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Alessandro Alunni Bravi

Exclusive: Sauber tempers expectations around Audi: 'Staying realistic for 2026'

A lot is about to change at Sauber. The team had a difficult year and are looking set to lose title sponsor Alfa Romeo. But all is not lost as Team Representative Alessandro Alunni Bravi explains, in an exclusive interview with RacingNews365, they are already looking fully into the future.

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In the 2024 season it is expected that Alfa Romeo will no longer be part of the Sauber team, as they enter a transition period before being taken over fully by Audi.

Behind the scenes they have also had a management shake up, with Team Principal Fred Vasseur leaving for Ferrari at the beginning of the year and being replaced by Alessandro Alunni Bravi.

While they started off the year with promise at Bahrain, their fortunes quickly deteriorated as Valtteri Bottas and Guaynu Zhou failed to consistency score points. The ended the year with just 16 on the board, achieving ninth place in the Constructors' Championship.

"I'm disappointed with this year's result, because I don't think it reflects our potential," says Bravi.

"It also doesn't match our ambitions or season targets so far. The disappointment is shared throughout the team and it's not like I'm pointing fingers at people.

"I am the one responsible and we should have done better job as a team. For me, the realistic picture of our potential was the last part of the 2022 season where we were fighting between P7 and P8."

"A lot of teams are very close"

Alfa Romeo has been involved with Sauber since the 2018 season, in a move that was largely slated for its marketing potential.

But why have they suddenly decided to pull their support at a time when interest in F1 is at an all-time high? Bravi explains: "The level of competition has increased significantly this year and there are so many team close to each other.

"Behind Alpine and Aston Martin there are six teams that are fighting for position, and if we are not able to execute a perfect weekend from both the teams side and the drivers side we are simply not in the points.

"We have improved in terms of development of the car, we have been able to bring developments regularly within three or four races during the season.

"We have increased our design and production capacity, and we have been more efficient from this point of view. What we haven't managed to make is a big step like McLaren, and all the teams have improved this year, so we need to set higher targets for next year's car."

To boost that development and the transition to Audi, Andreas Seidl and James Key have been brought in as CEO and Technical Director. Both men came over from McLaren, one of the few teams able to get close to Red Bull this season.

"We took a decision to appoint James [Key] as a Technical Director based on the fact that he has multiple experience in a technical department, having covered different roles in his career," explains Bravi.

Although teams are forbidden from working on their car designs for the 2026 season until the start of 2025, Bravi believes it will be important to get everything in place and ready for the major changes.

"The technical department needs a person like James with an overview on all the areas, and someone that can help to transform the technical departments towards 2026," says Bravi.

"We have already started taking some important decisions for next year in terms of car design, because next years car for most teams will be not just our contender for 2025, but will be the basis for the 2025 car there will be a big carry over of parts."

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			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Preparing for 2026

In 2026, the F1 technical regulations will be overhauled with the biggest change coming to the power units.

Audi decided to step in at Sauber and become a works entry with the Swiss team, and reparations are already in full swing according to the Italian.

"We have started transforming our organisational structure to become a works team, and this is impacting all the departments including the technical and commercial side," explained Bravi.

"We have put a lot of actions to work already towards our race to 2026."

Bravi adds that much of the transition phase will be handled by Seidl, who has experience working within big organisations.

"It is important that Audi understands Sauber's structure and weaknesses. My experience is mainly in working with manufacturers, so the process of finding out the requirements lies with Andreas," says Bravi.

"He has a huge experience working at Porsche Motorsport and teams like McLaren. The goal and the vision is perfectly shared by us, but we need to improve and add more people not just in terms of labour, but we need to bring more quality in each department."

According to Bravi, that should then lead to a good foundation for 2026. But they do not expect to immediately start fighting for championships.

"We have to start from a good position, but the gap is big. And we have to close the gap in two or three years time - which is not easy," he adds.

"But what can help to address our weaknesses with a practical approach and make the right decisions. If we arrive in 2026 expecting to fight for a championship then we are dreamers, but we don't need to be dreamers.

"We need to be realistic, the competition's really strong. But we want to be competitive in 2026."

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