Audi to join Formula 1 with German-built hybrid power unit

Audi said Friday it will join Formula 1 for the 2026 season, competing alongside rival sportscar makers such as Aston Martin and Mercedes-Benz as the series shifts its focus to electrified race cars.

The FIA Formula 1 World Championship series, which plans to go carbon-neutral by the end of the decade, will introduce new technical rules beginning in 2026 to focus on electrification and sustainability.

The circuit, which has traditionally served as a test bed for the automotive technology used in future passenger cars, will allow automakers like Audi to test the power units and thermal management systems that will be key to future battery-electric and hybrid vehicles.

Audi will compete using a hybrid power unit it will develop at Audi Sport’s Competence Center Motorsport in Neuburg, not far from the company's headquarters in Ingolstadt. This is the first Formula 1 power train to be built in Germany in more than a decade.

“Formula 1 is both a global stage for our brand and a highly challenging development laboratory,” Markus Duesmann, chairman of the Board of Management of Audi AG, said at a press conference at the Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps. “The combination of high performance and competition is always a driver of innovation and technology transfer in our industry.”

“With the new rules, now is the right time for us to get involved,” he added.

That’s especially true as Formula 1 thrives as one of the world’s most popular sporting events. The global series has recently picked up hundreds of millions of new fans, appealing to more women as well as younger viewers and those based in key markets including the U.S. and China, with the success of the “Drive to Survive” Netflix franchise, which has been signed for a sixth season.

Formula 1 is experiencing the highest growth rates on social media among the world’s most popular sports, according to Audi. That means the 2026 season has the potential to showcase the latest in electrified technology and convert car shoppers into EV buyers.

Audi formed a separate company to oversee the power unit project, which consists of an electric motor, battery, control electronics and a combustion engine. Adam Baker, an engineer and executive who worked with the FIA before joining Audi last year, will helm the wholly owned subsidiary of Audi Sport as chief executive.

The company said that the team lineup, as well as the infrastructure to test the engine, electric motor and battery, will be set by the end of the year.