Audi, the latest addition to the F1 paddock in 2026, have set a 'realistic' timeline to be competitive.
The German automotive officially announced its entry into the sport earlier this year, and the work on its power unit has already begun in Ingolstadt, Germany. Audi will align with Sauber to form a works team that would operate out of Hinwil, Switzerland, with Andreas Seidl at the top.
Talking to Spain's AS, Audi CEO outlined three years as the timeline for the German automotive to become competitive in Formula 1. He said:
“We want to be competitive in three years. It is a realistic goal. We want to compete for wins in the third year. We may be required by the FIA to supply engines according to the regulations. If that happens, we would be prepared, for sure. But right now, we are not looking for a client team; it’s too early for that. We will focus on our programme as a factory.”
When asked about what made F1 a favourable choice for Audi after so many years, Baker said that it wasn't a singular factor but a cumulation of a lot of things. He said:
“There is no single reason; there are several factors that have aligned to make it extremely attractive for manufacturers, in particular for Audi. F1 is in a transition period with a sustainable concept for the championship. With new rules, which will introduce innovative power units focused on the electrical part, plus sustainable fuels, it is aligned with Audi’s future strategy, directed towards electric mobility."
F1's increased popularity with drivers like Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris and the other crop of drivers in general too was a factor along with the cost cap, making the sport a worthy destination for Audi. Baker elaborated:
“Also, F1 has increased in popularity. It is by far the best media and marketing tool in the motorsport world, and one of the best in any industry. At the same time, F1 has achieved cost reduction and that makes it even more attractive. The engines of 2026 will have a spending ceiling and that, in addition to limiting costs, provides certainty about long-term budgets. If you want a fantastic platform to demonstrate your competence and knowledge 24 times a year, this is the best place.”
Audi aware of challenge that lies ahead in F1
Baker did admit that Audi was aware of the challenge that was ahead in F1. Especially with established teams like Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari firing on all cylinders.
Baker talked about how Audi joining the grid in a season where there was a clean slate for every team on the grid (2026 will see a regulations overhaul) could prove to its benefit. He said:
“We are aware of the challenge that lies ahead. It is attractive for Audi to enter 2026 because we decided on it ahead of time. We have 42 months until the first race. In the last 30 years, it must be one of the most advanced decisions of any manufacturer. In addition, in 2026 a regulatory cycle begins, when usually others have entered in the middle of a cycle. The power units will change, but also the chassis. In some ways, it can reset the advantage of experienced competitors in the past, and makes it easier for new builders to be competitive."
“Now the long-term work begins, the development of the power unit within the new rules. The FIA will continue to work with the teams for the 2026 chassis rules, which may be significantly different, and those I hope will be published in their first version at the end of 2023, perhaps finalised in 2024. Then we will start the chassis work, we will align the two things and the tests will begin in 2025 and the competition in 2026.”
Having Audi in F1 is certainly a positive for the sport, it does remain to be seen how the German automotive does when it debut. It's never an easy ride to enter a motorsport category with established and experienced players already present on the grid.