Audi F1 Departure Rumors: Theories & What We Know

There are rumors floating around the motorsport press (here and here… and elsewhere) that Audi may be set to abandon its bid to join F1 in the 2026 season. While rumors are just that… rumors, they’re still worth analysis, and we also happened to be with Audi of America’s PR staff in Connecticut yesterday so had the chance to chat a bit off the record about what we’d heard.

What the Press Rumors are Saying

According to the sources linked above, Audi’s new CEO (and former Porsche Gernot Döllner) isn’t as keen on Audi’s entry into F1 as his predecessor Markus Deusmann who spearheaded the move to F1, including the purchase of the Sauber F1 team and the rapid buildup of F1 development including the growth of the Neuberg F1 facility and the move to create an F1 engine from Audi.

If the rumors are to be believed, Audi could move to pull back from the plan, not a total loss as the effort would shift to Porsche, all while Porsche would pull out of Formula E.

On Audi and Porsche, or Audi Versus Porsche

Further details within the rumor point to a growing internal rivalry between Audi and Porsche. While this is hardly substantiated in the link below, it wouldn’t be the first time this has been seen. Porsche famously went head to head with Audi at Le Mans during the R18 LMP1 era, amping the rivalry with “Welcome Home” signage around the track, while Audi responded with its own “Home of quattro” signage of its own. The rivalry was healthy, yet also palpable in those years.

Inter (Volkswagen)Group politics also typically play out in shifts of power, and that’s something that has roots going back decades. Ferdinand Piëch had a constant rivalry with his Porsche family cousins, including his 1971 victory at Le Mans with a Porsche 917K funded not by the Porsche factory but by the Piëch family business. Piëch was one of Ferdinand Porsche’s grandchildren, but without the Porsche name, and so always seemed to be challenged to prove his position, working exceptionally hard to establish himself in his own right. Piëch stewarded Audi to adopt quattro and head upmarket in the 1980s, then on to Le Mans in 1999. He also likely helped apply pressure towards Porsche’s choice to depart its own Le Mans programs for 2000.

Later, when Porsche CEO Wendelin Weideking moved to have Porsche take over the Volkswagen Group entirely, the situation flipped on Weideking where Piëch became the victor as Volkswagen Group instead took over Porsche. Weideking attended Audi’s 100th anniversary party in Ingolstadt in 2009, where Piëch embraced and welcomed him, then coolly saw to his firing shortly thereafter.

So, when Porsche took on Audi at Le Mans in order to defend its “brand with the most wins” title, the rivalry wasn’t forgotten, thus the aforementioned signage. That likely continues today in an age when Ferdinand Piëch is gone and the Volkswagen Group chairman Dr. Oliver Blume came from Porsche and remains the Stuttgart brand’s CEO. In the meantime, Audi’s new CEO Gernot Döllner is also former Porsche.

What Does a Porsche / Audi Rivalry Mean?

We don’t read too much into soap operas, so we’re not trying to insinuate much of anything in particular with the background information above, but there is no doubt a rivalry and anyone in business is influenced by their own experience. That current and former Porsche staff lead Volkswagen Group and Audi at the very least suggests a strong coordination of strategy between these two Volkswagen Group marques that do compete in the marketplace in a number of ways. Porsche’s top-selling Cayenne and Macan models don’t just sell against the Audi Q8 and Q5. They’re also are based on Audi’s MQB platform and use Audi engines in part of their range, while Audi also uses Porsche engines (2.9 biturbo, 4.0 biturbo) in RS models, and the e-tron GT shares Porsche’s J1 electric car architecture with the Taycan. Even the Le Mans program Audi recently stopped had been a co-development to some degree with Porsche (quite unlike the R18 vs. 919 era). These two brands rely on each other greatly, and we’d argue a rising tide of good relations raises all ships in Ingolstadt AND Stuttgart.

What We Know and What We Can Assume

We happened to be on location with Audi of America PR representatives this week, so we put the question of Audi F1 to them directly. The answer that the rumors were untrue came quickly and emphatically, with further expansion sounding like we weren’t the first to ask and that the answer they’d gotten back from Ingolstadt was a firm denial. That doesn’t mean an assured “no” as these sorts of things are often sorted by board members well independent of Audi brand communications staff, but typically something in the works results in a “no comment” or “we’ll look into it”.

Whether Audi exiting from F1 would be a good move is another question. That remains to be seen. Though Audi via Auto Union can point to pre-war Grand Prix (predecessor to F1) victories and championship, more modern Audi enthusiasts tend to associate rally and sportscar/endurance racing with the Audi brand. While F1 has been a cool new venture for Audi fans to consider, it hasn’t come without a cost. The aforementioned Le Mans program was the first to fall, while the end of Audi Sport customer racing programs was also announced earlier this year and it is expected this will be the last year for the RSQ e-tron to run Dakar.

So, if Audi did leave F1, what would this mean for Audi in motorsport? Well, if nothing remains then we’d expect an uproar from the Audi brand faithful. The brand of the four rings is steeped in a tradition of motorsport dominance with technology that translates to on-road automotive evolution. A full withdrawal from racing would be a stark contrast to the brand’s history and would likely undermine its ability to position itself as a credible performance brand in an authentic way. And, while electric series such as Formula E (where Porsche currently competes) and Extreme E rally (where ABT Sportsline currently competes with VW Group brand Cupra) are racing series based in EV technology, they’re not exactly an authentic consolation prize due to their highly formulaic nature that already proved challenging given its lack of open development which emphasizes Audi’s prowess in engineering.

Alternatively, just as Porsche could likely pivot quickly to F1 via Audi’s investment to this point in theory, Audi could also theoretically pivot quickly to IMSA / WEC / Le Mans racing given work it had already done and Porsche’s active 963 program. There’d be ground to pick up given teams and drivers previously slotted to run the orphaned Audi program have moved on to other manufacturers, Audi could return to Le Mans and even possibly extend its customer racing programs further based on what we know of homologation terms applying to the R8 and RS 3. It could also choose to extend its Dakar program further, though this tremendously interesting program has proven extremely challenging to capitalize upon from a viewer engagement perspective.

In the End, What do We Think Will Happen?

This is pure conjecture, but we don’t discount the rumor. In our experience, board members or leadership typically float these sorts of ideas in the press when they’re considering the move or trying to gain public support. We believe there’s some truth to the rumor in as much as it has likely been considered by the board. Audi’s PR staff either have the resulting answer from any such evaluation, or we’re so far ahead of a decision that they and their internal sources simply don’t know of any change… and we’re not confident enough lean either way on this.

If Audi does leave F1, that would be massively disappointing on a macro level, but at the same time a commitment to continue motorsport efforts that emphasize the brand’s prowess across both its internal combustion and emerging EV competencies would be an acceptable consolation. Focus on Dakar and return to Le Mans / WEC / IMSA, and if they really need to do something purely EV then aim to run an experimental fully electric version of the Le Mans prototype as a Garage 56 demonstration.

An Extreme E effort would also be interesting given the presence of Audi motorsport family there already – ABT Sportsline, Leena Gade, Lia Block, Mattias Ekstrom and Timo Scheider. Fielding an effort in this series would be cool to see, but definitely not as an alternative to Dakar, Le Mans or F1.