Motoring / Cars and Bikes

Grand Entrance — Audi Enters Formula 1

Audi’s entry into the premier class of motorsport, that is, to compete in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship is a great leap forward for the prestigious marque.

Aug 29, 2022 | By Joe Lim
Audi Sports
Image: Audi

Audi’s entry into the premier class of motorsport, that is, to compete in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship is a great leap forward for the prestigious marque.

As a petrol head myself, the brand’s high regard for innovation and always pushing itself forward has been my main admiration for Audi. From their RS models tweaked for high torque and precision handling, we can only guess that their Formula 1 power train will meet the standards for its world-class F1 drivers. Their Formula 1 power train will be built in Germany and their engineers are hard at work devising a specially developed power unit.

Grand Plans Ahead

Audi Sports,
Image: Audi

At a recent press conference at Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, Markus Duesmann, Chairman of the Board of Management of Audi AG, and Oliver Hoffmann, Member of the Board of Management for Technical Development, answered questions in the company of Formula 1 President and CEO Stefano Domenicali and Mohammed ben Sulayem, President of the International Automobile Federation (FIA).

Duesmann also opined, “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.”

Going Green

The marque will also mean it needs to map a clear plan to make F1 racing more sustainable and cost-efficient. Come 2026, the new technical rules will apply where greater electrification and advanced sustainable fuel need to be administered. Furthermore, the existing cap on costs for teams, plus a cost cap for power unit manufacturers will be deployed in 2023. In tandem with climate change, Formula 1 has also set its sights on the ambitious goal of being a carbon-neutral racing series by 2030.

Shape of Things to Come

Audi Sports
Image: Audi

Audi’s presence in the F1 league means things are shaping up for the marque. Oliver Hoffmann, member of the Board of Technical Development explained excitedly, “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.”

From 2026, the power train for the F1 vehicles will offer electric power consisting of an electric motor, battery, control electronics, and a combustion engine. This means a hefty increase in power all thanks to Formula 1 drive systems. The electric motor will then be nearly as powerful as the combustion engine, which has an output of about 400 kW (544 hp). The highly efficient 1.6-litre turbo engines run on advanced sustainable fuel — also a prerequisite for Audi’s entry into the series.

New Site, New Engine

The Neuburg Site will develop this new power unit at Audi Sport’s state-of-the-art Competence Center Motorsport in Neuburg an der Donau, a stone’s throw from Audi AG’s company headquarters in Ingolstadt. The firm will build on the valuable expertise of its highly specialised employees, allowing it to gain entry into Formula 1 as part of Audi’s realignment of motorsport.

Plans are afoot in Neuburg for Audi to put in place test benches for F1 engine testing and electric motor and battery testing. This planning also involves the necessary preparations for personnel, buildings, and technical infrastructure, with everything essential to be in place by the end of the year.

A separate company was recently founded for the power unit project as a wholly owned subsidiary of Audi Sport. Adam Baker will helm this company and become the Formula 1 project CEO. The trained engineer has held various senior positions for manufacturers and teams in motorsport. Before joining Audi in 2021, he worked for the FIA for three years. Excited Audi and F1 fans will get to know the firm’s team line-up in 2026 by the end of 2022.

Capturing Younger F1 Fans

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Audi isn’t resting on its laurels too. Trying to capture the younger F1 fans will be their strategy going forward as Formula 1 is now experiencing the highest growth rates among the world’s most popular sports. A survey in 2021 proved that more than 1.5 billion TV viewers watched the races. The exponential trend for younger fans and audiences is predominantly popular in key markets such as China and USA.

A New Head at Audi AG

Rolf Michl has big shoes to fill as Managing Director for Audi AG on 1 September 2022 means he will have to take on a new strategic business area in Technical Development, reporting directly to the Executive Board. Michl has a degree in business administration and is a long-standing member of the Audi Sport family. After holding various positions in marketing at Audi AG and Audi Sport, he took over as Head of Product Marketing RS Models in 2016. After moving to Abt Sportsline as Director of Vehicle Customisation, he returned to Audi Sport GmbH as Head of Sales/Marketing in 2019. Michl has played a key role in shaping the company’s portfolio and sales successes over time. Hoffmann enthused, “Rolf is an authentic leader and brings with him the experience he will need from motorsport and series production.” In addition to his positions in marketing, Michl was responsible for devising and implementing the Audi Sport TT Cup in 2014.

Audi Sports
Image: Audi

The outgoing Julius Seebach paved the success of Audi’s RS models which witness sales doubled, plus his role in delivering the successful roll-out of RS e-tron GT into the market. In 2020, Seebach also assumed responsibility for motorsport at Audi and resolutely made it ready for the future. Under his stewardship, he presided over the most complex racing car in Audi history which was developed in record time — the RS Q e-tron for the Dakar Rally. The powerful car snagged the first overall victory in Abu Dhabi in March 2022 — the first triumph of a car with an electric powertrain in a desert rally. Entering Formula 1 is the successful conclusion of his work. With all these strategies in place, F1 fans and Audi fans can anticipate the upcoming high-adrenaline races we will get to witness in this lifetime.

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