Valtteri Bottas is getting in early by putting his hand up for a works Audi race seat in 2026.
The VW-owned German carmaker has finally announced that it will enter Formula 1 under the newly-confirmed next set of engine rules – but the partner team has not yet been named.
Gunther Steiner says it definitely won’t be Haas.
“You know who Audi is coming in with,” he laughed to Auto Bild, prompting the immediate reply that it will be the Sauber-run team currently known as Alfa Romeo.
“Exactly,” Steiner agreed. “In any case, it’s not us.”
Alfa Romeo’s current top driver is former Mercedes star Valtteri Bottas, who thinks the Hinwil-based team is well set up to be transformed into a F1 winner.
“I don’t see any reason why this team shouldn’t be fighting for victories,” the Finn is quoted by Speed Week.
“The infrastructure and the know-how of our specialists is at the highest level. The difference to the top teams is simply that they can work with more people.
“The midfield racing teams simply don’t have this potential. But when I think of the factory we have and the excellent wind tunnel at Sauber, then there are absolutely victories in it.”
Bottas joined Sauber this year on a multi-year deal, but it will certainly have expired by 2026.
“I feel great,” said the 33-year-old – who will be 37 by the time late August in 2026 comes around.
“I can well imagine that I will still be on the grid in 2026. I still have a lot to give,” added Bottas.
Some, however, are worried that Audi is facing a real uphill battle to be anywhere near competitive with F1’s existing manufacturers.
“I think the biggest disadvantage for a newcomer is that they have to catch up,” said Christian Horner, whose Red Bull team is tipped to be Porsche’s works partner from 2026.
“They have to try and cover the ground of pretty much 10 years of these regulations – of know-how and knowledge that they don’t have.”
Former F1 driver Christian Danner agrees: “Building an engine within three years under the existing cost limit is extremely ambitious.
“I am pretty sure that they will have extraordinary difficulty having a competitive engine running in time for the 2026 season,” he told Donaukurier newspaper.
“In Formula 1, the bar is so brutally high that I have no solution as to how it can be done in time. But of course I want to see a good, successful Audi.”