Alternate Audi line-up proposed as major ‘opportunity’ pinpointed

Jamie Woodhouse
The rear wing of Audi's F1 car.

Audi, coming to an F1 track near you.

Le Mans class winner Richard Bradley made the case for an unchanged Audi line-up, seeing “a lot of marketing potential” to exploit in the Chinese market via Zhou Guanyu, with Valtteri Bottas also sticking around.

Sauber finds itself in a two-season transitionary period as Stake F1, their partnership with Alfa Romeo having come to an end ahead of a new link-up which will see them become the Audi works team from F1 2026.

And already plenty of driver names have been rumoured for Audi’s first F1 line-up, including the likes of Carlos Sainz, Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Ocon. But, could Audi decide if it is not broken, don’t fix it?

Audi tipped to retain Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu

Speaking on the On Track GP podcast, 2015 Le Mans LMP2 class winner Bradley, reflecting on his own experiences of living in China, discussed the huge brand presence which Audi enjoys in the nation.

Therefore, having the only Chinese F1 driver on the grid in Zhou is an opportunity which Bradley believes will greatly appeal to the manufacturer.

Asked if he believes Zhou or Bottas will still be at the team come 2026 when the Audi era starts, Bradley replied: “Oh yeah, I’m very, very sure they will be.

“I mean, firstly, on Zhou’s side at least, I’m pretty sure that China is Audi’s biggest market. But even if it’s not Audi’s, then definitely Volkswagen Group, there is a lot of marketing potential for them in China.

“And having lived in China for three years, everywhere you go, you see a Volkswagen Group car or predominantly an Audi.

“As an example, Audi have got the naming rights to the Shanghai Formula 1 circuit. At the minute, it’s actually called the Shanghai Audi International Circuit. So I think it makes sense to keep Zhou there. Plus, he’s not doing a bad job.” recommends

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And Audi would surely benefit from a Formula 1 veteran on the other side of the garage, which the team already has, and a successful one at that in Bottas.

The Finnish racer knows all about contributing to a winning team, having been part of five Constructors’ Championship triumphs with Mercedes, so Bradley feels this experience would be an asset for Audi.

“And then obviously Valtteri, with the experience he has from Mercedes and the fact he’s been pretty solid over all the time he’s been at Alfa, I think he’s the sort of guy you’d very happily have taking a manufacturer like Audi into it,” Bradley suggested.

Bottas and Zhou have formed the driver line-up at team Hinwil since 2022.

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