Surprise name emerges as reported top Audi Formula 1 target

Michelle Foster
The Audi livery.

The Audi livery.

Mick Schumacher has reportedly been usurped by Carlos Sainz as the new favourite to join Audi when the German company takes over the Sauber team in 2026.

Audi have already began the process of buying the Sauber team, the company taking an undisclosed stake in the Sauber Group back in January. That stake will increase in 2024 and again the following season before Audi takes majority ownership in 2026.

Already personnel changes have been made with an eye on the future, Andreas Seidl joining from McLaren as the Sauber Group CEO to oversee the transition.

But one thing no one is saying, at least not publicly, is who will be the two drivers come 2026.

Current Sauber driver Valtteri Bottas has made it clear he wants to continue into the Audi era, telling that he feels “like I have many more years to come and I will stick around as long as I enjoy it and as long as I can still perform and have something to give to the sport. I can see that going for many, many years.

“I think it’s exciting that there’s a new manufacturer coming into F1 but 2026 is still quite far away. We’ll see – you can ask me in one or two years!”

The 33-year-old is reportedly the favourite to lead the Audi charge while initially it was speculated that Schumacher could be his team-mate given his German nationality.

However, according to Swiss publication Blick there’s a new name leading the charge: Sainz. recommends

Driver ratings: The five worst drivers so far this F1 season

Audi confirm ‘no concrete discussions’ yet with Mick Schumacher over future drive

Carlos Sainz urges tifosi to stand by Ferrari: Criticism isn’t what we need right now

The publication report there is a rumour in Spain that “Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz, probably without great chances of winning the title next to Leclerc, is said to be at the top of the list for Sauber CEO Seidl.”

Bringing in the Ferrari driver is just one of the German’s goals with Seidl and Audi also keen to grow the team.

“Audi also wants to increase its team, which will be driving with Sauber cars from Hinwil from 2026, by a few hundred employees as quickly as possible,” reports Blick. “Currently only AlphaTauri is smaller than Alfa-Sauber (530 employees).

“And Audi knows very well that the choice of driver also plays a decisive role.”

Last season Sainz extended his Ferrari contract which now runs through to the end of 2024. If there is any truth to the rumours, he could then either join Sauber in 2025 and get to know the team before the transition over to Audi or he could opt to extend with Ferrari for a future season.

Audi CEO Markus Duesmann recently revealed that team has not began negotiations with another drivers, not even Schumacher. He told Der Spiegel: “We are currently talking to many decision makers, drivers, team managers. There have been no concrete discussions with Mick Schumacher regarding a commitment.

“Of course, German drivers interest us as much as they interest the top of the parent company, but that is not a requirement for us.”

This week Audi are presenting their Formula 1 project in China for the first time showing off its launch livery with the motto ‘F1 Power made in Germany’.

“Motorsport is an integral part of our DNA,” Duesmann said at Auto Shanghai.

“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.”