Audi’s entry into Formula 1: New German driveshaft – Sport

The press conference that had been announced the evening before and had been long awaited started at 9:15 am sharp. Four men took their seats in the red armchairs: Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the World Motor Sport Association Fia, Formula 1 boss Stefano Domenicali, Audi CEO Markus Duesmann and Audi Head of Development Oliver Hoffmann. And even if the message that Duesmann announced shortly thereafter was no longer a well-kept secret, he rightly spoke in a solemn voice of a “truly very special moment” on Friday before he followed the decisive sentence: “We will be in 2026 in the formula 1 drive.”

Since the middle of the last decade, the VW Group has been considering entering Formula 1, and now it is certain. Audi joins Mercedes, Ferrari, Honda and Renault as the fifth engine supplier. The only thing that is not yet known is who the Ingolstadt-based company will team up with to get started, i.e. who will deliver the rest of the car to the drive unit developed in Neuburg an der Donau. There are many “fantastic” chassis in the field, and various potential partners have been spoken to, Duesmann said. The package should be put together by the end of the year, which would also tell of a new era in Germany as a motorsport location. Because in the premier class, the self-proclaimed automobile nation – currently represented primarily by Mick Schumacher, who does not yet have a cockpit for 2023, the outgoing Sebastian Vettel and the Mercedes team – is no longer as present as it once was.

The takeover of the McLaren team had long been an issue for Audi, but the deal never materialized. Cooperation with the Sauber team from Switzerland, which has competed in Formula 1 since 1993 and is currently Alfa Romeo starts, with engines from Ferrari. It is rumored that Audi wants to gradually take over the majority stake in this racing team. Just last Friday, Alfa Romeo announced that it would end its partnership with Sauber after the 2023 season. What that means in concrete terms is still unclear.

Audi and Porsche had made rule changes a condition for their entry into the premier class

Also Porsche should soon comment on his plans, the Stuttgart-based company is bound to the planned IPO in the fall. They were already successful in Formula 1 in the 1980s. The brand, which also belongs to the VW Group, now wants to enter into a partnership with Red Bull Racing around world champion Max Verstappen. In any case, Porsche has already registered the play on words “F1nally” with the Patent and Trademark Office.

In terms of motorsport strategy, Duesmann said ahead of Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix at Spa that he is in line with Oliver Blume, the current Porsche boss and upcoming VW CEO. There had been extensive discussions as to whether working together in the premier class should save costs, said Duesmann, but a decision was made against it: “We competed completely separately against Porsche in LeMans, and we will do so now. We will have our operations in Germany . Should Porsche step in, they will do so from England.” Audi, was the taunt behind this message, will definitely provide an engine Made in Germany here.

Audi's entry into Formula 1: In a good mood in Spa: Fia President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, Audi CEO Markus Duesmann, Head of Audi Development Oliver Hoffmann and Formula 1 boss Stefano Domenicali (from left).

In a good mood in Spa: Fia President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, Audi CEO Markus Duesmann, Audi Head of Development Oliver Hoffmann and Formula 1 boss Stefano Domenicali (from left).

(Photo: Getty Images)

The brand wants its success story in the Motorsports continue, said the 53-year-old, who as head of development from 2007 to the end of 2009 gained Formula 1 experience in the BMW Sauber team: “In view of the new rules, I think now is the perfect time to get into Formula 1 to get in.” The racing series had thus created the conditions for the entry of other brands in the first place: On August 16, the Fia had passed engine regulations that will apply from 2026 – with the intention of opening a convenient entry hatch for newcomers. Audi and Porsche had made this a condition for their serve in the premier class, and the go given by the VW supervisory board at the beginning of April was linked to it. The reaction followed as the SZ already reportednow a few days later.

The discussions about the planned changes had dragged on for a long time. The established manufacturers did not simply want to give away their lead in experience. Those involved then agreed on a cost cap for engine development that will apply from 2023, the expensive and complicated MGU-H recovery generator will be eliminated, which saves newcomers a lot of development work. The basic concept of the engine remains the same, but the proportion of electrical energy is to be increased significantly to around half – that fits Audi perfectly into the concept. In addition, Formula 1 wants to use sustainable fuel from 2026, which makes the series more relevant for series production. These factors, such as the goal of the racing series to be CO2-neutral by 2030, were ultimately decisive for Audi and Porsche. The fact that the total budget limit per team was set at $135 million per season from 2023 further lowered the hurdle.

The plan is: Be competitive within the first three years

Will everything actually succeed in the development of a completely new engine by 2026? “There is a lot of pressure on us. We have to bring the factories up to F1 standards, that takes time,” said Duesmann. “But the rule changes are big enough to get in and be competitive.” A vertical start in the premiere season? Ideal but unrealistic. The plan is: be competitive within the first three years, in other words: drive for victories.

Audi will first have to spend a lot of money for this. Nobody in Spa wanted to reveal how much, after all: “These are quite high sums,” said Duesmann. “With this type of investment you have to plan for the long term – and we plan our Formula 1 investment very long term.” The four rings in the brand logo could probably be at least doubled to arrive at the number of zeros behind the number that the Audi CEO must have had in mind. Audi is of course convinced that the commitment will be worthwhile and has no financial constraints, Duesmann claimed: “It’s always good to make money, but we don’t have to.”

Fia President Ben Sulayem described himself in Spa as an enthusiastic Ring pilot – he used to drive an Audi rally – and spoke of a “milestone” for Formula 1. Its boss Domenicali, who has already worked for the VW Group, saw that unsurprisingly similar. After the press conference, Ben Sulayem and Domenicali went into the pit lane together with the Audi board members and unveiled a car painted in red, black and silver with the logo of the new family member. Luckily for Audi, what else will this include in the near future? “We hope we will have a German driver and a German race,” said Markus Duesmann. To be on the safe side, Audi has already placed a job advertisement on Twitter.

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