Audi Will Fully Buy Out Sauber F1 Before It Hits the Grid in 2026

Up until now, the German automaker was only looking to take a majority stake.

byAdam Ismail|
F1 photo


Audi will enter the Formula 1 paddock through Sauber in 2026, and in the run-up, the automaker was planning to buy up to 70% of the longtime Swiss racing team. But on Friday morning, Audi announced intent to take things a step further: It will purchase 100% of Sauber before the two entities field cars on the grid. That means one of Grand Prix racing's longest-running independents will become a fully owned subsidiary of the world's largest automaker, within the next two years.

With the plan comes a leadership shakeup: Audi's current chief of technical development and former head of Audi Sport, Oliver Hoffmann, will step down from that position to oversee the F1 endeavor as chairman of both Audi Formula and Sauber Group. Meanwhile, Andreas Seidl, Sauber's CEO and former McLaren team principal, will be the CEO of the Audi F1 Team. Audi and Volkswagen's top brass have approved these moves, as have those of Sauber's current majority shareholder Islero Investments AG, so it's just a matter of when they'll take effect.

"I thank [Audi chairman] Gernot Döllner and Oliver Hoffmann for their trust and am looking forward to leading Audi into Formula 1 together with a highly motivated team as CEO of the Audi F1 Team," Seidl said in Audi's press release. "We have a clear roadmap for how we want to become competitive in Hinwil as well as in Neuburg. We have ambitious goals." The release also mentions Seidl will serve as "the face of the future Audi Formula 1 Team," a role he'll no doubt be familiar with from his time at McLaren.

The No. 63 Sauber-Mercedes C9 that won the 1989 24 Hours of Le Mans, driven by Jochen Mass, Manuel Reuter, and Stanley Dickens. Paul-Henri Cahier/Getty Images

Sauber's been a mainstay in Formula 1, and more broadly motorsports in general, since the 1980s. During its start, it aligned with Mercedes-Benz to field a series of successful sports prototype endurance racing cars and planned to expand that to F1 until Merc canceled its side of the project. Sauber nevertheless forged on itself, beginning in the 1993 season. Partnerships with various entities, including Red Bull, eventually led to its first factory backing since the Silver Arrows days via BMW after the German manufacturer broke its ties with Williams, lasting from 2006 to 2009. At the end of that era, founder Peter Sauber repurchased the stake that belonged to BMW, and took his crew independent again.

And independent has been how Sauber's largely remained ever since. The Alfa Romeo tie-up was mostly marketing as it had no effect on the firm's ownership, and "control issues" at the 11th hour killed a deal with Andretti Autosport three years ago. Sauber has impressively managed to maintain its footing in the sport, even if it hasn't been especially competitive in ages. Through it all, Audi's purchase will easily represent the most profound transformation in the team's history. And with Volkswagen Group's deep pockets pushing things along, a massive investment in technical development and likely driver salaries as well could only help things.

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