GRR

Nico Hülkenberg will be Audi’s first F1 driver

26th April 2024
Ben Miles

Nico Hülkenberg will become Audi’s first factory Formula 1 driver in 2026. He will drive for Sauber under its current name in 2025 after leaving Haas, and has signed a contract with the German OEM that sees him remain with the team as it transforms into Audi’s first F1 effort.

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Hülkenberg is a wildly experienced hand in F1, having been in the paddock since 2010. In that time he has raced for Williams, Force India, Renault, Aston Martin, Haas and Sauber itself. While he did not have a full-time drive from 2020-2022, he stepped in for Racing Point during 2020 to cover illnesses and again when the team had become Aston Martin in 2022 after Sebastian Vettel was forced to miss the first two races of the season.

For the past two seasons he has raced for Haas, drawing praise for his qualifying pace and out-scoring team-mate Kevin Magnussen by a factor of three in that time. That experience of over 200 grands prix and a proven current speed pushed Audi to capture the services of the 36-year-old for the most crucial time in the launch of its F1 team.

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Earlier this year Audi committed to buying 100 per cent of Sauber (the team it will rebrand) much sooner than originally planned. The team will still race as Sauber in 2025 and start its first year as Audi in 2026. During that time finishing touches to Audi’s first F1 car and engine will require the input of experienced drivers, and the team sees Hülkenberg as one of the perfect people to fit that bill.

Speaking of the capture Andreas Seidl, CEO of the new Audi team, said: “The signing of Nico is the next milestone for Audi’s Formula 1 project. With his speed, his experience and his dedicated teamwork, he will make an important contribution to Audi’s entry in 2026 as early as next year.

“Right from the start, there was great mutual interest in tackling a project of this uniqueness together. Nico is a strong personality, his determination and desire on a professional and personal level will help us to make progress both in the development of the car and in building up the team.”

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Hülkenberg added: “The prospect of competing for Audi is something very special. When a German manufacturer enters Formula 1 with such determination, it’s a unique opportunity. To represent the factory team of such a car brand with a power unit made in Germany is a great honour for me.”

While Hülkenberg is yet to record a podium in his long F1 career, and has not started on pole for a F1 race since his first season in 2010, he has experienced success away from that paddock. The 2009 GP2 champion won the Le Mans 24 Hours while still an active F1 racer as part of Porsche’s #15 team in 2015.

The identity of Hülkenberg’s team-mate is still to be announced. Rumours have been strongly fanned by Red Bull recently that Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz is on Audi’s radar. Current drivers Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu are also in the frame.

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.

  • Formula 1

  • F1

  • F1 2025

  • Nico Hulkenberg

  • Sauber

  • Audi

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