Audi Could Reportedly Be a Major New Player in Formula One

Nothing is confirmed yet.

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Audi Could Reportedly Be a Major New Player in Formula One ©Audi Could Reportedly Be a Major New Player in Formula One

Formula One (F1) is coming off the back of one of its most successful and exciting seasons ever. More viewers, attendees, races, and mainstream press than ever before have turned F1 from a languishing mid-2010s racing series run by a stagnant Bernie Ecclestone into the Liberty Media-led commercial sports superpower of today. That rise has attracted the interest of companies seeking ways to promote their brand. Welcome, Volkswagen Group (VAG).

Several brands under the VAG sprawl are reportedly interested in an F1 entrance. Admittedly, these rumors didn’t have much substance for the years they have glided about the aether until F1 got its act together. A variety of factors are contributing to reported real interest from brands like Audi, Porsche, and Volkswagen and they all come from the commercial viability of F1 and the new engine rules due to come into effect in 2026.

A serious step has just been taken in the formation of these rules that has all but confirmed the entrance of one new engine maker. Diving in.

Welcome to Headlight. This is a daily news feature that lights up one current event in the car world and breaks it down by three simple subheadings: What Happened, Why It Matters, and What To Look For Next. Look for it in the morning (Eastern time) every weekday.

What Happened

German publication Sport1 reported that Audi board member Markus Duesmann and Audi Head of Development Oliver Hoffmann sent a letter to F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and then-incumbent FIA President Jean Todt regarding the 2026 F1 technical regulations. The letter was distributed to FIA delegates before the vote to influence decision-making in favor of rules that Audi preferred.

The now-approved new rules were described as a “fair compromise.” These rules meet the reported demands of Volkswagen Group, with the deletion of critical hybrid components in favor of a simpler but more powerful hybrid system. Namely, the Motor Generator Unit-Heat (MGU-H) that recaptures wasted heat from the turbocharger to turn into electricity. It is a severely costly and complex component that contributes to much of the complexity of current F1 power units that scares engine makers away.

Audi’s entrance into F1 is not confirmed, though letters from the board count for serious interest. With a simpler hybrid engine formula, it should be easier for new manufacturers to enter F1, and Audi has been something of a sponsor for the updated regulations. Now, the MGU-H has been removed from the formula, and the electric assist has been increased to 350 kW with no changes to the 1.6-liter V6 internal combustion engine. All of it is set to run on “100 percent sustainable” biofuel.

Why It Matters

Regardless of the controversies that have plagued F1 this year, it had one of its most stunning and engaging seasons ever. Yes, ever. We’ve never seen two title rivals like Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen fighting each other every weekend, coming into the final round equal on points, and clinching a championship on the final lap of the final race. 

Global interest in F1 is at an all-time high. Mainstream news outlets are reporting F1 news as breaking news, and I know more folks than ever who know something about F1. Even when I’m among my non-car friends, people know who Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, or Max Verstappen is. 

The entrance of a major automaker like Audi and potentially other VW Group brands could be major for the development of the sport. With caution of course, because nobody new has officially committed to joining the new regulations and there’s plenty of behind-the-scenes speculation going on.

The track-to-road car pipeline is a dubious one at best. Letting go of road relevance and treating F1 as a better competition that provides value for everyone involved is more important than highly specialized technologies making it back to production cars. Automakers care about how much their brand is seen in the media, and F1 is becoming something like an American sports franchise. The real value is going to be in more “affordable” cost-cap racing and more competitors to make every season interesting.

However, it is still possible for technologies and lessons to be learned from F1. When it is more accessible but not too accessible, it is a good way to keep F1 interesting without it losing its integrity as the pinnacle of motorsports. The greatest eras of most racing series were the ones where a healthy group of manufacturers entered. This rule could easily apply to the engine stagnation of modern F1.

What To Look For Next

With the approval of the 2026 rules as VW Group wished, we can speculate it is fairly certain that a brand or two from the automotive giant will join F1 as an engine supplier. Still, there are procedural hurdles to clamber over.

The board of directors at Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche all need to approve an entrance into F1. Once that vote is completed, we will know for sure if F1 is going to see a continued renaissance into the late-2020s. 

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