Rumor: Audi Cancelled Its F1 Program Before It Even Started

Rumor: Audi Cancelled Its F1 Program Before It Even Started

It seems that Audi is on a bit of a killing spree when it comes to its own motorsport programs as of late. So you’ll excuse me if I don’t immediately dismiss these rumors that Audi is going to renege on its F1 commitments. Despite announcing that it would buy the Sauber F1 team and its entry to the championship from the 2026 season, it seems the F1 deal was former CEO Markus Duesmann’s doing, and his successor isn’t so sure it’s the right move.

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The four rings already killed off its Formula E and DTM programs to focus on a LMDh prototype sports car racing program. In the middle of 2022, the brand then announced that the LMDh which had not yet turned a lap would die in favor of a foray into the heady waters of Formula One, taking its GT3 and customer racing efforts down with it. The Ingolstadt brand has even decided to end its hybrid Dakar program next year. A lot of programs have met the axe man lately, it wouldn’t be all that much of a surprise if F1 was next.

Duesmann was a natural fit for Formula One, as he has a long history in the sport. Back in 2005, while working at Mercedes-Benz, he was given the title of Head of Development for F1 Engines at McLaren-Mercedes. In 2007 Duesmann joined BMW and led engine development for Sauber, then powered by and partnered with the Bavarian brand. He would have been the natural leader to return to Sauber, and bring Audi with him as CEO and board chair. A few months ago he was unceremoniously ousted from the company and replaced with former product strategy VP Gernot Döllner.

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Since Döllner’s appointment this summer, rumors have been swirling that he’d back down from the 2026 F1 promise. Earlier this month an Audi spokesperson responded to the rumors, saying “The schedule of Audi Formula Racing GmbH … remains unchanged.” But we all know those kinds of responses are worth about as much as the server space they’re written on.

A report out of France today has many thinking Audi has found the out it’s been looking for. Porsche could take over for Audi as Sauber’s partner. Porsche initially was tied to Red Bull as engine supplier, but that fizzled out in contract negotiations, as Red Bull higher ups felt Porsche was asking for too much control of the joint venture. Red Bull has since partnered with Ford. Similar talks fell apart with Williams, McLaren, and Aston Martin. At one point Porsche was reportedly determined to purchase a segment of the Aston Martin road car business in order to get a spot on the grid.

Porsche recently announced that it would abandon its efforts to get on the Formula One grid, instead choosing to focus on its existing Formula E program. Clearly the Stuttgart brand was desperate, but couldn’t find a way to make it happen. If Sauber is willing to do a switcheroo, popping Audi out and sister-brand Porsche in, it could be the solution both brands want to see. Makes sense, could be fun.