RACING

Audi’s F1 plans take shape as announcement looms

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But amid growing indications that confirmation of their intentions for 2026 is now imminent, Audi could be the first to reveal its plans and could do so as early as this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.

After months of discussions to sort out a partner team, it is understood an agreement is now in place between Audi and the Sauber team, which currently competes as Alfa Romeo.

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Audi initially negotiated with McLaren for a takeover of the team’s shares, having initially been put in contact with the team and its owners through former McLaren F1 driver Gerhard Berger.

“I made contact with McLaren,” said the DTM boss. “McLaren would have been a candidate as Audi’s partner in Formula 1.”

But talks between McLaren owners, Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat and Audi ultimately came to nothing. In the end, Sauber emerged as the preferred candidate after an evaluation of Aston Martin and Williams.

Talks have now advanced with Sauber, after owner Finn Rausing previously rejected an offer from Michael Andretti to sell the team for 350 million euros at the end of 2021.

It has been suggested that Rausing insisted on the continued existence of the Sauber Group at the Hinwil site and the preservation of jobs, and also demanded an additional 250 million euros as a contribution to the team in order to be sure. that the team was in good hands.

In the end, Andretti walked away because of terms he couldn’t agree to.

Factory plans

With Audi, Sauber gets a strong partner who sources say is willing to pay more than Andretti for a smaller percentage of the business. Rausing is expected to stay on board as a minority owner.

There’s also the promise to further develop Sauber as a works team, very similar to how the Sauber-BMW partnership worked between 2006 and 2009.

Interestingly, current Audi CEO Markus Duesmann, who pushed the marque’s entry into F1, was responsible for developing the BMW-Sauber team between 2007 and 2009 and still knows the Hinwil operation at the time.

The Sauber factory

Picture by: Motorsport Images

Motorsport.com understands the plan includes continuing chassis construction in Hinwil, where one of F1’s most modern wind tunnels is still located.

The powertrain is to be created at Audi’s Neuburg site and therefore developed and produced on German soil.

This is different from VW Group sister company Porsche, which will develop large parts of its engine in Red Bull’s Milton Keynes powertrain division.

Like Porsche, Audi will create a new company for its F1 project. There are suggestions that Adam Baker, whom Audi hired at the end of 2021 for “special duties”, could be named chief executive.

Baker previously worked at BMW, where he first met Duesmann, and at the FIA.

Another obvious candidate for the job would have been current head of sport Julius Seebach, who as CEO of Audi Sport is more experienced in senior management than Baker.

However, it is understood Seebach is set to be replaced and has been linked to a newly created role in Audi’s development department.

Red Bull Porsche delay

While Audi’s plans are progressing well, a public announcement about the Red Bull and Porsche tie-up hasn’t happened as quickly as some had expected.

For weeks it has been explained that delays in finalizing the 2026 engine rules were cited as the reason no automaker wanted to commit until they were sure of the regulations.

Red Bull motorsport adviser Helmut Marko told Motorsport.com at the Hungarian GP: “The decision of the VW board is that if the technical regulations meet the criteria, then they have the mandate. to enter Formula 1.

Porsche GT team logo

Porsche GT team logo

Photo by: Rainier Ehrhardt

“However, purely formally, these new regulations do not exist yet. The FIA ​​President is supposed to put it to a vote by email soon. Only then will it officially start.”

The engine rules were then approved on August 16, but there is no indication yet of when an official communication from Red Bull and Porsche will be made.

However, a recent document released by anti-cartel authorities in Morocco regarding the Porsche/Red Bull merger said it will wait until August 30 for comments from interested parties before giving the green light to the project.

It is possible that only then will Porsche feel that everything is in place to make its ambitions public.

Additional reporting by Sven Haidinger

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