Audi name 1st driver for F1 project

Formula One is in rude health in terms of audience and willing participants and the upcoming new power units for 2026 will increase the diversity within the sport further.

There will be at least six different power unit manufacturers and if the FIA approves the arrival of new teams possibly even more with Andretti already announcing a partnership with Cadillac.



Audi autosport make “Quattro” famous

However it is Audi making most of the front running headlines since their decision to enter F1 for the first time not just as a power unit supplier but a fully fledged works team.

Audi made its motorsports name in the 1980’s with its all wheel drive “Quattro” technology in the world rally championship.

More recently the German brand dominated endurance racing for almost two decades winning the Le Man 24 race 13 times between 2000 and 2016.

Audi used its motorcading platform to develop technology to use in its road cars such as direct injection gasoline engines, direct injection turbo diesel engines, hybrid powertrains, and laser beam headlights amongst other things.

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Why Audi joined F1

Having dropped out of the WEC ‘space race’ where Audi and Porsche each year spent hundreds of millions developing their highly complex LMP1 cars, the VAG marque was set to return to the series following the specification of the new hypercars but failed to do so at the last moment.

It was because Audi had set its focus on becoming part of Formula One and Oliver Hoffman, head of motorsport, explained why.

“For us, it’s very, very important to be progressive and to be pioneers on the technology itself. When we looked at ‘what is the right motorsport series for the future.

“It was very important for us to show ‘vorsprung durch technik’ and to be progressive, and I think Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsport.”



Sainz linked with Audi F1 drive

By October last year the deal between Audi and Sauber (Alfa Romeo) had been finalised and it was full steam ahead in Bavaria to design, test and build the power units.

Audi recruited McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl to become the group CEO and since then there has been much speculation over who will become the drivers’ for the team.

Carlos Sainz has been linked with Audi along with the obvious German connection in Mick Schumacher.

Sainz was unimpressed with the rumours and retorted angrily to a press conference question on the topic.

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Carlos angry at rumours

“I don’t understand why people are talking about what could happen in 2026 when I still don’t have a contract for 2025,” he said.

“It angers me when uncorroborated and invented rumours come out.”

With Ferrari trailing Red Bull, Mercedes and Aston Martin and their team boss Fred Vasseur stating recently the glass is still “half empty” in Maranello, both the team’s drivers have been linked with a move when their contracts expire at the end of next year.

Charles Leclerc is rumoured to be in prime position for Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes drive which would explain the length of time the new contract is taking. Lewis stated he wanted a multi-year deal but Mercedes may only be offering him a one year extension.

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Audi name Swiss ex-Red Bull driver

Sainz may be irritated by the suggestion he is leaving Ferrari for Audi, but the German manufacturer is entering Formula One with lofty ambitions. The team have implied they wish to be winning titles by their third season and given Ferrari’s last was in 2008, they may achieve their ambition before Ferrari see another.

However Audi have now announced one of their drivers for their F1 project to be former Le Mans winner the Swiss driver Neel Jani.

Jani is also a former GP2 driver, test and reserve driver for Red Bull and Formula E participant. He will however join Audi with immediate effect and assist with simulator work on the development of their engine.

“I am delighted to accompany Audi on their way into Formula 1,” said Jani. “It is both an honour and a great responsibility to be involved in a project of this magnitude at an early stage.

“I am sure that with my experience from Formula 1 and LMP [Le Mans Prototype] projects I can forge good links between theory and practice.



New PU fired up in near future

Audi are hoping to test their first iteration of their power unit in the near future.

“Just like in production development, simulation plays a major role in our Formula 1 project,” said Oliver Hoffmann.

“Our simulator is an important tool for the power unit development. It requires a development driver who in addition to a grasp of technology brings versatile experience to the project, especially in terms of energy management in racing conditions.”

Audi are the only new F1 entrant who decided to buy an existing team. Their sister brand Porsche failed in their bid to partner with Red Bull with Christian Horner implying the German’s wanted too much control.

Other teams awaiting approval from the FIA are Andretti-Cadillac, Hitcech GP, Formula Equal and Panthera Team Asia.

READ MORE: Mercedes seeking F1 regulation changes

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