The Sauber motor racing team, of the premier Formula 1 (F1) series, has confirmed it will become Audi’s strategic partner when the German car manufacturer enters the series in 2026.

As part of the long-expected deal, Audi will buy a stake in Sauber Group, which will see the Swiss racing team compete as the Audi factory team from the 2026 F1 season.

The Sauber F1 team currently races under the Alfa Romeo brand using Ferrari engines, but that partnership is set to conclude at the end of the 2023 season.

Alfa Romeo’s announcement ending its association with the team came shortly after Audi announced plans to enter as a power unit supplier from the 2026 season and it had been widely reported that Volkswagen-owned Audi would sign a deal with the Sauber team.

After the contract ends, Sauber will continue using Ferrari engines in the 2024 and 2025 seasons under the Sauber name before Audi takes over the following year when it enters the sport.

Under the new partnership, the team’s engine will be made at Audi’s Motorsport Competence Center in Neuburg an der Donau, Germany, while Sauber will develop and manufacture the race car at its site in Hinwil, Switzerland.

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Sauber will also take responsibility for planning and managing the team’s race operations.

Audi said it has already started development of the team’s engine, which will feature an electric motor, battery, control systems, and combustion engine, with first tests on the unit in a test car planned for 2025.

Oliver Hoffman, member of the board for technical development at Audi, said: “We are delighted to have gained such an experienced and competent partner for our ambitious F1 project.

“We already know the Sauber Group with its state-of-the-art facility and experienced team from previous collaborations and are convinced that together we will form a strong team.”

Finn Rausing, chairman of Sauber Holding, added: “Audi is the best partner for the Sauber Group.

“It is clear that both companies share the same values and vision. We are looking forward to achieving our common goals with a strong and successful partnership.”

Alfa returned to F1 in 2018 through a technical and commercial partnership with Sauber and subsequently extended its agreement to cover the 2021 season and 2022 season.

Polish oil and petrol retailer PKN Orlen joined Alfa as a title sponsor of the team for the ongoing 2022 season, with it known commercially at present as Alfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen.

It was confirmed at the end of July that Alfa would continue with Sauber until at least the end of the 2023 season.

However, in August, the Italian car marque announced it would end its title sponsorship of the team after the current deal expires, stating: “Since the economic and industrial turnaround of the brand will be achieved in 2022, Alfa Romeo will now evaluate among the many opportunities on the table and decide which will be the best one to sustain the long-term strategy and the positioning of the brand.”

In March it was announced that Audi and fellow Volkswagen-owned manufacturer Porsche were granted permission to enter F1 for the 2026 season.

Last week, the FIA world governing body said in a statement that Porsche is still in talks with F1 teams over a partnership after an expected tie-up with Red Bull was scrapped.