Red Bull Contentpool

F1 News

Audi's wish seems almost impossible: German talents hard to find

Audi's wish seems almost impossible: German talents hard to find

27-10-2022 10:32 Last update: 10:43

Audi and Sauber will join forces from 2026. In doing so, the German brand would also like to have a German driver in the car, but the team does not seem to have much choice in the matter. GPblog dives into the lack of German drivers.

The arrival of Audi

Alfa Romeo's line-up for 2023 is already known. Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou will drive for the team, before Alfa Romeo will leave the team as title sponsor. From 2024, Sauber will still drive Ferrari engines, to bridge the transition to the deal with Audi in 2026. There is, however, a chance that Audi's logo could appear on the car before then.

Audi has additionally expressed a desire to put a German driver in the car, but after years of opulence, the talent in Germany seems to have disappeared. Whereas in 2010 there were as many as six Germans at the start of the season, in 2022 we will see a maximum of one German on the grid. That will be either Mick Schumacher or Nico Hulkenberg at Haas.

Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel, Nico Hulkenberg, Adrian Sutil and Timo Glock all drove in F1 in 2010, and Nick Heidfeld was also the seventh German to be offered some races by BMW Sauber as Pedro de la Rosa's replacement that year. It is in stark contrast to the situation in recent years.

Indeed, those years Vettel had to pull the cart for Germany together with Hulkenberg. Now that Vettel is leaving the sport and Hulkenberg has been without an F1 seat for three years, people are looking to Mick Schumacher. However, Michael's son is not performing optimally, bringing 35-year-old Hulkenberg back into the picture.

German drivers in F1

Audi would like to add a German driver to the line-up and so Schumacher's name immediately comes to mind. However, the team is also looking at quality and a driver who seems to have failed at Haas is not really a driver that fits Audi's ambitions. However, Audi does not seem to have any other choice.

Audi cannot really fish from their own pond. The German brand are active in the sports car classes and therefore does not really have a link with drivers active in formula cars. Thus, Audi abandoned the project in Formula E, where it still had a good link with Robin Frijns. However, he will be in action from 2023 for Team Abt, which will drive a Mahindra powertrain. René Rast is also leaving Audi after years of loyal service. He will become a works driver for BMW in 2023.

The only other class that is really competitive is the DTM. Audi also competed in that in 2022 and, besides Rast, the name of young German Marius Zug stands out. At nineteen, the man born in Munich is a young talent, but has been active in sports cars since karting. He did not drive formula cars, nor does he show a huge talent for racing in his first year in DTM (a 21st place in the championship).

So there is nothing to be had from their own pond, and there is no German to be seen within Sauber's training too. Theo Pourchaire is Sauber's showpiece, but the Frenchman will have to settle for a role as a reserve at Alfa Romeo in 2023. Sauber's other talent is Brazilian Roberto Faria. However, at the age of 18, Faria does not have a championship on his CV. He won one race in the 2021 GB3 championship, where he finished fifth in the championship in 2021 and 2022.

German talents to be counted on one hand

And so we have to look even further for German racing talent. In Formula 2, the stepping-up class for F1, we also see few Eastern neighbours. David Beckmann and Lirim Zendeli were able to fill in for a few races. Zendeli did so once at Campos Racing for Olli Caldwell, Beckman was able to fill in once at Charouz and drove five races for Van Amersfoort Racing. Zendeli came no further than 20th on his race weekend, Beckmann scored 25 points and finished fifth in the main race at Monza. However, with 22 years and four seasons of F3 and two seasons of F2 on his CV, Beckmann no longer counts as a serious option for F1.

In Formula 3, Zendeli also got a chance to drive one race weekend for Charouz, but did not get beyond a 15th place there. David Schumacher, Ralf's son, did better during his two stints for Charouz, but also ended up not getting beyond 12th place. Although father Ralf hopes son David will make it to F1, the 21-year-old German still shows little potential to make it to the top like his father, uncle and nephew.

Even when looking at the three most competitive Formula 4 classes, no German stands out above the rest of the field. The Italian F4 championship is considered the most important gauge of young talent, and there Andrea Kimi Antonelli reigns supreme. The 16-year-old Italian is part of the Mercedes squad and also convincingly won the German F4 championship. The British version of this championship was won by Briton Luke Browning.

There are hardly any Germans in the three classes and those competing are not competitive. Jonas Ried takes one point in the Italian championship and is ninth in the championship at home. Valentin Kuss is on the podium once more at home, but also fails to get beyond four points in the Italian championship.

So Audi's desire to give German drivers a chance in Formula 1 is nice, but reality shows that Germany is nowhere near the luxury position of years ago. After dominant periods with Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel, the talents now seem to have run out. If Audi wants German talents in F1 in the long run, it should start from the bottom and support German talents in karting already. Who knows, maybe in time a new Schumacher on Vettel will stand up, for now it is not at hand.