The forgotten tale of how Audi almost entered F1 with Red Bull

Audi will join Formula 1 from 2026 but they came close to joining many years ago, alongside Red Bull.
Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Las Vegas Grand Prix, Las
Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal. Formula 1 World…

A crisis engulfed Red Bull, after their domination ended and Mercedes took over, about which direction to go under the 2014 engine regulations.

Their suppliers Renault were almost replaced by Volkswagen (who own Audi) until a deal fell apart due to a scandal.

“It wasn’t obvious, the way out,” team principal Christian Horner told the Eff Won with DRS podcast about their engine problems during Mercedes’ years on top.

“Everyone got used to winning, and suddenly you’re not winning. And nobody likes that.

“We lost Vettel. Even the owners were saying: ‘Maybe we will sell the team, maybe we will sell to Audi’.

“The shareholders, for the first time ever, Dietrich was saying ‘we can’t do this, we need an [original equipment manufacturer]’.

“Thankfully, Dieselgate came along and it stopped that deal.”

Dieselgate was a scandal surrounding Volkswagen’s emissions in 2015 which scuppered any plans they had to enter F1.

“But we came that close to being Audi,” Horner remembered.

Eleven years later, Audi will join F1 by buying a stake in Sauber, who will become their works entry.

Red Bull missed the chance to work with Audi but changed their trajectory by finding a different powerhouse to supply their engines.

“Then Honda came along. It was a risk but a calculated risk,” Horner said.

“We did a season with Toro Rosso first, the engine was getting better and better. 

“The Honda guys had as much invested as we did, for it to work.

“The product was coming, their heritage in the sport was fantastic.

“We decided to go for it. It all came good.

“There was nothing to lose. The engine was no worse than Renault, and there was a lot more commitment that they were prepared to make.

“The safe option was to stay with what we knew, every year the Renault guys promising us better. They’re still in the same situation now.

“Whereas Honda backed it up by investing. They knew, when they got Red Bull as a partner, the expectation was sky high.”

Red Bull then created their Powertrains power unit manufacturing unit in 2021. They will continue to use Honda-produced engines until 2026.

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