Current F1 driver emerges ‘very high up’ on Audi’s F1 2026 shortlist – rumours

Sam Cooper
Audi's F1 car.

Audi are preparing for their 2026 entry.

Esteban Ocon has emerged as a surprise contender for the Audi 2026 seat with one respected F1 journalist suggesting he is “high up” on their list.

Sauber have gone from Alfa Romeo to Stake in 2024 but in two year’s time, they will have another new name in the form of Audi as the German giant moves into F1.

It is a long time coming with Audi’s move first announced in October 2022 and the backmarkers are now preparing for life under their new ownership.

Esteban Ocon moves onto Audi wishlist

The Sauber team will continue to operate out of their Swiss base in 2026 but instead of the Ferrari engine now in the car, it will eventually be a German-made Audi one.

Audi have already begun preparations, expanding their base in Neuburg and beginning to build their 2026 engine, but one of the major questions is: who will be driving for them?

Nico Hulkenberg has been a name constantly linked to the German outfit but another driver has now been thrown into the hat: Esteban Ocon.

According to F1’s Lawrence Barretto, Ocon is “very high up” on the list for Sauber.

“While Alpine may be interested in keeping Ocon for another season, sources say Sauber-run Stake have the Frenchman very high up on their list as they prepare the operation to become Audi in 2026,” Barretto claimed.

“He is one of a number of drivers CEO Andreas Seidl is believed to be assessing as he looks to morph the team first into a serial midfield contender and then an operation that can fight for podiums, wins and ultimately championships.”

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It remains to be seen how attractive the Audi seat will be for drivers with the prestigious brand joining a team that has not troubled the points much in the last few years.

One man who has staked his claim for a seat is Valtteri Bottas, who hopes to continue when the team moves over to Audi in 2026.

“Being part of Audi would be my number one priority and preference,” he said. But if for some reason not, then absolutely I would talk to [other teams].

“I want to be around because I feel like I still have some unfinished things in this sport.”

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