The German manufacturer will join F1 in 2026 as a power unit supplier and, after securing Alfa Romeo as a “strategic partner”, a factory team.

But the most intriguing part of their ambitious entry will be who they recruit to be behind the wheel.

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Current Ferrari driver Sainz is at the top of their list, Blick report.

Ferrari have Charles Leclerc - the runner-up in the F1 standings last season - and Sainz on their books but refuse to name either as their No 1 driver.

Sainz, currently 28, is seen a viable option to help Audi quickly fight for the championship.

He has driven for Toro Rosso, Renault, McLaren and Ferrari in his nine-year F1 career so far.

It had been assumed that they would favour a German driver with Mick Schumacher often mooted as an option.

Audi’s charge is beginning to take shape behind the scenes.

Oliver Hoffmann, Member of the Board of Management for Technical Development at AUDI AG, said: “The Audi Formula 1 project has really taken off in recent months. In the ongoing concept phase of the power unit, the foundation of our drivetrain for 2026 is being laid today.

“We attach great importance to detail work, for example on materials or manufacturing technologies, and we also focus on topics such as the energy management of the hybrid drivetrain.

“After all, efficiency is a key success factor for Formula 1 and the mobility of the future, [and] these approaches will advance both worlds.”