Audi are reported to have acquired 120 employees to their technical department, and are looking to a former Formula 1 driver to head the team.
At the start of the year, Audi and Porsche were reported to be preparing a proposal to their parent company, Volkswagen, to enter F1 in 2026.
Initial suggestions were that the German car giants planned to make a powertrain conjointly, that they would then supply to Red Bull and McLaren.
However, since then, Porsche have been in talks with Red Bull, while Audi intend to purchase a team and run it as their own.
At first, that appeared to be McLaren, but the false reporting of a successful buyout last year damaged that relationship, and Audi have since appeared to turn their attentions to Sauber.
The Swiss side have been in a partnership with Alfa Romeo since 2018, but they do not have a definitive input on the team; they are simply a business partner.
The operation has been run in Hinwil, just outside of Zurich, but an Audi buyout would see them move the operation from Switzerland to Germany, in their base in the outskirts of Ingolstadt.
They would also become a works team, making their own engines as well as chassis, and there are even reports that they are preparing to purchase of Sauber shares by 2023.
The facilities needed to make that happen are in construction, according to a report by La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“The plan is to buy Sauber,” reported correspondent, Andrea Cremonesi.
“Audi has clear ideas and is proceeding with a series of investments, the Neuburg headquarters will see new buildings added in the coming months.
“Now that the deal is out of the closet, the German manufacturer can also operate freely on the technical market to grow a department that currently has 120 employees.”
Audi have the means, and they have the backing, but what they need now is a captain to steer the ship, and they have allegedly chosen one.
Cristiano da Matta raced with Toyota in 2003 and 2004 after winning the IndyCar Championship with Newman/Haas in 2002.
The Brazilian has established a fine racing pedigree, and he could be the man Markus Duesmann looks to as the leader of the F1 project.
“For now, a team principal has not been assigned by Audi, but among the candidates is Cristiano da Matta,” explained Cremonesi.
“Audi is not interested in simply being a power unit supplier, it wants to influence the team’s choices.
“The negotiations are underway and when the agreement is reached, the management framework will probably change.”
Sauber and Alfa Romeo are expected to part ways at the end of next season.