Audi will run a prototype of its 2026 Formula 1 power unit on the test bench before the end of this year.
Audi announced the intention to test the engine as part of its presentation of the Formula 1 project to the Chinese market at the Auto Shanghai automobile show.
The marque already owns a minority stake of the Sauber team, which is currently competing under the Alfa Romeo name, and will increase that to a controlling one ahead of the Swiss outfit becoming its ‘strategic partner’ – meaning its works team.
Audi has a single-cylinder test engine in operation at its motorsport base in Neuburg an der Donau, Germany as of late-2022. This is, according to Audi, providing “valuable insights” for the development of the F1 power unit, which will feature energy recovery systems increased to 350kW compared to the current 120kW with the MGU-H dropped for 2026.
Audi also said that “the first full hybrid drivetrain unit, consisting of the combustion engine, electric motor, battery and electronic control unit, is scheduled to run on the test bench before the end of this year and will form the basis for the future vehicle concept”.
This will be an important step in its development programme, with the intention to run its final design in a mule car at some point in 2025 ahead of its F1 debut the following year.
Audi has also said that “the dynamic development simulator in Neuberg will be brought up to Formula 1 standards and will further advance the development of the Audi power unit”.
This is part of the expansion of Audi’s Neuberg facility, which it claims now has 260 personnel working on the project with a blend of existing Audi personnel and established F1 specialists who have joined. They work under the leadership of CEO Adam Baker, who joined Audi in 2021.
The staffing will expand to “more than 300 employees” by the end of this year.
Work is also ongoing on a new building at Neuberg that began in early December last year. This is due to be completed in the first quarter of next year and will house its test benches, mechanics workshop and around 60 employees.
“The Audi Formula 1 project has really taken off in recent months,” said Audi technical development managing board member Oliver Hoffmann.
“In the ongoing concept phase of the power unit, the foundation of our drivetrain for 2026 is being laid today.
“We attach great importance to detail work, for example on materials or manufacturing technologies, and we also focus on topics such as the energy management of the hybrid drivetrain.
“After all, efficiency is a key success factor for Formula 1 and the mobility of the future, these approaches will advance both worlds.”
That Audi chose to present its F1 project at Auto Shaghai, along with the Audi F1 show car that first appeared when the programme was announced at Spa last year, is a reminder of the importance of the Chinese market to F1.
The Chinese Grand Prix is set to return to the calendar next year having not run since the 2019 event.