Audi have hired an experienced F1 tech guru in John Sutton to aid the manufacturer’s preparations for their 2026 entry.
Audi are set to arrive on the F1 grid in time for the sport’s next major regulations changes in 2026, with the German manufacturer poised to take over the existing Sauber squad.
The team’s 2026 plans have been ramping up for some time, with former McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl appointed chief executive of Sauber Motorsport in January 2023 to oversee the Swiss-based outfit’s transition to Audi.
Audi sign F1 tech genius to drive 2026 plans
Sutton officially joined Audi Formula Racing GmbH as Head of Development for Formula 1 Transmission last November after previous spells in F1 with Williams, Ferrari and McLaren.
Sutton is a highly respected figure in F1 circles having played an instrumental role in the creation of active differential for Nigel Mansell’s title-winning 1992 Williams FW14B, widely regarded as one of the most sophisticated and technically advanced cars in the sport’s history.
Williams’ success with the FW14B came during Sutton’s highly successful 10-year stint with the team, having first joined the British outfit in 1988.
Sutton then joined Ferrari in the summer of 1999, contributing to the development of a lightweight gearbox raced to victories by Michael Schumacher, before being snapped up by McLaren in 2002.
Over a 12-year spell with McLaren, Sutton delivered F1’s first race-winning carbon-cased, instant-shift gearbox – as well as leading the team’s research alongside Mercedes into the KERS hybrid boost system adopted by F1 in 2009 – before switching to the company’s Automotive road car division in 2014.
Sutton left McLaren at the end of 2020 and had been working as a freelance engineering consultant before being snapped up by Audi.
In an exclusive interview with PlanetF1.com’s Sam Cooper last year, Audi Formula Racing GmbH chief executive Adam Baker explained the nature of the manufacturer’s technical relationship with Sauber as Audi’s 2026 entry edges ever closer.
He said: “We already have a close technical collaboration with Sauber which is as to be expected for a works programme, even this far out. We want to fully optimise the chassis and the power unit as a complete package.
“We obviously need to respect the existing partnerships of Sauber. The benefit of announcing [an F1 entry] early also gives us a challenge and somewhat unusual situation that the transition phase to work with an existing team is longer than typically the case.
“In parallel we are working collaboratively [with Sauber] on the 2026 car. The way we separated those activities is Sauber Motorsport, where traditionally all the F1 activities take place, is working on the car for the next two years with their existing partners.
“And we’re working with Sauber Technologies which is typically responsible for their non-F1 activities.
“We’re developing the power unit and the car concept really together as one cohesive technical team. That’s extremely important for us.
“We want to achieve that optimum works type development environment where it is a true partnership.”