A surprise new name enters the mix for Audi’s 2026 driver line-up

Michelle Foster
Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso hugs and smiles on the grid. Spain June 2023

Spanish drivers Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso hugs and smiles on the grid. Spain June 2023

Audi could yet have a Spaniard in their line up-when they take over the Sauber team in 2026, not Carlos Sainz but rather Fernando Alonso.

Two months ago, according to Swiss publication Blick, Sainz’s name was bandied about as a candidate to lead Audi in their first season on the grid leaving the Ferrari driver unimpressed with the “uncorroborated and invented rumours”.

That, though, might have had more to do with the report stating that ‘probably without great chances of winning the title next to Leclerc’, Sainz had caught the eye of Sauber CEO Andreas Seidl.

Fast forward two months and now it is his compatriot Alonso who is being linked to Audi.

This time though it is not a rumour, it has come straight from the team with managing director of the Sauber Group, Alessandro Alunni Bravi, telling Spanish publication Mundo Deportivo he would “always” want Alonso in his team.

“I would always sign Fernando, even at 45 years or more,” Alunni Bravi said as Sauber continue their preparations for the Audi takeover.

“I was able to get to know him well at McLaren, when I was the manager of Stoffel Vandoorne, who was his team-mate. I was able to see first-hand the work he can do on a day-to-day basis as a driver, his ability, his great determination.

PlanetF1.com recommends

The ‘super, super quick’ Mercedes driver Charles Leclerc would choose to partner

Fernando Alonso issues warning to Max Verstappen amidst F1 domination

“He is a champion. You don’t win two F1 World titles if you don’t have certain characteristics. It’s a pleasure for me to see him.”

But while adding that Alfa Romeo, as the team is known today, are “happy with our drivers”, Alunni Bravi admits he “cannot hide that Fernando is one of the top drivers in F1 and that has to be recognised.”

Today the team has Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu as their line-up with Sauber junior Théo Pourchaire waiting in the wings. The Sainz rumours though continue to rumble on.

Asked about that given the Ferrari driver is out of contract at the end of next season, Alunni Bravi replied: “We are satisfied with our current driver pairing and our aim is to give them competitive material.

“Obviously I think Carlos Sainz is one of the best drivers currently in F1. He drives for Ferrari and I think he is happy at Ferrari. And we have to think about our drivers and give them all the tools to do a good job.”

Should Alonso opt to continue racing in 2026, Alunni Bravi will have a hard time prying him away from Aston Martin where he’s already had success in his first season with the team.

With five podiums in seven races, Alonso has said he could yet continue with Aston Martin for several years to come, music to team boss Mike Krack’s ears.

“Several years, we would be happy with that,” said the German. “I think the main thing, and this is one of the big qualities, is the desire to be at front, the motivation. And I think this is fully on with Fernando.

“We don’t think so much about that, to be honest, as you guys, you know. We take it race by race, and we try to do well every race. It’s nice to hear that but we didn’t think too much about it yet.

“Let’s make it happen.”