Formula 1 has again attracted a car maker after nearly 10 years: Audi has announced that it will be a supplier of engines in this class from 2026 onwards through a partnership with Red Bull. The Germans have not confirmed what their entry point is in this category, noting that they will announce the team with which they will participate “at the end of the year”, but the deal has been advanced with Sauber for a few weeks now.
“I am delighted to welcome Audi to Formula 1, a distinctive, pioneering and technologically innovative car brand. This is an important moment for our sport, which highlights the strength we have as a global platform that continues to grow. Recognizing that our transition to sustainability is acknowledging that our transition to sustainability is acknowledging that our transition to sustainability has been a major milestone for us,” said Stefano Domenicali, CEO of F1. Hybrid fuel engines in 2026 are the future solution for the automotive sector.
The automaker saw a “perfect opportunity” to enter this category by adopting the budget cap for teams and new rules for power units, which debuted in 2026 and were announced in August after years of negotiations. The Germans also highlighted F1’s growth in the US and China, as well as its rejuvenation of its audience.
During the process, which began when the two Volkswagen brands began sitting around the table discussing the 2026 power unit rules, the overall impression was that Porsche had a more straightforward path to enter, but it was Audi that appeared in the ad. .
In fact, Audi found some locked doors. They negotiated first with McLaren, even with Red Bull himself, and then with Williams and Aston Martin. Until they got to Sauber.
Even if the Swiss weren’t the first choice, it wouldn’t be a bad deal for Audi, which will slowly buy up shares of the team until it reaches 75%, with the current owners of an investment group in Sweden holding the remaining 25%. .
The Hinwil team is known for having a state-of-the-art factory chassis, which Audi CEO Markus Duesmann, who at the launch was along with the F1 and FIA chiefs, knows all too well. After all, he was the team’s development chief between 2007 and 2009, when Sauber had a partnership with another German giant, BMW.
On the part of Swedish investors, the proposal made more sense than the initial talks they had with Andretti last year because it was not a complete buyout and the continuation of operations at Hinwil and the safety of employees were not in question.
The Audi power unit is being developed at the Audi Sport plant located in the German city of Neuburg an der Donau, near Munich, in the south of the country. In other words, the plant is not far from the Sauber chassis at Hinwil. The Newburgh plant has the test benches needed for the F1 engine test stand and has been working on the new engine project since March.
Chief Operation Officer Adam Becker, who recently (2018 to 2021) worked in the FIA Safety Department and worked at BMW, will be with significant involvement from the brand’s sporting department.
With this, Formula 1 is attracting a car maker for the first time since Honda announced that it would return to the category by equipping McLaren, which it started with in 2015. As at that time, Audi is incentivized by a change in engine regulations, although it Less radical than the one that went into effect in 2014, when naturally aspirated V8s were replaced by hybrid V6s, they are still in use today.
In 2026, these power units will be replaced by engines that continue to be V6 turbo hybrids, but with much more power coming from electric power and fully renewable fuels in the combustion engine. The new UP will also be simplified, as it will lose one of its energy recovery engines (MGU-H complex, which recovers thermal energy from a turbine).
The way Audi entered F1 was highlighted by some lessons from Honda, who was world champion with Max Verstappen last year but struggled to get there, particularly in its early years with McLaren. If the purchase of a significant portion of Sauber is confirmed, they will have more control over the integration between the engine and the team, and will also comply from the moment the rules were closed, which were published a few weeks ago.
It remains to be seen if the partnership with another Volkswagen arm, Porsche, will take off. The Germans are currently seeking approval for what will be a joint venture with Red Bull at antitrust agencies around the world, with Red Bull boss Christian Horner describing it as “one of the obstacles” to actually closing the deal.
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