Audi’s Sainz Ultimatum for F1 2026

Following the recent confirmation that Audi remains committed to its F1 venture, the focus has now shifted towards securing drivers for the endeavor.

Audi’s decision to continue with the Formula 1 project alongside Sauber sets the stage for their entry into Grand Prix racing for the 2026 season as originally planned.

While Andreas Seidl holds the CEO position, the crucial task of selecting the Team Principal for 2026 lies ahead. Will Alessandro Alunni Bravi retain his role, or will Seidl himself step into the position?

Speculation looms over potential candidates like Allan McNish. Amidst this, Audi is actively scouting for drivers, aiming to finalize their lineup for 2026 by the end of 2025.

Nico Hulkenberg remains a top priority for Audi, with his impressive performance at Haas and reputation for aiding car development through valuable feedback. His contributions have notably addressed issues like tire wear on the 2024 Haas car, showcasing his technical insight.

Carlos Sainz emerges as another prominent contender for Audi. Departing Ferrari after the current season, Sainz’s proven track record and feedback prowess make him an attractive prospect.

Seidl’s prior collaboration with Sainz at McLaren adds weight to Audi’s interest, further fueled by the brand’s recent success with Carlos Sainz Senior at the Dakar Rally.

However, Seidl’s patience with Sainz wears thin, with rumors suggesting an impending ‘ultimatum’ for the Spaniard to sign with Audi by April’s end. Sainz’s decision is pivotal, with Mercedes and Aston Martin among the teams vying for his signature, while Sainz evaluates Red Bull’s situation.

Meanwhile, Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou, Audi’s current Stake F1 drivers, vie for seats in 2025. Despite encountering setbacks in scoring points due to pit-stop issues, both drivers demonstrate promise in enhancing the car’s performance.

Bottas’s experience contrasts with Zhou’s youthful vigor and burgeoning reputation, especially in the lucrative Chinese market, aligning with Audi’s strategic interests.

As Bottas and Zhou strive to impress, other drivers like Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly express interest, but they remain on the periphery of Audi’s considerations for now. The coming months will determine Audi’s driver lineup, crucial for their competitiveness amidst evolving F1 regulations.