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Nobody wants to go to Audi which driver will drive for the team in 2025?

Nobody wants to go to Audi: which drivers are left for 2025?

14 June at 17:00
Last update 14 June at 14:24

Nico Hulkenberg has already signed, but the second driver is still some time away. Audi has grand plans for entry into F1, but not every driver is eager to step into the brand-new project. Carlos Sainz and Esteban Ocon prefer other teams, so who is left?

The Formula 1 team is currently called Stake and is known to most people as Sauber. However, it is Audi that is working in the background to make its entrance into the sport. Andreas Seidl is the front man, James Key is the technical man, and with Nico Hulkenberg, the first driver of the new era has already been announced. The second, however, is yet to be announced.

It is no secret that Audi had its sights set on Carlos Sainz and would have preferred to present him already. The Spaniard is due to leave Ferrari and already had a link with the German manufacturer through his father Carlos Sainz Sr,, who managed to win the Dakar Rally with Audi. It seemed a logical addition, especially since Audi will become a genuine factory team from 2026 onwards. Yet the Sainz deal does not seem to be happening.

Why Sainz chooses Williams

Sainz initially had hopes of a seat at Red Bull Racing or Mercedes but has been told by both teams that he is not an option there. Audi seemed the logical alternative, but Sainz then slid into Alpine and Williams. The latter team in particular impressed the Spaniard under the leadership of James Vowles.

On the face of it, it is an odd choice. Williams is a customer team and, like Sauber, are still far from the top of the field. In the paddock, however, it is becoming increasingly clear that there is a lot of confidence in Mercedes' 2026 engine, where there are some doubts about new projects from Red Bull Powertrains and Audi. It makes a driver like Sainz more likely to consider a switch to a Mercedes customer team, rather than a factory team that has to start from scratch.

Sainz is not the only one, by the way, as Esteban Ocon also came into the picture as the second driver at Audi. However, the Frenchman, who has not exactly endeared himself to Alpine in recent months and is due to leave there at the end of the season, is also in the picture at Haas as the experienced driver alongside Oliver Bearman. Ocon himself, as crazy as that may sound, would rather go to Haas than Audi.

It cannot be ruled out that Sainz or Ocon might still end up at Audi. Sainz has yet to put pen to paper at Williams and Ocon has competition for the seat at Haas. So the two could still end up at Audi, but the German manufacturer does not seem to be the first choice. As a result, the gaze must turn towards option number three or perhaps option number four.

Red Bull puts Audi on the block

Option number three was, or is, Yuki Tsunoda. The Japanese fits Audi's profile in that the new driver must already have experience in F1 and be too quick to outpace his teammate. Tsunoda has developed extremely well over four years at Red Bull Racing's sister team and seems to be losing more and more of his rough edges.

Tsunoda's problem is his longer deal. Tsunoda's contract expired at the end of 2024, but Red Bull has lifted the option to extend the contract for another year. A smart move by Red Bull, which got through that Tsunoda was on the radar of Audi, Haas and Alpine. If any of those teams want Tsunoda now, money has to be laid down.

Red Bull pulled this trick earlier with Pierre Gasly. The Frenchman, too, seemed to be played out within Red Bull's organisation but was committed for longer anyway. As a result, Alpine had to pay a fee to release him. The question is whether Audi is willing to do so. With a transfer fee also comes a certain level of expectation, but on the other hand, it is hard to imagine that Audi will soon end up with the fourth name on the list as a second driver.

Looking at Audi's profile, not many options remain either. Pierre Gasly has the experience and a race win under his belt but has so far lost out in the 2024 duel with Ocon. The same goes for Daniel Ricciardo. Also an experienced driver, and multiple race winner, but at McLaren and now VCARB, defeated by his teammate.

The driver who remains is Valtteri Bottas. The Finn is clearly looking for a seat with another team. Bottas was in talks with Williams and Alpine but is not the first choice with either team. Although Bottas himself stated that he was 99% sure he would be back on the F1 grid in 2025, a signature is still pending.

The ironic thing about a possible deal with Bottas is that the Finn has long been part of the Sauber team. However, Audi clearly went looking for a better candidate and has spoken to several drivers, but may still end up with Bottas again.