Audi already ’pretty involved’ with Sauber
"We’re working with them to identify weaknesses"
Audi is already "pretty involved" with Sauber in anticipation of the Volkswagen-owned German carmaker’s entry into Formula 1 in 2026.
Although the deal is set in stone and shares of the Swiss-based team have already started to pass into Audi’s hands, rumours top Audi executives would like to hit reverse gear have been rampant recently.
"I hear a lot of rumours," Sauber team representative Alessandro Alunni Bravi admitted to Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, "but I’m happy about it because it helps the journalists write their stories.
"The reality is that there is a group of 350 people in Neuburg led by Adam Baker working on the design and development of the power unit," he insisted.
The truth, however, is that both Sauber and Audi have been very quiet about their 2026 works collaboration for some time - although Bravi in particular is now beginning to be more regularly vocal.
"We are one of the few teams that has a long-term plan," he insists.
"Audi is coming in 2026, but they’re already pretty involved. They have been minority owners since January 2023. We’re working with them to identify weaknesses and develop the team.
"Andreas Seidl, CEO of the Sauber Group, works on the structure every day," the Italian added. "Everything is in place."
One of the aspects now in place is an aggressive recruitment drive to ramp up the privateer team Sauber into a full works team capable of taking on the sport’s biggest players.
"Recruiting new employees is not a matter of just one day," Bravi says. "But we offer an exciting project - perhaps the most exciting in Formula 1 in the last ten years.
"We are proud to be a part of it, but that doesn’t mean we don’t see the challenges. We know there is a lot of work ahead of us in every area. And that it’s not enough to do what we’re doing right now.
"That’s not enough for podiums."
Indeed, Sauber - currently still racing as Alfa Romeo - has seriously struggled with its 2023 car, and Bravi acknowledges that long before Audi fires up its engines, the F1 team needs to up its game.
"In order for us to have a competitive platform as an Audi factory team from 2026, we have to improve every year," he said. "It is important to show that we have taken a step.
"There has to be more from everyone, in every area."
And that also applies to the drivers, Bravi insists - with Sauber facing criticism for its decision to tread water with the existing lineup of Valtteri Bottas alongside Guanyu Zhou for 2024.
Prior to their re-signing, there were rumours Sauber was under pressure from Audi to install a better driver pairing.
"You said it - they were rumours," Alunni Bravi said. "I have always said at every race that we are happy with our driver pairing. Consistency and stability are an important element for us, especially for the transformation process we are currently in."
That said, Bravi admits Chinese driver Guanyu needs to "take another step" next season.
"He has improved compared to last season. He was able to get to Valtteri’s level in qualifying," he said. "He still has room for improvement when it comes to managing the race. And also in terms of consistency from track to track.
"What do we need to see from him?" Bravi added. "That he finds the limit from the first lap of the first practice session. We can’t spend half a session waiting, because the performance density in Formula 1 is so high. We need both drivers at the limit."
The experienced Finn Bottas also has a major role to play, Alunni Bravi added.
"He should continue to drive the team forward and contribute to car development," he said. "With his experience, he has to be there for us when opportunities arise.
"We push our drivers to improve - like everyone else on the team. In order for us to achieve better results, everyone has to step up."
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