Audi are aiming for Formula 1 victories after three years, but hope engine swaps when they join in 2026 could open doors sooner.
German Audi will compete as a works team in F1 from 2026, with the Volkswagen subsidiary developing the engine and chassis built by experienced Swiss firm Sauber.
“We have signed up for the period 2026 to 2030. We want to be able to be able to fight for victories after three years,” Adam Baker, managing director of Audi Formula Racing GmbH, told dpa.
“You have to be realistic. The first and second years can also be difficult. However, it is very difficult to predict.”
Baker was Head of Formula 1 Engine Development at BMW and is now Head of Powertrain Development at Audi.
The new technical regulations will apply from 2026, when cars will be just as powerful but will consume less energy and produce zero tailpipe emissions.
“This opens up more opportunities to be competitive faster as a newcomer. The way to get there is governed by the cost cap. Everyone has the same chance, everyone faces the same challenge for 2026. And the challenge will be as huge as it has ever been in Formula 1,” Baker said.
“If you do a good job, there’s a chance you could lead in 2026.”
A German driver in the team would be ideal, but Audi won’t try to force the issue. Nico Hülkenberg will be the only German driver on the F1 grid next season after replacing Mick Schumacher at Haas. Schumacher is now reserve driver at Mercedes.
“It would be interesting, of course, but for us the performance of the drivers has priority,” said Baker, adding that the decisions on the drivers for 2026 are “too far away. We are not talking about the drivers for 2024 yet, so it is very difficult tell how the driver market will develop by 2026”.
However, Baker did announce that Audi will “bring on board a development driver for the third quarter” of next year “who will be especially important to the development of our power unit in the driving simulator.”
The future Formula 1 team already has 220 employees at its base in Neuburg an der Donau in Bavaria, most of whom come from Audi Sport Racing.
“We are already internationally positioned here on the site and the recruitment process is also oriented in this way. We are targeting experts who already have experience in Formula One,” explained Baker.
“This is the first time since 2009 that a power unit has been developed in Germany. Therefore, if we want experienced people, we are more likely to find them in the UK, France or Italy.”
The team is expected to grow to 300 employees by mid-2023.