Toto Wolff wary of Audi poaching engineers from Mercedes

Audi will take over the Sauber Group in 2026.

Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, predicts that moving part of the works operation away from Hinwil might be costly for Audi when they take over from the Sauber team.

Audi will be entering Formula 1 in 2026, the year that new power units will be introduced, so they have plenty of time to design, build and develop engines in time for the regulation change.

Sauber will continue to run their team until the end of 2025, at which point the German manufacturer will take over, moving part of the operation to Germany.

It is now understood that they will only be making the engines in Ingolstadt, but they will continue to produce the chassis in the Switzerland base used by Sauber.

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This is sustainable and cheaper in the short run, as it saves them having to build a new facility in Germany to run the entire operation there, but there will be a catch.

Currently, engine development is limited only by a certain number of hours on the testing bench, but there is no cost cap.

Therefore, power units do not come under the $145 million budget limit, as it is the manufacturers, not the customer teams, that produce engines.

There are plans to bring in a cost cap for the engines though, so manufacturers will be given an additional allowance for the work they perform on the engines.

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Travelling to another country put the engine in the car is set to come under that budget, so having one base in Germany, and another in Switzerland, is naturally going to be a little more expensive.

Audi’s situation of only partially moving the F1 works out of Switzerland differs from Mercedes and Ferrari, for example, who do everything in the United Kingdom and Italy respectively.

Wolff expects that Audi will swoop in for some Mercedes engineers to help with their works project.

“We haven’t lost anybody to Audi but there will be situations where some of the Mercedes or ex-Mercedes people will go to Audi, there is no doubt about that,” he said, per GPFans.

“This is an open market and between the teams, we have these movements.”

Red Bull, for instance, have been acquiring engineers and mechanics to work on the engines they have been building in their additional base in Milton Keynes.

This is something that perennially happens in Formula 1.

“We also have this movement from other PU manufacturers to us although we don’t issue a press release every time this happens, it is completely normal,” explained Wolff.

Because of travel costs, Wolff anticipates Audi encountering harsher limitations than Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari in 2026.

“The biggest competition is, and was, with Red Bull because they are just around the corner,” added the Austrian. 

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“There is a bigger barrier of switching power unit manufacturers when it is about going to Germany, so that definitely is not something that worries me the most.

“And the cost cap is just about to come into the power unit area as well, so that is going to limit the amount of silly money that is going to be spent, which is important.”

Sauber will end their relationship with Alfa Romeo at the end of next year, before Audi are reportedly set to start buying shares in preparation for their 2026 takeover.