Audi warned of ‘huge gulf’ ahead of Formula 1 entry

Allan McNish competed for the factory Audi outfit on nine occasions at the Le Mans 24 Hours, with the Scot having also won the WEC in 2013.

Three-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner and ex-Formula 1 driver Allan McNish has revealed how “very busy” Audi have been since their 2026 F1 entry was announced, with their first race in the sport now just 39 months away.

McNish is an incredibly decorated driver who has claimed several racing titles with Audi, who he has been an employee of for over 20 years.

The Brit was famously Audi’s team principal in Formula E, leading them to several victories and a Constructors’ title.

He also competed in the 2002 F1 World Championship for Toyota, highlighting his experience across motorsport and how he’ll fully understand how challenging the road to F1 will be for Audi.

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The German manufacturer are, of course, forming a strategic partnership with Sauber from 2026, with Audi supplying the powertrains whilst the Hinwil-based outfit will do predominantly the rest.

Audi claimed a 75-percent stake in the team, of which they’ll claim in 2026 when they officially join the sport, something that is incredibly “exciting” for the famous company.

“I’d say it’s been a busy, very busy last 18 months,” McNish told the Motorsport Magazine podcast.

“Certainly 2022 has been pretty hectic, like I’ve never seen before.

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“And to think that ’26 is still quite a long way away, but it’s only around the corner. It’s 39 months until the first race, not that we’re counting, but yes, from being involved now for over 20 years with Audi, this is part of that progression.

“It’s an exciting time and I don’t think there’s anybody within the company that’s not looking forward to that first race in 2026.”

The Scotsman is seemingly the perfect person to help the team transition into Formula 1, with McNish having switched from Le Mans to F1 himself.

He’s aware that F1 is “completely different” to any other series, with there also being a “huge gulf” between those competing for victories and the midfield.

“With Toyota, it was Le Mans and then jumping into Formula One, it was a completely different game, just in terms of the personnel having to multiply by three to be able to produce a Formula 1 programme,” McNish added.

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“Now admittedly, that was 20 years ago. That’s when budgets were unlimited, that’s when engines were unlimited. You would use three engines through the course of a Formula 1 weekend, now you’re looking at that number over a season.

“So there’s a lot of changes. However, what was very clear to me was when I moved from Toyota at the end of 2002, to Renault [for a third driver role], my first ever lap was quicker than my qualifying lap in the Toyota.

“So the difference between people that are fighting in the middle to where you’re fighting for race victories is a huge gulf. I don’t think anybody can underestimate that sort of level and now I think it’s even more so in Formula 1 at the top.”