Storm Clouds Gather Over Audi’s Formula 1 Entry

a red and black race car driving on a track
Last Updated on February 24, 2024

When Audi announced its entry into Formula 1 starting in 2026, it seemed like a bold move by the German automaker to compete with rivals like Mercedes and promote its growing electric vehicle business. However, one year on, Audi’s commitment to F1 is increasingly clouded by uncertainty.

Audi has acquired a controlling 75% stake in the Swiss-based Sauber F1 team and engineering firm, expected to serve as the company’s factory racing outfit when it joins the grid in 2026. But recent developments within Audi have prompted questions if the ambitious F1 project may be scaled back or abandoned entirely amid more pressing business challenges.

Audi is struggling with declining sales and profits from its electric vehicles, once seen as the future. The company has downgraded its EV sales targets several times. Meanwhile, Audi CEO Markus Duesmann, the prime architect behind the F1 entry, abruptly resigned from the board last year over strategic differences.

His successor, CEO Gernot Dollner, is now reportedly moving to oust head of development Oliver Hoffmann, another key figure in the F1 plans.

The loss of two critical champions leaves Audi’s F1 future dependent on Dollner, who is said to harbor doubts. At the same time, visible progress on Audi’s power unit development for F1 remains elusive. Recruiting top talent to the program has proven challenging amid cutbacks and an uncertain economic environment in the auto sector.

Under the circumstances, speculation is rife that Audi may yet abandon its F1 entry entirely to refocus resources on its core EV business. While no final decision has been made, the possibility can no longer be discounted.

“The current situation does not bode well,” said industry analyst Ferdinand Dudenhöffer. “Audi faces a crisis in its electric mobility strategy and may need to take difficult decisions across the board, including in motorsports.”

If Audi exits, the Sauber F1 team would likely have no shortage of potential suitors, given the rapid increase in value of Formula 1 franchises under the sport’s booming popularity. Michael Andretti explored buying Sauber just three years ago and could revive that interest.

For now, Audi maintains its Formula 1 entry in 2026 remains on track. But with storm clouds brewing over the company’s electric vehicle plans, few would be surprised if Audi pulls the plug on its F1 program to refocus itself on core priorities.

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