Audi’s foray into the high-stakes world of Formula One for the 2026 season has hit a turbulent patch of speculation. With the abrupt departure of CEO Markus Duesmann, who championed the F1 entry, the company’s commitment to the pinnacle of motorsport is under intense scrutiny.
This uncertainty has put the spotlight on Audi’s partnership with the Sauber team, with questions being raised as to whether the Swiss outfit could be sold off before it joins the grid in 2026.
The Duesmann factor and internal power struggles
Duesmann was a pivotal force in Audi’s Formula One ambitions, reportedly pushing the initiative through despite a divided brand board. His subsequent removal as CEO due to internal power struggles has left not only a leadership vacuum, but also a lack of public commitment from his successor, Gernot Döllner, to continue with the F1 programme.
Dispelling the Toyota takeover rumours
The rumour mill has been abuzz with talk of Toyota stepping in to buy Audi’s stake in Sauber. But the speculation doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Toyota, with a history in Formula One and recent links to McLaren through driver Ryo Hirakawa, has shown no public interest in a comeback. Industry insiders and Toyota officials have uniformly dismissed the idea, pointing to logical inconsistencies and Toyota’s clear focus on its current motorsport commitments.
Investigating potential investors
With the Toyota scenario largely debunked, attention is turning to other potential investors who might be interested in Audi’s F1 slot. A group with links to a former Volkswagen executive has emerged as a serious contender, although details remain sketchy. Any sale of Audi’s stake could help mitigate the financial impact and settle obligations with Sauber’s previous owner.
The consequences of silence
The prolonged silence from Audi’s current leadership has sent ripples of concern through the team’s ranks. While the team’s management, including Andreas Seidl and Alessandro Alunni Bravi, may not be directly affected by a potential exit, the specter of uncertainty is hampering their ability to recruit talent and build a successful project from the ground up. This atmosphere of doubt only serves to weaken the team’s prospects before they even hit the track.
Alunni Bravi’s confirmation amid rumours
In response to the swirling rumours, Alunni Bravi has made a public statement reaffirming Audi’s commitment to Formula One, a sentiment echoed by official Audi communications. However, the real test will come when Döllner breaks his silence and clarifies Audi’s position, which is not expected until mid-December at the earliest.
The Alfa Romeo factor
Complicating matters is Audi’s existing stake in the Sauber team, which is currently intertwined with Alfa Romeo’s title sponsorship. Out of respect for that partnership, Audi is withholding any communication on future plans until the end of the 2023 season.
The uncertain road to F1 for Audi, but still hiring staff
Despite the rumours, the team is continuing its recruitment drive, with the signing of James Key just one of many new recruits joining the team on a weekly basis. This momentum underlines the joint ownership of Audi and Rausing and the structured management that governs the transaction, which is expected to be completed before the end of the 2026 season.
Ultimately, the motorsport community, the Sauber team and the Audi employees in Hinwil and Neuburg are in a holding pattern, waiting for a definitive word from Döllner on the fate of Audi’s Formula One project. Until then, the question marks surrounding the programme will remain, casting a long shadow over what could be a transformative era for the brand in the world of Formula One.
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