Audi Can't Be Just an F1 Engine Supplier

Audi F1 Car Prototype 26 photos
Photo: Audi on YouTube
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Audi has finally confirmed it will enter Formula 1 starting in 2026. The rumors we kept reading about in the last couple of years were partly true. The German manufacturer says it will provide hybrid power units that will use electricity and “advanced sustainable fuel.” But the company didn’t say anything about having its own F1 team. However, given what we know now, there’s enough information that leads in only one direction – the four-ring brand will have a strong presence in F1. How strong? Well, let’s try and find out.
Audi and Porsche kept refusing to answer questions about their interest in Formula 1. Both companies remained silent on the matter and even went as far as denying the claims made only a week ago by German media regarding the brand’s F1 entry. Now, Audi’s officially confirmed that, from 2026, it’ll become an engine supplier. Porsche will soon follow.

The Ingolstadt-based company hasn't mentioned which racing car will have their newly developed power unit, nor did it touch on specifics. Rumor has it that Audi’s hybrid powertrain will find itself a new home at Alfa Romeo since the Italians have confirmed their partnership with Sauber is set to end after next year’s F1 season. This has taken most people by surprise, and social media messages have shown great support for Audi.

Porsche, on the other hand, is expected to do its own thing with Red Bull. The official announcement from the Stuttgart-based carmaker is expected to be made in the next couple of weeks.

Audi and Porsche decided to go on separate ways. As CEO Markus Deusmann put it, it was done to have the powertrains optimized for different chassis. Even though it will cost Volkswagen a lot more to pay for the development of two engines, this is the right path for both brands. They should be allowed to shine individually if they get the recipe for success right. And, let’s be honest, it would’ve been weird to see a Porsche F1 car with an Audi engine or vice versa.

Sending a message

Audi also took a swing at Mercedes-AMG with their official announcement. It said in the official press release that “this is the first time in more than a decade that a Formula 1 power train will be built in Germany.” Moreover, a Twitter made by Audi Sport post says, “Rings are the new stars.”

In turn, Mercedes-AMG, which makes its engines in the UK and has a star as its logo, published a subtle message on social media where the W13 can be seen with sparks coming out of it. “The vehicle shown is a concept vehicle that is not available as a production model,” is the picture’s description, hinting that Audi’s F1 car is just an experiment – for now.

It’s important to remember that the Volkswagen-owned manufacturers said last year they had some conditions for a return to the motorsport. Formula 1 had to remain a test bed for future technologies that could then be passed down onto production vehicles, a budget cap had to be instated for teams and drivers, and they wanted new rules that would allow for more competition between the top drivers.

Apart from a cap for driver salaries, F1 did it all. “With the new rules, now is the right time for us to get involved,” said Audi CEO Markus Duesmann.

Audi’s racing pedigree is incontestable. It had a tumultuous history until the ‘80s, but it overcame all of it when Audi introduced the world’s most aerodynamic production sedan in 1982. Two years later, it began making waves in the racing community with the turbocharged all-wheel-drive Audi quattro A2. But big names like the Audi Sport quattro S1 or the Audi 80 were what made the brand famous. Group B Racing was dominated by the German automaker and others were forced to learn from the Volkswagen-owned brand.

Audi deserves needs its own F1 team

Currently, Audi is involved in GT2, GT3, GT4, TCR, and off-road racing. Its R8 LMS, RS3 LMS, and the new RS Q e-tron have all received numerous awards in different competitions. Now the brand is trying to find its own way in the all-electric future, as it has confirmed that it will stop developing new internal combustion engines post-2026 and will give up entirely on fossil fuel-powered vehicles from 2032.

Now, next to these existing racing vehicles, we see a Formula 1 prototype that carries the four rings logo. But this unit has been presented as a mock-up only, not as a possible contender for the 2026 season. Why would Audi do that and why would the company take digs at Mercedes-AMG if it didn’t plan right from the get-go to get fully involved in the motorsport? It doesn’t make much sense.

There’s something in the air, and that “something” is Audi’s desire to be more than just an engine supplier. The prototype, its futuristic livery, and the whole announcement indicate they’re ready to assume a bigger role. It can’t be just a PR stunt.

Being fully involved in F1 starts to make even more sense when we consider that Audi has stopped the development of its LMDh project meant for endurance racing.

But since nothing’s been properly confirmed, we have to wait and discover what they have in mind (and if VW agrees to such a bold strategy). Audi could be Alfa Romeo’s powertrain provider for a year or two, considering Duesmann said the company has a plan and wants to be very competitive in the first three years of their F1 involvement. If things go alright, we might see the Audi Sport F1 Team on the grid in 2029 or 2030 with their own racing car.

Unlike Audi, Porsche almost has it all. The Stuttgart-based automaker has passionate club members, special edition cars, recurring customers, many collectors, a healthy lineup that includes SUVs and crossovers, a worldwide presence, a clear strategy for the future that surprisingly includes internal combustion engines, enough orders to keep its factories busy for the next year and a half, and much more.

Audi, on the other hand, needs a chance to recapture the world’s attention. And they might just pull it off with their involvement in Formula 1. Not just as mere engine suppliers, but as a team that will turn motorsport into a fantastic competition between three German giants – Mercedes-AMG, Red Bull with their future Porsche-sourced power unit, and last but not least, Audi. This will only make the racing championship better because Ferrari or Aston Martin will surely have something to say about this initiative.

Whatever happens, we’re in for a hell of a ride. Buckle in!

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About the author: Florin Amariei
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Car shows on TV and his father's Fiat Tempra may have been Florin's early influences, but nowadays he favors different things, like the power of an F-150 Raptor. He'll never be able to ignore the shape of a Ferrari though, especially a yellow one.
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