Why Audi is going F1 racing

Audi has acquired a stake in Sauber ahead of his F1 entry in 2026

Audi has acquired a stake in Sauber ahead of his F1 entry in 2026

Audi still has three seasons to wait before it enters Formula 1, but the German brand is already making its intentions clear. It has confirmed it will take control of Sauber and installed former McLaren Team Principal, Andreas Seidl to lead the team.

But why? Why is Audi entering F1 now?

It has been nearly 100 years since the four-ring brand – then in its original Auto Union state – last graced the grand prix stage, and there are a number of reasons for the return but one is more prominent than all the others.

Audi’s F1 entry was overseen by Herbert Diess, who was CEO of the entire Volkswagen Group up until September 1, 2022. And he gave the unvarnished answer as to why the Audi brand was a fit for F1 in an interview prior to his departure.

“Audi is a much weaker brand than Porsche,” Diess admitted. “It can’t demand such a high price premium. Audi actually has the better case for Formula 1 because it has much greater potential for the brand.

“They are moving into the higher segments, into competition with Daimler, and then Audi will also have a case where they say that makes sense.”

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While on one level that’s a frank response that will unsettle Audi employees, it’s also a legitimate point. Audi has long been the third member of Germany’s ‘big three’ luxury brands, trailing behind Mercedes-Benz and BMW in the sales race. Things got worse in 2022 when Audi Australia was overtaken by Tesla in sales, dropping to fourth in the prestige pecking order.

Entering F1 will pit Audi directly against Mercedes-AMG (as well as Ferrari, Alpine, Ford and possibly Honda) and that should have a direct impact on the way customers see the brand and consider them in the showroom.

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It also helps that F1 is enjoying a popularity boom under the commercial direction of Liberty Media, with record numbers of fans flocking to races around the world. Speaking to Torquecafe, Audi Australia boss Jeff Mannering said he was already looking forward to the Australian Grand Prix in 2026 and the impact Audi’s F1 arrival should have on the brand, it’s image and sales.

“From a brand point-of-view I think it’s quite strong because of our performance-related performance,” Mannering said. “I think it also puts us in the pinnacle of motorsports worldwide, I think it sends a really strong message. We’ll leverage some stuff when we go down there [to Melbourne for the grand prix]… I think the first one, Australia in 2026, is going to be great.”

By 2026 Audi will be deep into its electric transformation, with development on internal combustion models set to stop at the same time. Having a global platform to spruik its next generation electric vehicles will be just what the brand needs to compete against the likes of Mercedes, BMW and Tesla in an increasingly competitive market.

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