After more then a year of rumors, Audi has finally made it official: it’s joining Formula 1 beginning in 2026. The strange thing about the automaker’s announcement is, it won’t yet say which team it’s partnering with to make that happen.
In a press release published Friday morning before the first practice session of this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, the German automaker outlined the reasoning behind its decision. F1 is very popular all over the world, and growing at a rapid pace in markets like the United States. F1 is also becoming more environmentally conscious, thanks to future powertrain regulations that Audi helped shape in tandem with its friends at Porsche.
The rationale is, if you could afford to be in F1, there’s no reason you wouldn’t want to be in F1 — and of course Volkswagen can afford anything. Audi Sport’s facility in Neuberg, Germany will serve as home base for the company’s power unit development. Investments and hiring are already underway at that site, per the release:
The power unit will be built at Audi Sport’s state-of-the-art Competence Center Motorsport in Neuburg an der Donau, not far from AUDI AG’s company headquarters in Ingolstadt. “For the development and manufacture of the Formula 1 power train, we will build on the valuable expertise of our motorsport employees, continue to invest in our motorsports center, and also recruit highly specialized professionals,” says Audi Sport Managing Director Julius Seebach, who organized the entry into Formula 1 as part of Audi’s realignment of motorsport.
In Neuburg there are already test benches for F1 engine testing as well as for electric motor and battery testing. Additional necessary preparations are currently being made in terms of personnel, buildings, and technical infrastructure, with everything essential to be in place by the end of the year. A separate company was recently founded for the power unit project as a wholly owned subsidiary of Audi Sport. Adam Baker will take over the management of the company and thus the Formula 1 project as CEO. The trained engineer has held various senior positions for manufacturers and teams in motorsport. Before joining Audi in 2021, he worked for the FIA for three years.
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As for the question of Audi’s partner, the manufacturer isn’t prepared to share that detail until the end of the year. That’s surprising, considering the many reports swirling around Audi and Sauber’s negotiations, and how talks broke down with McLaren. Today, Alfa Romeo — Sauber’s current automaker partner — announced it will sever ties with the Swiss team after 2023. If that doesn’t say what Audi can’t or refuses to right now, I don’t know what would.
In the meantime, Audi made its intent known today with a gorgeous show car. The final version probably won’t see the grid looking like this, which is a shame. Your move, Porsche.