This week the four rings brand from Ingolstadt announced officially that it would be joining the Formula One grid in 2026 with the Sauber team, currently operating the Alfa Romeo squad. Alfa itself will be leaving F1 at the close of the 2023 season, leaving the door open for Audi to shadow engineer the team for a couple of seasons prior to its own entry when the new regulations take place for the 2026 season. It was announced just a few weeks ago that Porsche would join the Red Bull squad as 50% owners of the team, and presumably the engine suppliers as well from the 2026 season. Interestingly, it would seem that Porsche and Audi will be going their own way in developing their own new F1 drivetrains to meet the new regulations, denying any collaboration as was assumed the two sister companies might.
Audi’s chairman of the board Markus Deusmann told Motorsport.com that the idea of pooling resources with Porsche was discussed, but it was decided that the need to optimize powertrains for individual teams and chassis designs called for Audi to run its own engine development program, despite the many millions it would cost. “You can imagine there was a huge discussion,” he said. “But we decided, as both our brands have a lot of fans and both our brands have their special character, to keep it completely separate and do two operations. We had several reasons [for that]. We will have different teams, and the powertrain has to be designed especially for the chassis. That is why we decided to split it, because we will have completely different chassis and completely different powertrains.”
Audi’s head of technical development, Oliver Hoffmann, added: “To meet the timetable, the integration work of the electrified side on the powertrain, together with the chassis, it costs time to make it in two cars. So it’s completely different operations, and the integration work, we will do by ourselves.”
Audi has so much to do in order to catch up to the other manufacturers in the series which have already come to grips with the current turbo-hybrid era of cars. Porsche teaming with Red Bull will be lightyears ahead, themselves, as Red Bull Powertrains is currently building its own engines designed on a common template developed by Honda before it departed the series at the end of 2021. Audi will be working with Sauber, a current mid-pack team, which buys its engines from Ferrari at the moment, and likely won’t be getting any direct assistance from Ferrari in the meantime.
Audi remains confident that it can develop its own Formula One powertrain from scratch in about three years. Time will tell.