Audi are busy with preparations for their upcoming Formula 1 entry, and a key milestone looks set to be reached in the not too distant future.
From 2026 Formula 1 will introduce a new generation of power units, ones designed to be cheaper, but with less reliance on internal combustion and greater focus on electrical power.
The Internal Combustion Engine will be powered by fully sustainable biofuels from that year as Formula 1 looks to reach carbon neutrality by 2030.
And these new PUs attracted interest from various manufacturers, with Audi, Porsche and Ford all looking for a potential route in.
While Porsche were unable to achieve that, Red Bull ultimately partnering with Ford when Porsche talks broke down, Audi, like Ford, were also successful with their plans as they struck a deal to join forces with Sauber, which will become the Audi works team from 2026, the German brand having already bought a minority stake in Sauber Motorsport.
And the team will be powered by the first Audi PU, with the personnel now coming together at the brand’s facility in Neuburg an der Donau, with north of 260 people now working under the specially-created Audi Formula Racing GmbH division. A final tally of around 300 people is expected to be in place by the end of the year.
And at that stage, the German marque confirmed that they actually plan to have their first Formula 1 prototype engine on the test bench, with new test rigs also on the way as the brand looks to lay solid foundations for its arrival in Formula 1.
‘The first full hybrid drivetrain unit, consisting of the combustion engine, electric motor, battery and electronic control unit, is scheduled to run on the test bench before the end of this year and will form the basis for the future vehicle concept,’ Audi confirmed.
Speaking at Auto Shanghai, Oliver Hoffmann, Member of the Board of Management for Technical Development at Audi AG, said: “The Audi Formula 1 project has really taken off in recent months.
“In the ongoing concept phase of the power unit, the foundation of our drivetrain for 2026 is being laid today.
“We attach great importance to detail work, for example on materials or manufacturing technologies, and we also focus on topics such as the energy management of the hybrid drivetrain. After all, efficiency is a key success factor for Formula 1 and the mobility of the future, these approaches will advance both worlds.”
Formula 1 is enjoying arguably its greatest popularity boom yet right now, with sell-out crowds a common sight as promoters scramble to secure a place on the Formula 1 calendar.
And so, Audi chairman Markus Duesmann believes the brand’s commitment to Formula 1 will benefit not only the sporting side of the organisation, but also the wider Audi brand as they look to tap into Formula 1’s ever-expanding audience, with China highlighted as the key market.
“Motorsport is an integral part of our DNA,” said Duesmann. “We are convinced that our Formula 1 commitment will strengthen Audi’s sporting focus.
“The racing series is continuously increasing its global reach, especially among young target groups and in our most important sales market: China.”
It is expected that the Chinese Grand Prix will return to the Formula 1 calendar as of 2024, having missed the latest four seasons due to the impacts of the COVID pandemic.
Audi then will be hoping for a successful first outing in the nation by the time they go racing in Formula 1 come 2026.