Key expects Audi ‘final product’ only in 2027

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Sauber Formula 1 technical director James Key has outlined a phased approach to the team's transformation into an all-out Audi-backed force, emphasizing that the "final product" will only be realized in 2027, the second year of the German manufacturer's full involvement.

Sauber concluded its partnership with Alfa Romeo at the end of 2023 and will run under the Stake F1 banner of its main sponsor in 2024 and 2025 ahead of its transformation into the Audi works outfit in 2026.

The Swiss outfit is undergoing a significant revamp, expanding its workforce and enhancing its infrastructure to align with Audi's stringent standards.

However, Key, who took on the technical directorship in September 2023, acknowledges that the overhaul will not be fully complete in time for the German manufacturer’s planned entry into F1 under the revamped regulations in 2026.

This delay stems from the extensive nature of the transformation, which involves integrating Audi's technical expertise, methodologies, and culture into the Sauber operation.

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The team's infrastructure, processes, and personnel need to be meticulously aligned with Audi's expectations to ensure seamless integration and maximize the potential of the partnership.

“In terms of next steps, there's a very significant well-documented plan,” Key told

“We're already acting on it. And attracting all the right talent to the team to join some very good talent that's already there is obviously a priority that we're working on hard in the background.

Sauber Motorsport's facility at Hinwil

“There is a lead time to people of course, with garden periods. So we're aware of that. We're certainly not waiting for that, there's a lot of stuff we can do now without any extra people and so on.

“But ultimately, to achieve our goals, we have to expand in all the key areas, and in fact in all areas. Everywhere has got to take a step up regardless of where we are in that process.

“So that's the short-term ambition, exactly what we're doing now, working closely with Andreas [Seidl] on that for '24, as well as the future. And then we'll see how we go.

“I think ultimately, we're probably not going to be the final product that we're aiming for until about '27 time really, because there is a lot to do.

“But we'll be in far better shape as we approach '26. And that will give us the opportunity to take the step forward we need to.”


Key’s move last year from McLaren to Sauber was a homecoming of sorts for the British engineer who enjoyed a stint with the Hinwil squad between 2010 and 2012.

Over a decade later, Key says the Swiss outfit is still growing.

"The team is growing, it's actually a very young team, despite the fact that I feel very old now in Sauber,” he said. “I felt quite young when I joined it before! But it is still growing.

“I think the period of stability it's had with the current major shareholder has been very good for it indeed. And it's been able to grow under that condition. And now it's got, of course, exciting future steps to take in the very near future as well.

“I think a lot of it is kind of consolidating what it has. I think being a relatively new member of the team now you can see where there's potential, you can kind of recognise there's a gap there that we can fill pretty easily with the talent we have in the team, or with the facilities we have on the team already.”

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