While waiting for Porsche, here is Audi: the German car manufacturer will make its debut in Formula 1 in 2026 as an engine manufacturer, its CEO announced on Friday during a press conference on the sidelines of the Belgian Grand Prix.
Audi will develop its hybrid engine in Neuburg-an-Danube, Bavaria, and will form a partnership with a Formula 1 world championship team « to be announced by the end of the year », explained Markus Duesmann at Spa-Francorchamps.
A fifth engine manufacturer in Formula 1
For now, everything seems to indicate that the team in question could be Sauber, currently entered in F1 under the name of Alfa Romeo with a Ferrari engine. One more clue came to reinforce this hypothesis on Friday, with the announcement by Alfa Romeo of the end of its partnership with Sauber, at the end of 2023. Free, the team based in Hinwil (Switzerland) could thus ally with Audi and him supply the frames.
Alfa Romeo will part ways with Sauber at the end of the 2023 season
The partnership between Alfa Romeo and the Swiss Sauber team in Formula 1 will end « at the end of 2023 », the Italian brand announced on Friday in a press release on the sidelines of the Belgian Grand Prix.
Alfa Romeo returned to F1 in 2018 as Sauber’s title sponsor, after more than 30 years away from the premier class. If it lent its name to Sauber, the Italian brand did not, however, provide it with the engines, designed by Ferrari. The brand of the automotive industry giant Stellantis and the Hinwil-based team had renewed their partnership several times until 2022.
It is again one last time for 2023 « given the promising results of the first half of the season, both in terms of performance and marketing », is it written in a press release from Alfa Romeo.
« Alfa Romeo will now assess the many opportunities available to it, and decide which will be the best to support the long-term strategy and positioning of the brand », continues the Turin firm, which does not specify whether its future could still be written in F1, via another alliance, after 2023.
The Volkswagen group brand therefore joins Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Red Bull (which uses Honda engines) as engine supplier of the premier category of motorsport. The announcement comes ten days after the FIA World Motor Sport Council approved new engine regulations for Formula 1 cars for 2026. « It’s perfect timing, with the new rules: F1 changes in a way that allows us to arrive, with a very important part of the electric « in the hybrid engine, developed Markus Duesmann, present in Belgium alongside Stefano Domenicali, CEO of Formula 1, and Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the International Automobile Federation (FIA).
The engines, already hybrid since 2014, will see from 2026 an increase in electrical energy and will use 100% sustainable fuels, a prerequisite for the German brand. « We have decided to become a 100% electric car manufacturer » by 2033, recalled the CEO of the luxury brand with the four rings. Audi also underlined the importance of the already existing budget cap for the teams, and the implementation in 2023 of another cap, on the costs for the engine manufacturers this time.
“It’s a major event for our sport, applauded Stefano Domenicali. This is an important recognition that our choice of sustainable fuel hybrid engines in 2026 is a future-proof solution for the automotive sector.” Audi, engaged like the entire Volkswagen group in a vast electric shift, hopes to take advantage of F1, in full revival of interest in recent years, to display its technologies and its « greener » ambitions.
Porsche should quickly join the closed circle
His arrival also marks the return of production on German soil of an F1 engine, Mercedes designing its own in the United Kingdom. If they lifted the veil on their program, both figuratively and literally, by presenting a demonstration single-seater in the colors of Audi, gray areas remain to be clarified.
The possibility of setting up a full-fledged team was ruled out and Audi discussed with several teams for an association. « Depending on the team, the form of our commitment will be different », has already announced Markus Duesmann. The arrival in F1 of Audi, 13 times winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, also marks the end of its program to return to endurance (Lmdh category). On the other hand, Audi still intends to win the Dakar with its hybrid engine, the first of its kind in the famous rally-raid.
Another brand of the Volkswagen group, Porsche, should soon announce its arrival in F1. But despite the link between the two firms, Markus Duesmann spoke of “two completely separate programs: we will have our infrastructures in Germany, and if Porsche arrives, they will have theirs in the United Kingdom”.
This precision is heading in the direction, for the Stuttgart brand, of a possible return via a partnership with Red Bull. A 50% takeover of the Austrian team based in Milton Keynes (England), current world championship leader, has been in the works for some time, and the formalization of the news should take place in the coming days.
Porsche, unlike Audi, has already experienced three periods in F1: at the beginning of the 1960s as a factory team, as an engine supplier for McLaren (1983-1987) then in 1991, as an engine supplier for the short-lived team Footwork.