Panthera Team Asia looking to join F1 in 2026 with a Power Unit “pre-agreement” already in place

Panthera Team Asia looking to join F1 in 2026 with a Power Unit “pre-agreement” already in place

Panthera Team Asia

Panthera Team Asia had first stated its intentions to join Formula 1 in 2019. However, the Covid-19 pandemic halted the team’s progress. As Panthera failed to meet its deadline for making its F1 debut in 2022. But now, the Asian outfit is prepared for another shot to compete at the pinnacle of motorsport. This time, the team is determined to be a part of the F1 grid in 2026. The year when the new regulations are put in place.

After the FIA’s announcement of an Expression of Interest for new teams in F1, Panthera efforts have been rejuvenated. Benjamin Durand, the Panthera Team Principal and co-founder mentioned the difficulties for the Asian team. Durand called the team’s journey to get a spot in F1 a “rollercoaster.” Although, Durand stated the clear intentions of Panthera Team Asia to make it to F1. He said, “We could have given up a long time ago on this project, but we believe in it.”

Formula 1 is currently witnessing an influx of new entrants in the sport

Panthera Team Asia is confident about the potential opportunities for F1 if it had an all-Asian team on the grid. Benjamin Durand is aware of the sport’s massive expansion in the United States in recent years, including three races next year. However, Durand and the team look toward the future, stating how Asia will be the next market for growth. Durand told PlanetF1, “We still think that the Asian market and Chinese market are the next markets to be developed.”

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Panthera Team Asia believes F1 will benefit from an Asian team

Asia has the potential to bring in millions of new fans to F1

The Panthera boss expressed his belief in Asia becoming the next market for F1 after the saturation in the US. He continued, ““Now Formula 1 is focusing a lot on the US which is normal because it’s growing but once that market is there, Asia and Africa are the next big market for F1, especially now that Zhou [Guanyu] is in the Championship.” Although currently, Panthera Team Asia is still waiting for FIA’s approval before restarting its endeavor.

Panthera is waiting for the final details of the FIA’s Expression of Interest for new teams. In a bid to understand the process of joining the grid. Benjamin said, “We need to have confirmation, that’s what we’re waiting for right now. We’ve been told that by the end of the month, they will release exactly what they expect from the teams.” Andretti and Cadillac have already publicly stated their intentions to join F1 under this Expression of Interest. Durand mentioned the procedure to be similar to what Haas went through to join the sport

Panthera’s F1 operation will be based in Asia along with an Asian driver and even an Asian Driver Academy

Panthera already has Zhou Guanyu as a potential candidate for its seat

Unlike several teams in the past, which were based in the UK but ran under a different flag. Panthera Team Asia will be taking a road less travelled as it seeks to be a true Asian F1 team. Benjamin Durand mentioned how this will differentiate Panthera from any team on the grid and bring F1 to a new territory. He said, “Different from the existing teams that are in F1 right now is that we will not be based in Europe… We will bring F1 to a place in Asia where F1 is not that present.”

Panthera will be signing an Asian driver when it makes an entry to F1. Durand hinted at hiring Zhou Guanyu if the Chinese driver is available after Audi’s takeover of Alfa Romeo. He said, “Zhou that has a contract with Alfa Romeo and then we will see what will happen with Audi. But it’s too early.” Albeit the Panthera boss has stated having contact with drivers while also waiting for newer talent. Benjamin continued, “We have contact with some of the drivers and there will be new drivers that will come by 2026.”

However, another major part of the project is to recruit personnel from the Asian continent as well as to hone young talent in the region. The team will develop talent in Asia instead of hiring from the vast pool of talent in the UK. Durand mentioned, “To have local recruitments and local talents to work and develop the car… We don’t do it the easy way.” Benjamin also expressed the long-term goal for a young driver academy. He said, “There is an academy which will take time to develop… in the medium and long term.”

Panthera Team Asia has a “pre-agreement” with an existing power unit manufacturer in place

Panthera has tentatively secured an existing F1 manufacturer for power units in 2026

Benjamin Durand mentioned that Panthera had negotiated with all the power unit suppliers on the current grid, namely, Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Red Bull. And finally, the team had managed to get a pre-agreement for engines in 2026. Durand said, “We have on paper a pre-agreement with one of the manufacturers.” Although He did not deny the possibility of aligning with a new supplier by the time of the team’s debut in 2026.

“We are also very cautious about the power unit because our understanding is that there will be six manufacturers in 2026” Durand even went as far as calling the pre-agreement, “a letter of intent.” Panthera has not abandoned the idea of having an Asian manufacturer’s engines in its cars but Benjamin admitted that this could happen only in the long term as the contacted manufacturers “will not be ready to do an engine for 2026”

On the side of recruitment and development, Panthera Team Asia will look to align itself with an existing team for facilities such as the wind tunnel. Benjamin even mentioned the team’s best shot to join the grid being 2026 in order to have a competitive project. Durand continued, “The good thing with the current regulations is that you can purchase 70% of the car from another manufacturer.” Hinting at a Haas-Ferrari kind of partnership.

Panthera set for a long-term F1 project

Panthera hopes to not be stuck in the back of the grid unlike other independent teams

F1 is about winning, but the top teams dominate the top spots on the podium. Durand is aware of the hardships in building competitive Panthera machinery. Even mentioning how the team won’t win from its debut. He said, “It would be ridiculous for me to say, ‘okay, we want to come and win the Championship and be champion in five years, we’re going to be champion”. Benjamin went on to call such a target “unrealistic.”

Thus, Panthera Team Asia will be learning in its initial years. Looking to build upon the foundation for a long-term plan to win. The team boss said, “I think the objectives for the initial seasons are to be present, to grow, to score points when we can and not be five seconds behind. However, Durand made it clear that the team will be looking to continue its growth over the years in the pecking order. He stated, “The objective is to grow, it is not just to be a contestant.”

Thus, Panthera Team Asia has an ambitious plan up its sleeves. An Asian-based team looking to challenge the status quo. It is certainly not impossible but a really difficult task. Benjamin Durand and his team will be achieving a tough ask if they receive the green light from the FIA. However, if Panthera is successful in F1, it would reshape the sport’s landscape globally and perhaps bring us an Asian world champion. The paddock will be looking forward to the journey of this Asian squad.

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