Audi is daring to jump into Formula 1. On Friday, the Volkswagen subsidiary officially announced its commitment to the 2026 racing series. “I’m very pleased to be here for this really, really special moment,” said Audi boss Markus Duesmann during a press conference ahead of the Grand Prix in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, together with the bosses of the racing series:
“We will be driving in Formula 1 in 2026.” In less than four years, Audi will be on the grid, which is not that long, said Duesmann.
The car manufacturer has not yet named the partner for its plans. However, he is expected to join the Swiss racing team Sauber, which is currently active as an Alfa Romeo team in the top motorsport class. “Audi will communicate a decision as to which team to start with in 2026 by the end of the year,” Audi said in a press release.
Formula 1 had made it palatable for car manufacturers like Audi to get started. From 2023, the tightened budget limit will drop further to $135 million per racing team. It makes getting started financially easier to plan.
Much more important: The racing series has created a rule compromise. From 2026, the hybrid engines are to be operated with 100 percent sustainable fuel. The combustion engine in the unit should only contribute 50 percent of the power, the rest is electric. That fits with the future direction of the auto industry. “With the new regulations, now is exactly the right time for us to get started. Because Formula 1 and Audi are both pursuing clear sustainability goals,” explained Duesmann.
Racing series boss Stefano Domenicali raved about a great day at the Pk in Belgium. World Association boss Mohammed bin Sulayem spoke of “a milestone”.
With the transformation to electromobility, the XXL project Formula 1 can also be sold internally. “We got the promise that we would get more money to Wolfsburg with Formula 1 than without Formula 1,” said the outgoing VW boss Herbert Diess.
At the beginning of April, the board of directors and supervisory board of the parent company Volkswagen gave the green light for Audi and Porsche to plan “for a possible entry into Formula 1”. Nevertheless, the commitment is controversial internally, especially the plans to start with two group subsidiaries. Porsche will probably form an alliance with the Red Bull team of world champion Max Verstappen.
The crux of the matter was the future engine regulations. Established manufacturers such as Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault want to prevent the technical competitive advantages they have developed over the years from dwindling and thereby reducing their investments. During the summer break, however, the set of rules was finally approved by the Motorsport World Council.