Audi says that it has already run its 2026 developmental power unit over multiple full grand prix distances in their Formula 1 factory.

The German marque will become F1’s sixth power unit manufacturer when it joins the grid by in 2026.

Audi have acquired majority ownership of the Sauber team – currently competing in the sport under the name of their title sponsor Stake – which will become the Audi factory team for 2026.

Almost two years since announcing their plans to enter Formula 1 for the first time, Audi have released details about the development of their 2026 power unit which it says has been ongoing at their purpose-built Audi Formula Racing (AFR) facility in Neuburg. AFR CEO Adam Baker says that development on their power unit is well underway.

“After just two years, our power unit, consisting of a combustion engine, electric motor, battery and control electronics, is running dynamically on the test bench,” Baker said.

“Successfully marrying the various components into a single unit is the result of hard work and great teamwork. The Audi power unit has already covered simulated race distances on the test bench. We gained a lot of testing time with the individual components in 2023 and were able to incorporate the experience gained into the next construction stages in parallel. Significant milestones and goals have been achieved, which gives the entire team a good feeling.”

Audi’s chief technical officer for its F1 power unit, Stefan Dreyer, says the manufacturer has simulated running their developmental power unit on several grand prix circuits with long full throttle section.

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“We run the power unit on the test bench with different layouts from the current F1 calendar, depending on the purpose of the test,” Dreyer said. “For example, Las Vegas is interesting for our development team in terms of overall energy management. Several alternating fast and slow corners and almost two kilometres of full throttle driving on the Las Vegas Strip provide the perfect development environment for fine-tuning the combustion engine and the ERS components.”

Audi says it has hired several new employees for their power unit project from within existing F1 teams and beyond. All together, Audi says they have 23 separate nationalities represented within their power unit department.

“The other F1 power unit manufacturers are based in the UK, France, Italy and Japan,” Baker said. “If you want to bring in employees from competitors, they usually have to move to another country – that’s a challenge, but it’s no greater for us than for anyone else. People not only have to be prepared to change employer, but also the country.

“The fact that we were successful in recruiting experienced engineers and technicians from all other power unit manufacturers shows that our project and the location are attractive – also for international experts and talents.”

Like the existing teams, Audi are also under the restraints of the current budget cap in their development. Baker says that as a new project, Audi has been able to build up their business model around these restrictions.

“One advantage was that we were able to start on a blank sheet of paper, so to speak, creating our own company, Audi Formula Racing GmbH, for the project,” he said. “We had a clear picture of structures, systems, processes and the right mindset right from the start.

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“The topic of finance has a direct impact on performance due to the cost cap. There has never been such a direct link between operational efficiency and sporting success in Formula 1. The fact that we can operate at the limit of the cost cap with PU development puts us on a par with our competitors.”

Baker says that Audi are benefitting from being able to focus solely on 2026 and finding performance out of their power unit compared to their rivals, who will have to consider this and next season as well as the major regulations changes for 2026.

“The fact that our entire team can fully concentrate on the development of the power unit for 2026 is an advantage for Audi,” he said. “The remaining time until 2026 is all about achieving our development goals in terms of maximum overall vehicle performance with full focus. It will remain exciting until the first race – and after that, of course, too.”

Sauber has already announced Nico Hulkenberg will join their team next season for their transition into Audi. Hulkenberg’s team mate for 2025 and beyond has not yet been confirmed.

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