By James Broughton, October 26, 2022
Audi will enter Formula One in 2026 and has chosen to partner with the Sauber team as it begins a very long journey to the top step of the F1 podium. Sauber currently runs under the brand and colors of Alfa Romeo in what is a licensing agreement. The current arrangement expires in 2023, and from that point on Sauber will continue to race under its own name in 2024 and 2025 until it is consumed by Audi in 2026. Audi is expected to consolidate its partnership with Sauber by acquiring a substantial shareholding.
Audi along with Porsche is part of the Volkswagen group. VW’s initial intention was to enter both companies into F1. However, Porsche could not reach a deal to partner with Red Bull as an engine supplier, effectively using re-badged Honda-developed powertrains. Porsche is still actively seeking to partner with an F1 team but does not have an engine facility dedicated to F1 powertrain development.
The most likely scenario is that if Porsche does become an F1 engine supplier it will use a rebranded Audi developed power unit.
Audi is currently in the advanced stages of its powertrain engineering development which is aimed at meeting F1’s new power unit regulations for the 2026 season. F1’s cost cap initiative is also said to have lured Audi into the sport. However long the cost cap will last depends on how the financial breach by Red Bull is handled by the FIA. So far it doesn’t look promising.
Nevertheless, Audi faces a big challenge. Formula One has drained the resources and ambitions of the biggest manufacturers. F1 is at the extreme end of engineering, every component of an F1 car is pushed beyond the limits. It will take years for Audi to acclimatize to what is an alien world before they see any meaningful success.