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Audi a player, not a spectator, in F1 driver market - Sauber

Audi's financial backing of Sauber makes the German manufacturer a player and not a spectator in Formula 1's driver market, says the team.

Zhou Guanyu, Kick Sauber C44

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Ahead of what is expected to be a pretty intense silly season as drivers vie for the best cockpits, Audi has found itself at the centre of the market talk as it looks for the stars that it wants to carry into its debut campaign in 2026.

Its approach has become especially intriguing after Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko revealed ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix that his squad found itself unable to compete with a "lucrative" offer that had been made to Carlos Sainz.

But while the Audi-owned Sauber squad insists that it is far away from making a decision on its line-up, the Swiss outfit is clear that it will not just be bit-part players in how things shake out.

Speaking about the Sainz rumours, Sauber's team representative Alessandro Alunni Bravi said his squad was in a far more powerful position in the driver market than it had been in the past.

"There are 14 drivers without a contract fixed for next year and, as all the teams, we are speaking with different drivers," said Alunni Bravi.

"It is not the time for us to take any decision. It's time to provide our drivers with a performing car.

"But, let me say, we are happy that it seems that we can play, a role, a different role in the driver market for the future, thanks to the Audi announcement and all the investments that will be done in order to improve our team.

"I think that, if it is good news for our team, it is that finally we are attractive. And we are not the spectators. We are a player in the market."

Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal and General Manager, Scuderia Ferrari, and Alessandro Alunni Bravi, Team Representative, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber

Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal and General Manager, Scuderia Ferrari, and Alessandro Alunni Bravi, Team Representative, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Alunni Bravi did not want to be drawn on where things stood specifically with Sainz, as he said others revealing details about what may or may not be happening was part of a 'game' to get the best deals.

"It's not appropriate to discuss or to disclose what could be the discussion in place," he said. "No one really knows what other teams are offering to the drivers or discussing with the drivers. We don't want to be part of a game that is done by others."

Instead, he said the main focus for his outfit now was on improving performance so it could get itself into a points-scoring position.

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"Every driver is speaking with a lot of teams to understand the situation, to understand if there could be a common vision on the project, especially for a team like us that is in full transformation process ahead of 2026," he added.

"But we are focused on our drivers, and we respect our drivers. We know that we need to deliver a better performance as a team. And this is the first step to start deciding what will be the driver line-up for the future.

"We need to consolidate our performance. So far, we didn't score points so I think that the main target and the priority for the team is to start scoring points, and then to approach the drivers' market: starting with discussion with our drivers and then having, of course, open eyes on the market."

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