Two surprise driver names rumoured to be on Audi F1 radar

Jamie Woodhouse

As preparations for the Audi Formula 1 project ramp up, it has been reported that Nico Hulkenberg is a priority driver signing, while Alpine could see disruption to their current line-up.

The new regulations from F1 2026 have lured Audi into the series as they embark on a partnership with Sauber, who will take on the status of the Audi works team and run their newly-developed power unit.

And while we still have more than two seasons of action to go before Audi hit the track in Formula 1 competition, naturally the rumour mill is already swirling regarding the drivers who will form their first Formula 1 line-up.

Nico Hulkenberg and/or Esteban Ocon at Audi?

As per Motorsport.com, Audi has sights firmly set on the sole German racer of the F1 grid, current Haas driver Hulkenberg, with Ocon also on their wishlist to break up that all-French Alpine line-up alongside Pierre Gasly.

Hulkenberg returned to Formula 1 for 2023 and has been highly impressive at the wheel of the VF-23, his undoubted highlight being qualifying P2 in Canada, so it is no surprise that the German automotive giant Audi has made Hulkenberg their “priority” signing.

The report adds that Alpine drivers Ocon and Gasly are then under consideration for the second seat, though “several insiders” point to Ocon as the one who will get the nod.

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However, it seems we will not need to wait until 2026 to see Hulkenberg and/or Ocon pairing in action, which has reduced the driver pool available to Audi.

With the Sauber-Alfa Romeo alliance coming to a close at the end of F1 2023, Sauber then have two seasons of preparation before their Audi era, though the reported aim is for Hulkenberg/Ocon to be at the wheel as of F1 2025, the season before that transition to Audi.

In the meantime, extensive work is ongoing in the background for Audi and Sauber to prepare for their F1 venture, with Sauber in the process of expanding their current workforce of 550 to a reported target of 800, while Audi’s power unit project continues to gather steam, guided by the input of former Red Bull test driver Neel Jani.

Both Haas and Alpine find themselves in difficult spots currently, Haas having underwhelmed with their major upgrade package introduced at the US Grand Prix to take them down the “Red Bull concept” route, while Alpine are staring at P6 in the Constructors’ Championship in an F1 2023 campaign where progress has stalled.

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