Audi will buy a stake in the Sauber F1 team for its first entry into the championship in 2026, the German brand has confirmed.
After it announced an upcoming entry into Formula 1 earlier in the year there had been much speculation that it was going to buy Sauber or partner with a new F1 entry from Michael Andretti, rather than founding its own team from scratch. Today (26th October) that move has been confirmed after Audi announced Sauber will be its “strategic partner” for the project.
Sauber currently races as Alfa Romeo, as part of a branding deal with the Italian manufacturer. Under the deal Sauber uses Ferrari engines, but the Alfa Romeo name is just a marketing exercise, with no stake being owned by Fiat’s sister company.
As part of this new partnership Audi will take a stake in the Swiss team and use a power unit developed in Germany. Development of that engine, according to Audi, is already well under way, with the newly founded Audi Formula Racing GmbH working on both electric and internal combustion elements in Neuburg.
Audi also confirmed that its “ambitious” goal of racing in 2026 will involve test cars being on track in 2025, as well as a large expansion of its racing facilities. While the engines will be developed by Audi in Germany, the cars they go into will continue to be designed and built by Sauber in Switzerland.
While Audi confirmed the partnership, and that Sauber will be the official factory team from 2026, it stopped short of confirming the full name of the team, but we would expect it to race as Audi, rather than Sauber, much like the short period of BMW ownership in the mid-2000s.
Finn Rausing, the Chairman of Sauber, said: “Audi is the best partner for the Sauber Group. It is clear that both companies share the same values and vision. We are looking forward to achieving our common goals with a strong and successful partnership.
Oliver Hoffman, Board Member for Technical Development at Audi, added: “We are delighted to have gained such an experienced and competent partner for our ambitious Formula 1 project.
“We already know the Sauber Group with its state-of-the-art facility and experienced team from previous collaborations and are convinced that together we will form a strong team.”
It is not the first time that Sauber and Audi will have worked together in motorsport. During its DTM and Le Mans programmes Audi used Sauber’s wind tunnel facilities in Hinwill, Switzerland, where the team is based.
If it does indeed become Audi, it will be the fourth different name that Sauber has raced under. As part of a partnership with Mercedes that had already brought a victory at Le Mans, Sauber joined F1 in 1993, using its own name. It continued to race as Sauber, with mixed results, for the following decade, until it was bought by BMW following the acrimonious end of the latter’s relationship with Williams.
That era did bring a single win, for Robert Kubica in 2008, and a challenge for the title. But after pouring a significant amount of cash into its 2009 car and coming up short, BMW walked away and Sauber returned to private ownership and racing under its own name. The latest change, switching to the Alfa Romeo name, has lasted since 2019 and will finish at the end of next season.