Audi sack F1 chief amidst ‘fears’ over progress

Alfa Romeo Sauber are in transition having sold a minority stake to Audi who will enter Formula One in 2026. The German auto brand is set to complete its takeover of the team next season and as a consequence Alfa Romeo will no longer be the team’s named sponsor.

The Italian marque is believed to have done a deal to remain in the sport and will transfer its allegiance and final yes to the Haas F1 team whose principal sponsor at present is Moneygram. Given there is no conflict between the brands Moneygram and Alfa Romeo will co-sponsor the American owned team.



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Last season the Swiss based team unveiled a new driver pairing with ex-Mercedes Grand Prix winner Vaklterri Bottas and alongside him rookie Zhou Guanyu.

Gunayu became the first ever Chinese F1 driver following his successful P3 in the FIA F2 championship together with victory in Asia’s Formula 3 competition.

With the brand new F1 ‘ground effect’ car design regulations coming into effect last season, Alfa Romeo stared well accumulating  51 points quickly in the opening rounds. However, their inability to compete with others over the in season car development saw their fortunes slump with just four points scored from the final 13 rounds and left them languishing in ninth place of the constructors’ table.

Despite reworking the entire cooling system and the back end of their car, the C43 with its Ferrari power unit has scored just 9 points in the first 10 races of the year.

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Bottas has contract for 2024

The team in its final year partnering with Alfa Romeo now sits ahead of just the Alpha Tauri team (3pts) who are having their worst year in recent memory.

Lead driver Valterri Bottas has a contract to race with Sauber until the end of 2024, but Zhou Guanyu is out of contract come the final race this year in Abu Dhabi.

However, acting team principal Alunni Bravo has now announced the team’s intentions for next season: 

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“Of course, we always said that stability for us is important,” he says.

“We are a team that is in a transformation process, and we try to be as much stable as possible in all areas. Of course, we are looking for improvement and opportunities.

“There will be time after the summer shutdown to sit down with Zhou and look at what will be the best solution for both of us.

“Our target is to keep both drivers in our team next year but, of course, there must be all the elements in place to have a win-win situation.”

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Sauber 2024 sponsor unclear

It is unclear next season who the team’s sponsor will be given Audi are unlikely to give their name to the team whilst it is in transformation and delivering poor results.

All is not well at the German manufacturer’s F1 power unit base as reports in the media claim they are well behind schedule with their preparations for the new 2026 F1 engines.

Audi have removed their chief responsible who announced the group’s F1 venture, namely CEO Markus Duesmann.

The new F1 power units are based around the current 1.6litre hybrid power unit designs currently in use, although the expensive and controversial heat recovery system will be ditched and the ratio of power delivered between the electric and combustion engine systems will be fixed at 50%.

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Audi sack F1 chief

Christian Horner recently expressed concerns that to increase by such a large margin the ratio of electricity to ICE power, the combustion engines may end up running as mere generators of electrical power at certain high speed circuits.

Toto Wolff mocked his arch rival suggesting Red Bull were behind the curve with their 2026 power unit programme and wanted the implementation “cancelled.”

Alfa Romeo boss Alunni Bravi has dismissed claims the Audi difficulties are of a concern as they build their partnership nor 2026.

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Sauber boss claims Audi progression

“First of all, I’m happy to hear that the Audi project a well kept secret” he explained.

“We don’t have this kind of information and it’s always difficult from the external people to understand what is the status of development of such an important programme like a new PU manufacturer entering to Formula 1.

“So concerning our programme, the programme is on the right route. We are working hard to develop the team in these next two seasons.

Audi will rely heavily on Sauber’s years of experience in producing F1 chassis for they mew power unit to partner with. Yet it is not guaranteed they will become a successful pairing given previous high profile engine suppliers like BMW which Sauber have had.

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No change after sacking Duesmann

Bravi refers to the finalncial constraints on the new power unit development programme enforced any the FIA. This will prevent a manufacturer like Mercedes spend a reported $1bn on their new 2014 hybrid power unit which dominated the sport for years.

“But we are with Andreas Seidl (Sauber Group CEO) addressing all our weaknesses and try to seek all the best opportunities in the market to bring quality into our team and to develop our facilities.

“So there is no change for us, nor for Audi. Audi project is based not on a single individual but is a project for all the company that has been, I would say, welcome at any level. And I think that there is no change.”

“So we just need to be focused on our job and nothing change with the departure of Mr Duesmann.”

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F1 destroyed previous big auto brands hopes

Yet success in other forms of motorsport such as DTm and Le Mans victories do not guarantee Audi will make the grade in Formula One.

The most famous global brand failures in F1 history has to be Toyota who for eight years spent vast sums of money to deliver just three pole positions, thirteen podiums and exactly zero race wins.

Like Ford with Jaguar, Toyota underestimated the fast moving nature of Formula One and the rapid progress required even during the racing season.

Both Toyota and Jaguar were dominated by a “corporate mentality,” which Red Bull claimed was the primary reason for them rejecting their proposed union with Porsche – a fellow VAG brand with Audi.

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