Audi has confirmed it has begun laying the "foundation" for its Formula 1 drivetrain as preparations for its entry as a power unit supplier continue.
The German manufacturer will join the F1 grid in 2026 alongside Sauber, as RacingNews365 found out with an exclusive tour, with the Swiss-based team acting as the works outfit for Audi when the new power unit regulations are introduced.
The engines will be developed and produced at Audi's base in Neuberg, which is undergoing an expansion that will see a new 3,000-square-foot facility added specifically for its F1 programme.
Despite Audi's entry date being three years in the future and F1's regulatory changes yet to be finalised, the importance of hitting the ground running - as proved by Mercedes' dominance from 2014 onwards when turbo hybrids were introduced - has seen the Volkswagen Group brand begin its development already.
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Project has 'really taken off'
Audi Formula Racing GmbH CEO Adam Baker confirmed late last year that power unit development had started, but speaking at the Auto Shanghai motor show in China, board member for Technical Development, Oliver Hoffmann provided a progress update.
“The Audi Formula 1 project has really taken off in recent months,” he explained.
"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, these approaches will advance both worlds."
Work to ensure the test bench set-up and the validation of measuring instruments has involved using a single-cylinder engine which has been in use for testing since the end of last year.
But Audi had confirmed plans to test its first full hybrid drivetrain unit - encompassing the combustion engine, electric motor, battery and control electronics - before the end of this year, forming the 'basis for the future vehicle concept'.
Balve Bains is joined by RacingNews365.com Editorial Director Dieter Rencken and Asia Correspondent Michael Butterworth to dissect the key talking points from the last week in F1.