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Sauber and Audi on "right route" despite dismissals and F1 delay rumours

Sauber insists the team and Audi remain on the “right route” despite inconsistent Formula 1 performances and speculation that the 2026 German engine programme is behind schedule.

The new Audi Sport F1 concept car

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

This weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix marks a year since Audi formally announced its 2026 F1 entry initially via a works powertrain programme before confirming a Sauber buyout.

But Audi has since moved to replace CEO Markus Duesmann, who presided over the entry.

There is also widespread speculation that the manufacturer’s engine programme is running months behind schedule. Audi did announce in June that a one-cylinder mule engine has been tested and a full specification unit will be ready to run on the dyno for the start of 2024.

Alongside these potential obstacles, Alfa Romeo-branded Sauber has struggled this season despite gaining its major Audi backing to finally spend up to the cost cap.

Asked by Autosport to clarify the state of the 2026 programme, Sauber managing director Alessandro Alunni Bravi defended the operation and said that no change of plan is required.

The Italian lawyer said: “First of all, I'm happy to hear that the Audi project is behind the shadow. We don't have this kind of information [let out in public].

“So, concerning our programme, the programme is on the right route. We are working hard to develop the team in these next two seasons.

“We know there are constraints linked also to the financial regulations but we are, with Andreas Seidl [Sauber CEO] addressing all our weaknesses and trying to seek all the best opportunities in the market to bring quality into our team and to develop our facilities.

“So, there is no change for us, nor for Audi.”

Alessandro Alunni Bravi, Team Representative, Alfa Romeo F1 Team

Alessandro Alunni Bravi, Team Representative, Alfa Romeo F1 Team

Photo by: Alessio Morgese

Ex-McLaren team principal Seidl has moved to hire his former Woking colleague and technical chief James Key, who was sacked earlier this year by Seidl successor Andrea Stella.

The Alfa Romeo set-up, which enjoyed a strong start to the ground-effect rules in 2022 owing to its initially lighter car, finished sixth last year. but has now dropped to ninth.

Discussing the dismissal of Duesmann - a decision that follows the overarching Volkswagen Group removing boss Herbert Diess - Alunni Bravi said: “The Audi project is based not on a single individual but is a project for all the company that has been, I would say, welcome at any level. I think that there is no change.

“We work as a team, all together, to be ready for 2026. This doesn't mean that the challenge is easy.

“We have such strong competitors; we need to be really humble and to work on a daily basis at our best because the competition is extremely high for everybody, and especially in the PU manufacturer side.

“I think that the competition in 2026 will be really, really strong. So. we just need to be focused on our job and nothing has changed with the departure of Mr Duesmann.”

Oliver Blume, CEO of Porsche during its F1 interest that culminated in failed talks with Red Bull, has been given the top Volkswagen job.

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