until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

What a major Audi decision means for its F1 programme

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

Audi has taken a major decision to take over Sauber entirely ahead of its works Formula 1 team’s debut in 2026.

The German automotive manufacturer had originally agreed to buy 75% of Sauber, with existing owner Finn Rausing retaining 25% of the company.

Audi’s plan was to scale up its involvement in the race team, based in Switzerland, while simultaneously working intensively on its first-ever F1 engine in Germany.

Its role in upgrading Sauber as a team both at the track and at its Hinwil base was set to be relative to its gradual increase in its share of the team, starting at 25% in 2023, 50% this year and 75% next year – essentially limiting exactly how much influence Audi had, and how much it would invest.

However, Sauber CEO Andreas Seidl – the de facto leader of the works project – has been pushing for some time to get Audi to do more, knowing that time is of the essence to get the team at a suitable level of performance for 2026.

Sauber is still a lot smaller than other F1 teams as a result of its near-collapse in the 2010s, and has required plenty of investment in personnel and infrastructure that is still ongoing.

While there has been a lot of noise about Audi’s commitment to its entry supposedly wavering, due to changes in senior management in both Audi and its parent Volkswagen Group, insiders at Sauber remained confident that the project was unaffected.

Moreover, they believed Audi was receptive to the need for more investment than was originally agreed – and now it looks like Seidl has won that battle.

Audi’s announcement that it will take a 100% stake in Sauber has been framed as a plan to “accelerate the preparations for the start of the 2026 season”.

That means this is more than just a corporate technicality like confirming outright ownership rather than a majority share - and is geared towards the team making more progress than it was trending towards.

It should allow Audi to take full advantage of the increased capital expenditure limits it has within the cost cap, while another break comes in the form of a currency adjustment for Switzerland to account for higher wages there. This allows Audi to recruit personnel without a problematic pay gap between Swiss wages and those in the UK, for example, where several other teams are based.

In addition, Audi has now committed to a specific upper management structure for its project.

Seidl becomes CEO of the Audi F1 team with responsibility for the “implementation of the F1 project” as well as the management of the team and being its public face, while Oliver Hoffmann will take overall responsibility of the programme (as well as becoming chairman of the board of the Sauber companies).

In simple terms it appears that Seidl will be the most senior day-to-day figure for the F1 team itself while Hoffmann takes a broader role that will also include responsibility for the engine project at Neuburg and Audi’s marketing strategy.

Hoffmann calls Seidl “exactly the right man for our ambitious plan”, but while this is framed as a completely new appointment – Hoffmann is even quoted as saying “I am pleased we were able to secure the services” of Seidl – it has been known for some time that Seidl’s move to Sauber from McLaren in the winter of 2022/2023 was done with this kind of eventual Audi F1 responsibility in mind.

“We have a clear roadmap for how we want to become competitive in Hinwil as well as in Neuburg,” said Seidl.

“We have ambitious goals. Realisation of them is in progress and will be further accelerated through the complete takeover of Sauber by Audi.”

Hoffmann’s new role means he steps down as a member of the board of management of Audi itself, which likely explains recent rumours that Hoffmann was leaving the company – spun as the F1 programme losing another key figure when in reality he remains not only involved but in charge of the whole thing.

The significance of the personnel appointments is marked by Manfred Doss, chairman of the Audi supervisory board, saying the F1 entry is “as big a sporting challenge as it is a financial commitment”.

“Through the bundling of Oliver Hoffmann’s responsibilities and the complete takeover of the Sauber Group, we are accelerating our preparations for the 2026 season,” Doss said.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks