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Jacques Villeneuve

Villeneuve fires F1 warning over Audi commitment

The 1997 World Champion feels it matters what type of F1 team Audi wants to be.

Jacques Villeneuve
To news overview © XPBimages

Jacques Villeneuve has warned Formula 1 over the threat of a Audi withdrawal once it 'doesn't care" about it any longer.

The German marque is to join the grid in 2026 for the first time, having scaled up its investment of the Sauber Group, with Stake F1 being a place-holder name until the Inglostadt concern arrives.

Audi will be the first full works team to enter F1 since Renault returned in 2016, but it left after the 2020 season, rebadging its operation to Alpine.

Before that Mercedes entered in 2010 after buying out Brawn GP - with that team only existing due to Honda's own withdrawal at the end of 2008.

Due to the financial crisis of the time, F1's 2000s manufacturers boom ended with Toyota and BMW also leaving, taking away three teams from the grid.

“What's dangerous with constructors when they come in is they can easily in five minutes decide: ‘Okay, we're gone, bye’ and they leave and they don't care," Villeneuve told Sports Illustrated.

"They're great for the sport, but they're also very dangerous in that respect. Where a team like Williams cannot leave. It exists with and because of F1. What does Williams do if they stop F1? Nothing."

The 1997 World Champion also feels it is important what type of team Audi wants to be, whether it is in F1 to win, or like Alpine, who he suggests is just in it for the marketing.

"Well, they're joining with a team that hasn't been any good for so many years, and you just can't invent know-how," he added.

"It's something that you build over time. You can see it with Williams. They stay kind of good for a while, but you pay the price of pay drivers, and all of that, you pay for it later.

"The team has been rebuilding, but it doesn't happen overnight. It also takes time. So, it won't happen overnight.

“And then how are they joining? Are they joining the same way Renault Alpine joined just to be part of F1 and make some image or to actually be racers and try and go out and win, that we don't know?

“So, you're kind of secure in the knowledge that they will find a way to persevere to get better and because it's their bread and butter."

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