Bottas keen on Sauber’s Audi-powered future
"From 2024 onwards, their support will decide a lot"
Valtteri Bottas is not ruling out staying in Formula 1 long enough to benefit from Audi’s decision to enter the sport from 2026.
The Finn currently races for F1’s Swiss-based team, which will drop its Alfa Romeo branding after the Italian carmaker leaves the sport late next year.
That will be a prelude to Sauber teaming up with an expected 75 percent buyout by Audi - with 33-year-old Bottas not ruling out becoming a works Audi driver.
"I will be 37 years old them, so why not?" he is quoted by the Finnish broadcaster MTV.
"Super talented young people are always coming in now, but experience has always been valued in Formula 1," he said.
However, reports last week quoted Chip Ganassi as getting excited about Bottas’ apparent admiration for the Indycar series.
"Some people got excited when I said that, and I’m open to options," Bottas said. "But I’m not going to leave Formula 1 for a long time.
"However, it’s not worth asking about the extension agreement with Alfa Romeo before next year," he added.
Indeed, Bottas reportedly joined Sauber this year on a two-year deal plus an option for 2024. That’s too early for Audi’s entry in 2026, but Bottas thinks the collaboration could start to kick off before then.
"It would be interesting to be involved in that process, if it’s possible," he admitted.
"I don’t see any obstacle to us reaching the same level as the best teams," said Bottas, who also thinks the team will start ramping up its development processes long before 2026.
"The production side should be faster than now so that the desired changes are realised," he said.
"Looking at the big picture, I think the collaboration between Sauber and Audi has great potential. I think any driver, especially me as I am already here, would like to be part of the project.
"A lot depends on when and to what extent Audi will support the team before it becomes the factory team. Obviously next year nothing will change because we are still with Alfa Romeo and we hope that the car will be better than this year.
"But from 2024 onwards, their support will decide a lot. If Audi helps and supports Sauber for several years, then if their power unit is powerful and reliable in 2026, anything is possible.
"We still have work to do, that’s a fact. But 2026 is not that far away," Bottas added.
"Yes, in some technical aspects we are not as good as the leaders of the championship, but there is time to eliminate this gap. With the support of Audi, anything is possible."
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