The exciting news that Audi will be joining the Formula 1 pit lane was finally announced at the end of August. It is one of the biggest announcements that we have seen in F1 for a long time, and one that has excited all fans.
The leading German car company hasn’t competed in F1 throughout its illustrious history, and rumours that they were set to announce the ground-breaking deal have been on the lips of all motorsport fans for a long time. However, that decision was finally announced, and they will be a regular team vying for the Constructors’ and Drivers’ Championship from 2026.
However, in the more immediate future, the focus of drivers’ will be on the ongoing season, and Max Verstappen is the clear 1/10 favourite with Betway to successful retain the Drivers’ Championship. But, which drivers could form the first Audi line-up in 2026?
It has already been teased that Audi will be looking for a German driver to head their team when they step foot into F1 in 2026. At present, there are only two German nationals on the grid, and with Sebastian Vettel retiring at the end of the 2022 season, Mick Schumacher will be the sole German from the start of the 2023 season.
That could give Schumacher an almighty helping hand when it comes to a driver that could represent Audi in 2026 if they are looking for a home nation representative. The 23-year-old is well-known in motorsport given his father is seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, but there have been glimpses that he is settling into life in Formula 1 this season.
Haas have been more competitive on the whole throughout 2022, and that has helped Schumacher on track. He reached Q3 for the first time at the Spanish Grand Prix earlier in the season, and achieved back-to-back points finishes for the first time when eighth in the British Grand Prix and sixth in the Austrian Grand Prix. However, there are still rumours as to whether Schumacher will remain at Haas past this season.
By the time that the 2026 Formula 1 season rolls around, the landscape in the sport could look completely different. Therefore, it is worth considering some of the drivers that are currently competing in Formula 2 and Formula 3. One driver that has been making waves in F3 throughout this season has been French driver Victor Martins. The 21-year-old has recorded three victories from his 32 starts, and has finished on the podium on eleven occasions.
He has recorded the fastest lap five times, and has been preparing for an attempt in F1 throughout his career. Martins came through the esteemed Alpine Academy, and his performances on track continue to impress. He may be picked up by the time that Audi come into the sport, but he could be a solid contender given that even in 2026, he will still be a rookie in the sport. Martins is no stranger to success either, as he won the 2020 Formula Renault Eurocup, and looks on course to make a strong challenge for the F3 title this term. We are well into the second half of the season in Formula 3, and Martins is locked level on points at the top of the standings with compatriot Isack Hadjar.
Martins has already won two races this season, with his victories coming in Bahrain and Catalonia. He is certainly a driver for the future, but Audi will already be scouting around to see where they could find a driver from for their debut season in F1.
Charles Leclerc may not be one of the first names that many think of when they are thinking about drivers that could join Audi, but the Ferrari driver may fancy a new challenge by the time that the latest constructor joins the grid. It has been a frustrating campaign for the Monaco driver, as his title challenge already looks to have faded despite a promising start.
There already appears to be friction between the 24-year-old and his team, as questionable calls in races have restricted Leclerc’s ability to be competitive in the championship race this season, and he could end up hanging on to second in the standings following the resurgence of Mercedes before the summer break. Ferrari’s inability to compete at the top level may be the biggest factor behind his decision over the next couple of years, as Leclerc, like all drivers, will have the dream of being a world champion. There’s no doubting his clear potential on track, as he was a former GP3 series winner and won the F2 Championship back in 2017.
Since joining F1, Leclerc’s reputation has continued to grow. In 2019, he became the second-youngest driver to secure a pole position at the Bahrain Grand Prix, while he later picked up the Pole Trophy, becoming the youngest recipient of the award. Since registering his first success at the Belgian Grand Prix in 2019, Leclerc has won four further races and has picked up 738 career points. It may be a long shot, but Audi could enter F1 in 2026 and immediately set their eyes on one of the biggest stars.