Porsche is ready to hold out for Formula 1’s 2016 calendar to be officially ratified before deciding if it needs to find a replacement for Nico Hulkenberg in its Le Mans line-up.
The German manufacturer wants Hulkenberg to return to defend his Le Mans 24 Hours crown, but the FIA's latest version of the F1 calendar, released on Wednesday evening, features a clash between the European Grand Prix in Azerbaijan and the French endurance classic.
Both events are slated for June 19 - making it impossible for Hulkenberg to drive for Force India in Baku and also race at Le Mans.
Although the likely absence has already prompted speculation that Porsche could opt for another big-name signing - such as Juan Pablo Montoya - it has made clear that its focus right now is on Hulkenberg.
“Everything is still open at present as the F1 calendar is only provisional, but when it is confirmed then we will plan some decisions,” a Porsche insider told Motorsport.com.
“If the Grand Prix in Baku does go ahead on the Le Mans weekend, I think it is more likely you will see a Porsche ‘family’ driver in the seat rather than someone like Juan Pablo.
“The team is more than comfortable with that. Then for 2017 things could get serious with Montoya, but it won’t be decided until after he tests the car.”
Montoya set for 2017 switch
A planned test for Montoya before the end of the year is not thought to have any bearing on a possible 2016 competitive drive for the Colombian, who is contracted for a full season of IndyCar with Penske next season.
Irrespective of any clashing races, Montoya would not consider a Le Mans drive without undertaking a lengthy testing programme or a ‘warm-up’ event such as the 6 Hours of Spa.
The 2015 Indy 500 winner is much more likely to consider a full-time endurance programme in 2017, when his 10-year-old son Sebastien is thought likely to compete on the European karting scene for the first time.
That would mean easier logistics for Montota to work closely with Porsche and contest a full WEC season.
With Montoya having worked closely with both Porsche bosses, Fritz Enzinger and Andreas Siedl at Williams-BMW in the last decade, a long-term plan of Montoya becoming a fully-fledged Porsche endurance driver is believed to be the next step after his test this year.
Those in the running to join Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber in the third Porsche LMP1 car at Le Mans next season are believed to be Michael Christensen, Frederic Makowiecki, Klaus Bachler and Sven Muller.
Christensen and Makowiecki have already tested the Porsche 919 Hybrid at Magny Cours last autumn.
Porsche is known to be comfortable promoting one of its own drivers from within following the performances of Tandy and Bamber this season.