Schumacher: Audi boss speaks frankly

Ever since the then Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess declared in May 2022 that the group would like to see a German driver should one of its brands enter Formula 1, there has been speculation in this country about which young driver might be considered for a job at Audi in the future. Audi speaks frankly about the young German.

At present, apart from Nico Hülkenberg, only Mick Schumacher is at least in the immediate vicinity of a racing cockpit, as a test and reserve driver for Mercedes. Schumacher is 23 and will be in his prime as a racing driver (27) when Audi enters Formula 1 on the factory side in 2026 after taking over the Swiss Sauber team.




“Too early for Mick talks…”

But Audi group boss Markus Duesmann stresses that it would be “far too early” for contract negotiations with Schumacher with a view to a commitment from 2026. He says in an interview with Spiegel:

“We are currently talking to many decision-makers, drivers, team bosses. There have been no concrete talks with Mick Schumacher regarding a commitment.”


Before leaving the Volkswagen Group, Herbert Diess had stated that he was assuming “that we will certainly try […] to employ German drivers as well”. Duesmann now puts this sentence into perspective:

“Of course, German drivers are just as attractive for us as they are for the top management of the parent company – but it is not a condition for us.”



Audi engine already at disadvantage?

Regardless of who occupies the two cockpits, Audi will be a German team. Although the chassis will continue to be built by Sauber at their Hinwil factory in Switzerland, the entire drivetrain will be built at the Neuburg site in Bavaria, where 250 employees are already developing the power unit that is to win races and world championships from 2026.

It is unusual that Audi’s Formula 1 racing car will be a German-Swiss co-production. Industry experts are sceptical because salaries for top engineers are noticeably higher paid in Germany than in England. That is a disadvantage in times when maximum spending on chassis (already) and engine development (from 2026) is capped.




“We have intensively dealt with the search for the right location,” wavers Audi board member for development Oliver Hoffmann.

“Of course, England is still the Mecca of Formula 1. At the same time, we have a highly attractive location in Neuburg, not far from our future partner, the Sauber racing team.”

“The fluctuation here is nowhere near as high as in Greater London, where engineers don’t even have to move to change employers. We have received many applications from all over the world. Sauber has already been able to win over the former McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl as its new managing director,” he says, citing a positive example.


For Seidl, the location was presumably even an argument for coming to Audi. The 47-year-old used to live in England for McLaren during the week, but commuted to his family in Munich on race-free weekends. Now he has Neuburg on his doorstep, and Hinwil is just a three-hour drive from Munich.



Audi’s plan for Formula 1

Audi’s goal in Formula 1 is clear:

“We don’t do Formula 1 on a whim, but want to show what we can do. In every racing series we’ve entered, we’ve done everything we can to win. And we have always succeeded so far. The Olympic idea of just wanting to be there doesn’t carry us,” says Duesmann.

At the same time, he is aware that Audi can hardly jump in and win immediately – even if the project is already being prepared by Seidl with a lot of lead time:

“We approach Formula 1 as a long-term commitment. It is an investment in the future. It’s only in the phase when you’re racing that you can exploit the marketing potential.”



And for marketing to be successful, success on the race track is almost inevitable. As far as that is concerned, Duesmann is “realistic”, because:

“The teams that have competed there so far have a head start, some have done great work over decades. That’s why we’ll need two or three years to be able to compete at the front.”

Audi announced in August 2022 that it would enter Formula One for the 2026 season. In October 2022 it was confirmed that Hinwil-based Sauber Motorsport would become a “strategic partner” for the project, and since January 2023 it has been known that Audi has already acquired the first tranche of Sauber’s shares (believed to be 25 per cent).

READ MORE: “Hamilton not better than Schumacher…”



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