Audi’s entry into Formula 1 has moved a step closer after the German car manufacturer acquired a minority stake in Sauber.
The purchase comes three months after Sauber confirmed they would become Audi’s strategic partner when the German marque enters Formula 1 in 2026.
The Swiss constructor’s current partnership with Alfa Romeo will end after the coming season.
“This is an important milestone on the way to Audi’s entry in Formula One, scheduled for 2026, for which the Sauber Group will be the German brand’s strategic partner,” Sauber said in a statement.
Sauber will run with Ferrari power units in 2024 and 2025, before Audi steps in.
Speaking in October, then-Sauber team principal Frederic Vasseur described the partnership as the “best option for the future.”
“To become Audi’s official works team is not only an honor and a great responsibility, it’s the best option for the future and we are fully confident we can help Audi achieve the objectives they have set for their journey in Formula 1,” he said.
On Jan. 14, Andreas Seidl replaced Vasseur as Sauber’s chief executive after the latter joined Ferrari, and will oversee Audi’s entry into F1.
It is Sauber’s second full works agreement after their link-up with BMW in the 2000s, with owner Finn Rausing insisting Audi were the “best strategic partner” for the company.
The goal now will be to return to at least the upper midfield.
Sauber, who first debuted in Formula 1 in 1993, partnered with Alfa Romeo in 2018 but have still been operating at a smaller budget than nearly all of their rivals, and have been towards the back of the grid since.
A link-up with Audi will certainly help their cause, with the carmaker developing engines from their German base, and the chassis still expected to be developed at Sauber’s Switzerland base.
The new generation of F1 engines will feature increased electrical power and 100% sustainable fuels.
“We are delighted to have gained such an experienced and competent partner for our ambitious Formula 1 project,” said Audi board member Oliver Hoffman, who is responsible for the F1 program at corporate level.
In a statement sent to Sky Sports, an Audi spokesperson said this is a “key milestone” for the German’s F1 entry in 2026.
“As part of the acquisition, Julius Seebach joined the Sauber board of directors as the official representative of the Audi AG,” the statement added.
Last week, it was announced that Alessandro Alunnni Bravi would take up a senior leadership role under Seidl, which will see him take on media duties during the 2023 seasons.
Alunni Bravi who is also managing director of the Sauber Group that runs the Swiss-based team, has been given the official title of team representative.
Sauber compete as Alfa Romeo in what is effectively a title sponsorship with the Stellantis-owned brand. That deal is due to end after the 2023 season with the team due to race as Audi from 2026.
Audi confirmed in August they would be entering Formula 1 in four years as a power unit supplier and had been previously linked with a partnership with McLaren.
Fellow Volkswagen brand Porsche, meanwhile, saw a deal fall through with Red Bull but still retain an F1 interest, CNBC reports.
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