F1: Audi buy stake in Sauber as part of preparations for 2026 grid entry

Audi have purchased a minority stake in Sauber – currently working in F1 as Alfa Romeo – as the German manufacturer continues their preparations to fully enter the sport.

Sauber, the Swiss motorsport outfit that operates the Alfa Romeo F1 team, announced their new investor via a short statement.

“As per the plans outlined in October last year, Audi acquired a minority stake in the Sauber Group in January 2023,” confirmed their website. “This is an important milestone on the way to Audi’s entry in Formula One, scheduled for 2026, for which the Sauber Group will be the German brand’s strategic partner.”

Per Give Me Sport, the German car maker has bought a 25% stake in the Swiss team. They will have opportunities to increase their percentage of shareholding in the next few years.

This is all part of Audi’s plan to fully enter F1 as a works’ outfit, via Sauber’s existing F1 slot. The manufacturing giant has already begun expanding their factory in order to develop their own power unit for 2026. Planet F1 reports that Audi expects their engine development centre to be finished by early 2024.

However, it will be operational in 2023, too.

So, it appears that Audi are full tilt in their preparations to join Formula 1. But what about the existing deal between Sauber F1 and Alfa Romeo?

Sauber and Alfa Romeo: their current F1 partnership

The Italian brand first joined forces with Sauber at the start of the 2018 season. From here, the team has utilised the Alfa Romeo name – meanwhile, Sauber actually runs the outfit’s F1 operations.

This return to the grid for Alfa brought middling success. They have been a perennial midfield squad since 2018, finishing eighth in the constructors in 2019 and 2020. A regression in 2021 saw a disappointing ninth in the championship, however, 2022’s new regulations brought an improvement.

Last season, the driver pairing of Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas secured sixth place in the constructors’ standings.  

Throughout their collaboration, Alfa has used engines from sister company, Ferrari, to power their F1 cars. Therefore, they have not been an engine supplier in the sport – something that Audi will be in 2026.

The upcoming 2023 season will be Alfa’s last in their technical and commercial deal with Sauber. According to Autosport, though, the Swiss racing team will continue beyond the 2023 season. They will race using the “Sauber” name once more plus have a deal to use Ferrari engines up until 2025.

F1, therefore, does not need to worry about losing a team until Audi arrives in a few years’ time. When will Alfa Romeo unveil their final F1 car with Sauber, though?

Alfa Romeo’s 2023 launch date

Alfa will unveil their new challenger for the 2023 season on 7 February 2023. The Italian brand will launch the C36 at an event in Zurich, Switzerland, that day ahead of testing later the same month.

Interestingly, despite it being their “last” year in Formula 1, there is a new title sponsor for the team. Betting brand “Stake” has launched a multi-year partnership with the Sauber Group, which includes some re-branding.

This season, the team will now officially be called “Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake”. Yes, it may not be the catchiest, but Sauber claims that this is a “record-breaking new partnership” that will create a “new identity for the team”.

F1 fans will have to wait and see if the new sponsor impacts the paint schemes for Alfa’s 2023 car.

Featured image credit: Twitter/Off Track