly.
Domenicali said last month: “Electrification, full electric, is not the only way for the future [of road cars].
“So the hybridisation that we want to offer in the future is the right platform on which [manufacturers] can present their product.
“Hybrid will be a diversified platform on which they can invest and promote the efficiency of their power-unit or power-train.
“Carbon neutrality is the other element at the centre of our discussion – eco-fuel, organic fuel.
“The good thing is all the OEMs and [F1] teams share this view together.”