Because Audi’s arrival in F1 is not just for numbers

Audi will enter Formula 1 in 2026 – but team partner remains a mystery – GETTY IMAGES

Audi has confirmed Sauber as its working partner ahead of its 2026 entry into Formula 1.

The Volkswagen-owned marque announced at the Belgian Grand Prix in August that it was getting into the sport. But he was shy about which team he would cooperate with.

It was Pulcinella’s secret in the paddock that Sauber had been chosen. Alfa Romeo, which currently holds the title sponsorship of the Swiss team, confirmed that same race weekend in August that its agreement with Sauber would be concluded at the end of next year.

The Hinwil-based team is expected to return to “Sauber” for 2024 and 2025 and will continue to use Ferrari powertrains for those intermediate seasons.

The new F1 regulations for 2026, which include a greater electrical component in fully sustainable engines and fuels, were the key factor in convincing Audi to participate.

Stefano Domenicali, F1 President and CEO, said in a statement: “The combination of these two names is a very exciting prospect for our sport.

“It highlights the strong momentum that Formula 1 has and the confidence in our strategy to further grow and improve the sport, while maintaining our sustainability plans to be Net Zero Carbon by 2030 with advanced sustainable fuels in cars in 2026”.

Analysis: Sauber a ‘smart’ partner for Audi

By Tom Cary

Audi’s presence on the grid from 2026 is a big problem for Formula 1. As sports CEO Stefano Domenicali noted in his statement, the fact that another manufacturer wants to get involved is a sign of the growing attractiveness of the sport. F1 for brands and partners (Porsche’s deal with Red Bull has failed, but fellow VW-owned manufacturer from Audi is also eager to enter 2026).

Understandably, fans will only care if it makes F1 more attractive on the track.

Can an Audi-Sauber partnership fight to establish the big guns Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull?

In a word, yes. Audi is certainly not coming in to do the math. The German manufacturer has a track record of victories when he focuses his energy and resources on something (see WRC, WEC, Formula E).

F1’s new budget cap makes its task significantly easier, leveling the playing field, while new engine regulations slated for 2026 give Audi a natural entry point and decent lead time to get organized.

Sauber is also a shrewd partner.

While a McLaren-Audi partnership would have been exciting – talks halted earlier this year – Sauber has consistently outpaced their weight since 1993, and new funding from owner Finn Rausing meant they were able to upgrade the their software and hardware.

They have an excellent factory and simulator, and a state-of-the-art wind tunnel, which Audi is familiar with, having chartered it for various projects in the past, including the World Endurance Championship program.

As Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff noted in August: “F1 is the toughest competition in the world for car manufacturers. It will only get tougher with the arrival of Audi.”

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