Audi Targets Sainz and Hulkenberg for Early F1 Team Formation Ahead of 2026 Debut

This move comes ahead of Audi's official entry into Formula 1 in 2026, aligning with the sport's new regulations.

Audi is reportedly planning to bring Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg together as teammates at Sauber as early as next season, according to German media.

This move comes ahead of Audi’s official entry into Formula 1 in 2026, aligning with the sport’s new regulations.

The German automaker, which will operate under the Sauber name until its official launch, is keen on establishing its preferred driver lineup a year in advance.

The potential pairing of Sainz and Hulkenberg means current Sauber drivers Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou, whose contracts expire at the end of this season, might be without seats.

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Sainz, a Ferrari driver with familial ties to Audi through his father—a Dakar Rally champion with the brand—is considered a prime candidate for the team. Despite his notable achievements, including victories at last year’s Singapore Grand Prix and this year’s Australian Grand Prix after recovering from appendix surgery, Sainz is facing an uncertain future at Ferrari due to Lewis Hamilton’s impending arrival.

Sainz’s ongoing success has made him a sought-after driver in the paddock, yet opportunities with top teams like Mercedes or Red Bull have not materialized.

“Sainz wants to continue winning in 2025,” a challenge that Sauber may not meet, reports state. Nonetheless, Audi is eager to secure him on a “long-term contract.”

For Hulkenberg, transitioning from Haas to Audi appears to be a smooth process, as per the same reports.

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At 36, Hulkenberg has proven his mettle this season, achieving notable results with Haas and narrowly missing additional points finishes.

His move to Audi would mark a significant step, potentially positioning him as a key player in the brand’s F1 ambitions.

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This wouldn’t be Hulkenberg’s first stint with Sauber, having driven for them back in 2013.

Interestingly, Sainz and Hulkenberg have previous experience as teammates during their time at Renault in 2018, which could bode well for their potential collaboration under the Audi banner.

This prior partnership might ease their transition into becoming the faces of Audi’s new F1 chapter.