Audi has finally confirmed one of the F1 paddock’s worst-kept secrets by announcing it will enter Formula 1 as a power unit manufacturer in 2026.
The Volkswagen-owned German auto giant made official the long-expected news a week after the FIA approved new engine rules for 2026. Audi said the increased electrification of the new power unit as well as a cost cap for engine builders were crucial to making the decision.
However, in a press conference at the Belgian Grand Prix, chairman of Audi board of management Markus Duesmann said he didn’t yet have an agreement in place with any existing Formula 1 team to either supply engines or partner with as a works entry.
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Audi is being heavily linked to a buyout of the Swiss Sauber-run Alfa Romeo team. The brand said it intends to confirm its plans for a chassis partner before the end of the year.
“I am delighted to welcome Audi to Formula 1, an iconic automotive brand, pioneer and technological innovator,” F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said. “This is a major moment for our sport that highlights the huge strength we have as a global platform that continues to grow.
“It is also a big recognition that our move to sustainably fuelled hybrid engines in 2026 is a future solution for the automotive sector.
“We are all looking forward to seeing the Audi logo on the grid and will be hearing further details from them on their plans in due course.”
Audi’s engine announcement is likely to be followed by confirmation that Porsche will partner Red Bull to build engines in 2026. Though neither brand has been drawn on the partnership, documents released by the Moroccan competition regulator revealed plans for Porsche to buy 50 per cent of Red Bull’s F1 operation and enter into a joint venture to build power units under the new rules.
The new F1 engine rules, rubber stamped by the FIA last week, are for power units with a similar architecture to the 1.6-litre turbo-hybrid V6 motors currently power the grid.
The key change is the removal of the complicated and costly MGU-H in exchange for increasing overall electrical energy to 50 per cent of the engine’s total output. The internal combustion engine will also be powered by carbon-neutral sustainable fuels.
The FIA was also successful in implementing a cost cap for engine manufacturers, which will be set at US$95 million a year for work undertaken from 2023 to 2026 and $130 million thereafter.
New builders will receive a $10 million concession for their first two years and a further $5 million in their third season.