Paul di Resta thinks the big target for Audi when they enter F1 in 2026 will be to get the better of German rivals Mercedes.
After more than a year of speculation, it was confirmed at this season’s Belgian Grand Prix that Audi, part of the Volkswagen Group, would participate in Formula 1 for the first time when the next generation of power units kicks in from 2026.
More recently came the announcement that Audi would provide the engines for a works team under their name which would be run by the Sauber operation in Switzerland, who currently race under the Alfa Romeo banner.
Although it will be far from easy to replicate the success they have enjoyed in other motorsport disciplines – notably endurance racing, touring cars, Formula E and, further back, rallying – Audi will not want to be merely making up the numbers.
And with the companies being competitors of each other, Di Resta believes Audi will want to aim right for the top when they arrive in the pit lane – by trying to knock Mercedes off their perch.
“That’s massive, isn’t it, at the end of the tunnel when you think about it,” said former F1 racer Di Resta on Sky Sports in response to a question about whether Audi’s arrival is a big incentive for current Sauber drivers Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu.
“I’m interested to see where the investment will come from Audi. Sauber have always been there, they have kind of been a midfield team that never really broke through that barrier of getting up there and being able to entice the right people in. But with Audi there, I think you’ve got that.
“Would you want to be at Audi in the first couple of years when they come into Formula 1? I’m not sure where the reliability will be.
“Would you entice a big driver to come in there, a Charles Leclerc, a Lando Norris to lead the team? That’s what we’ll have to wait and see, but it’s great to have that brand in.
“They have been very successful in other motorsports and with the might of VW, they will want to come in and make an impression.
“I think the biggest incentive for them is to beat Mercedes. From a media point of view, that’s what they will have their sights on.”