At the Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, Audi recently announced that they will be competing in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship starting 2026. Audi is currently working on a specially developed power unit and they will be based at Audi Sport’s facility in Neuburg near Ingolstadt.
Present during the announcement were Chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG Markus Duesmann, and Member of the Board of Management for Technical Development Oliver Hoffmann, joining them were Formula 1 President and CEO Stafano Domenicali and President of the International Automobile Federation (FIA) Mohammed ben Sulayem.
Duesmann shared, “Motorsport is an integral part of Audi’s DNA. Formula 1 is both a global stage for our brand and a highly challenging development laboratory. The combination of high performance and competition is always a driver of innovation and technology transfer in our industry. With the new rules, now is the right time for us to get involved. After all, Formula 1 and Audi both pursue clear sustainability goals.”
One of the main reasons for joining one of the most popular racing series in the world is Formula 1’s plan to become more sustainable and cost-efficient. Starting in 2026, new technical rules will apply, and they will focus on advanced sustainable fuel and greater electrification. In 2023, aside from the current cap on costs, Formula 1 will also be adding a cost cap for power unit manufacturers.
Formula 1 has given themselves a truly ambitious goal that by 2030, they will become a carbon-neutral racing series.
Formula 1’s Transformation
Member of the Board for Technical Development Oliver Hoffman stated, “In view of the major technological leaps that the series is making towards sustainability in 2026, we can speak of a new Formula 1. Formula 1 is transforming, and Audi wants to actively support this journey. A close link between our Formula 1 project and AUDI AG’s Technical Development department will enable synergies.”
Compared to the Formula 1 drive systems today, starting 2026, there will be a sharp increase in the electric power output for the power units which consists of an electric motor, control electronics, battery, and a combustion engine. The electric motor will become as powerful as the combustion engine with an output of roughly 400 kW (544 hp). Another prerequisite for Audi to be part of the series is that the very efficient 1.6-liter turbo engines should run on advanced sustainable fuel.
Popularity in Key Markets and Young Target Groups
Audi’s requirements are fairly simple: it should be technologically advanced, highly emotional, and globally recognized; and Formula 1 ticks all the boxes. Formula 1 holds races in all the important markets of the brand. It is a great platform for the most demanding electrified cars in the world making it of key interest to car manufacturers. The highly competitive environment of Formula 1 will be the great venue for Audi to prove their “Vorsprung durch Technik”.
Formula 1 has fans all over the world and the racing series is one of the most popular sporting events that has the highest reach in the world. In 2021, there were roughly around 1.5 billion fans who watched the race series on television. In key markets like China and the USA, the race series is quite popular and its popularity is still on the rise that it attracts the attention of even young target groups. Even in social media, Formula 1 is currently enjoying the highest growth rates compared to the most popular sports in the world.
Power Unit to be Developed at Neuburg Site
Audi Sport’s most innovative and technologically advanced Competence Center Motorsport in Neuburg an der Donau will be the venue where the power unit will be built. The venue is very near AUDI AG’s company headquarters in Ingolstadt. As part of the company’s realignment in motorsport, Audi Sport Managing Director Julius Seebach was the one who organized Audi’s entry into Formula 1. He shared, “For the development and manufacture of the Formula 1 power train, we will build on the valuable expertise of our motorsport employees, continue to invest in our motorsports center, and also recruit highly specialized professionals.”
There are already test benches for F1 engine testing, electric motor testing, and battery testing in Neuburg. Audi is already working on some additional needed preparations in terms of buildings, personnel, and technical infrastructure with the goal that all the essential requisites are already in place by the end of next year.
They have set up a separate company, which is still a wholly owned subsidiary of Audi Sport, for the power unit project. Adam Baker has been tapped to oversee the management of the company and the Formula 1 project, and he has been appointed the CEO. As a trained engineer, he has handled a lot of senior positions for manufacturers and teams in motorsport. He worked for the FIA for three years before he became part of Audi in 2021.
By the end of the year, Audi will be announcing the team they will be lining up with in 2026.
Formula 1 Decision Influence Motorsport Focus
As a consequence to stopping the LMDh project, Audi Sport is seemingly concentrating on the Formula 1 project. Recently, the motorsport division suspended the development of the sports car which was meant for endurance racing. Along with customer racing, Audi Sport will still push through with their innovation project with the RS-Q e-tron in the Dakar Rally. Audi’s goal for 2023 is to claim overall victory in the desert.
Be it at the World Sportscar Championship, World Rally Championship, DTM, Le Mans, US motorsport, or Formula E, Audi Sport has made their mark in a lot of categories with their numerous victories. Julius Seebach revealed, “Formula 1 is the next major milestone in Audi’s motorsport history.”
Rolf Michl is Julius Seebach’s successor
Audi’s announcement of their entry into Formula 1 ends the motorsport restructure and the formative period at Audi Sport GmbH. On September 1, 2022, Managing Director Julius Seebach will be joining AUDI AG. He will be leading a new strategic business area in Technical Development and will be directly reporting to the Executive Board.
As the Executive Board member and Chairman of the Advisory Board of Audi Sport GmbH, Hoffman recognized Seebach’s contributions and performance saying, “Julius stands for strategic foresight, consistent action, and sustainable results in challenging times.”
Under Seebach’s leadership, Audi Sport GmbH was able to repeatedly achieve record sales and earnings figures. The RS model offensive doubled the sales, and they were also able to successfully bring to the market the all-electric RS e-tron GT.
In 2020, Seebach was promoted to motorsport at Audi and he then made sure that the company was future-ready. It was under his leadership that they were not just able to develop the most complex racing car in Audi history, but they also developed it in record time: the RS Q e-tron which was made for the Dakar Rally. In January, it made a very successful debut by claiming four stage wins at the Dakar Rally. In March, the Audi RS Q e-tron was also able to claim overall victory in Abu Dhabi. It made its mark as the first victory of a car with an electric powertrain in a desert rally. Joining Formula 1 is a great finale of his work.
Starting September 1, Rolf Michl will succeed Seebach. Since February, Michl was the Chief Operating Officer Racing at Audi Sport. He will be working with Dr. Sebastian Grams to form the Management Board of Audi Sport GmbH. With a degree in business administration, Michl has been a long-standing valuable member of the Audi Sport family.
He held a variety of positions at AUDI AG and Audi Sport and in 2016, he became the Head of Product Marketing RS Models. He then moved to Abt Sportsline as a Director Vehicle Customization. In 2019, he returned to Audi Sport GmbH as Head of Sales/Marketing.
Michl has been integral in shaping the company’s portfolio and the success of the sales team over time. Hoffman shared, “Rolf is an authentic leader and brings with him the experience he will need from motorsport and series production.” On top of his experience in marketing, in 2014 Michl was also elemental in devising and implementing the Audi Sport TT Cup.