Why Audi’s F1 journey will start with Sauber

Arguably the worst-kept secret of the season up to now has been Audi’s much-mooted acquisition of Sauber Motorsport, with Wednesday’s announcement that the 4 Rings had entered right into a ‘strategic partnership’ with the Swiss firm being simply begin of what is going to be a staggered course of, with an preliminary 50% and additional 25% scheduled to alter fingers in 2023/4 respectively.

What occurs to the remaining shares is, at this stage, unconfirmed, provided that chairman (and majority shareholder) Finn Rausing – scion of the Tetrapak-founding household – is alleged to be eager to retain a slice of the group. Thus, the ultimate quarter could possibly be acquired by Audi, be break up between the 2 events or retained by the Swede. Who is aware of – Rausing might nicely promote to a 3rd celebration; time alone will inform.

True, at present’s announcement makes solely passing mentions of ‘Audi planning to accumulate a stake’; sources inside the group are adamant {that a} heads of settlement deal has been signed however is contingent upon Audi – a wholly-owned subsidiary of the listed VW Group, bear in mind – acquiring all regulatory approvals. Such actions take time, significantly the place cross-border formalities are concerned.

That Audi would accept Sauber isn’t any shock, for they’ve lengthy cooperated on sports activities and saloon automobile racing initiatives. Certainly, on the 2 events I visited Sauber’s base in Hinwil throughout the previous 5 years, varied German-plated Audis had been dotted about outdoors; throughout an earlier go to I used to be ‘banned’ from the wind tunnel as a buyer was aero testing. Coincidentally, Audi Sport vans with closed trailers had been parked on the street.

Then, Technical Director Jan Monchaux was recruited from Audi as Head of Aero in 2018 after time was known as on the 4 Rings’ WEC programme. He had carried out related actions for Sauber till promotion to his present position a 12 months later. Add in that Hinwil is located within the Swiss-German canton, and clearly a variety of sporting and cultural suits exist, significantly as Audi’s motorsport base in Neuburg is however a three-hour drive away.

Why Audi’s F1 operation means enterprise

The size of Audi’s ambitions turned clear when RacingNews365 visited Neuburg in mid-September as the primary worldwide publication to be proven the nascent F1 facility. With it being more and more unlikely that Porsche will enter F1 after splitting with Crimson Bull and lacking the FIA’s 2026 energy unit entry deadline of 15 October, the total weight of VW Group’s F1 ambitions now relaxation on Audi’s shoulders.

Nonetheless, the phrase is that the Porsche model may nonetheless be seen in F1, however on rebadged Audi energy items. Whereas such a transfer makes good industrial sense – significantly because the respective Audi and Porsche street automobile divisions share a quantity main parts, together with powertrains – it might flip Porsche right into a secondary associate in any such enterprise. Think about the company politics…

When Audi introduced its entry as engine provider throughout the Belgian Grand Prix weekend at end-August, no point out was product of buying a stake in a group – certainly, the questions had been neatly sidestepped – however, as outlined right here in January, it’s a logical step as Audi was granted permission by the VW board to enter F1 offered the undertaking is a ‘revenue centre’ and never a drain on firm assets.

The one means Audi may meet its mandate is as group proprietor provided that engine suppliers do not qualify for prize monies, nor do they generate significant sponsorship revenues. That mentioned, below prevailing agreements F1 newcomers are responsible for $200m ‘anti-dilution’ charges, and whereas F1 indicated it might waive the cost for Audi, this may open a authorized can of worms provided that no such concessions had been promised to Michael Andretti’s proposed entry.

Discussions with different F1 groups

Towards this background, the acquisition of a group was a should, and thus Audi opened dialogue with all common suspects: AlphaTauri, McLaren, Sauber and Williams. First named proved too disparate, having Austrian possession but being based mostly in Italy and having a wind tunnel and aero division understanding of the UK; in McLaren’s case the auto division received in the way in which, whereas Williams suffers all Brexit’s disadvantages.

That left Sauber, crucially a group that has run race automobiles for producers – suppose again to its early-90s hyperlinks with Mercedes, then the BMW deal and now with Alfa Romeo, the latter a deal that places the model on the monitor in F1 at a discount basement worth. Nonetheless, Alfa Romeo has already introduced its break up with Sauber efficient end-2023, however is eager on additional reaping the advantages offered by F1 by remaining on the grid, however not with Audi.

The phrase in Austin was that Alfa Romeo may switch to Haas from 2023– logical given their shared Ferrari powertrains, whereas Alfa Romeo and new-for-2023 title sponsor Moneygram share the identical purple/white/black colors. It is a lengthy shot, but when it occurs, bear in mind the place you examine Alfa Romeo Moneygram Haas F1 Crew first. An unwieldy title, however no extra so than Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Crew.

For now, although, the main focus could be very a lot on Audi and never on different group names; the first focus being on how Audi will ramp up Hinwil to make sure its marketing campaign doesn’t go the way in which of the final producer to enter F1 in its personal proper – Toyota, which after ten years had little to indicate for its billion-dollar spend, save for a number of podiums.

To this point, Audi has made all the fitting noises and carried out all the fitting issues. From our discussions in Neuburg it’s clear that Audi has not underestimated the size of the quite a few duties forward. All constructing blocks are actually in place, with ‘buying a shareholding in Sauber’ being however an extra step in that course for Audi. Audi Sport vans and trailers are prone to be an more and more widespread sight in Wildbachstrasse 9, Hinwil

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