More light has been shed on the Audi Formula 1 project, with Sauber named as ‘strategic partner’.

After announcing plans to enter the pinnacle of motorsport in 2026, Audi left us guessing about what its presence in Formula 1 would truly look like. Well, now we know.

The Sauber Group has been elected as Audi’s ‘strategic partner’ for this ambitious campaign, with the German marque known to be looking into acquiring a stake within the Swiss outfit. Assuming a settlement gets agreed, Sauber will then become the official Audi factory team in 2026, rather than Audi setting up its own operation from scratch.

This sort of arrangement isn’t uncommon for manufacturers due to the huge expense associated with building a new team from the ground-up. Mercedes-AMG, for example, did a similar thing when they took over the Brawn GP squad in 2010… and that’s worked out pretty well for them so far.

When it came to choosing who exactly to partner with, Sauber was a no-brainer. The two brands already have an existing working relationship, as Audi has often made use of Sauber’s wind tunnel in the past when developing its Le Mans and DTM race cars. And, with around 30 years of F1 experience under their belts, Sauber should be a safe pair of hands.

During that time, Peter Sauber’s brainchild has mostly competed as a privateer, achieving underdog success with the likes of Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa, and Sergio Perez at the start of their F1 careers. However, the team does also have previous experience of manufacturer deals too.

Between 2006-2009, Sauber ran BMW’s factory backed F1 effort, fielding drivers such as Robert Kubica, Nick Heidfeld, Jacques Villeneuve, and Sebastian Vettel. In 2007, they even managed to finish the year as runners-up in the constructors’ championship.

Audi Formula 1 project: Sauber currently competes with Alfa Romeo backing

Currently, the Swiss team operates under the Alfa Romeo banner, though admittedly that arrangement is nothing more than a sponsorship deal. The actual outside expertise that Alfa Romeo brings to the table is practically non-existent. This new Audi alliance, however, is set to be a much bigger deal in every sense of the word.

Obviously, 2026 is still a long way off, so for now Sauber will continue to operate as Alfa Romeo until the end of 2023, and after that, the following two seasons will be spent as a Ferrari-engined privateer. According to the current schedule, 2025 is when the Audi Formula 1 testing programme will kick into gear.

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