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Hulkenberg: Audi can be competitive straight away in 2026

Hulkenberg: Audi can be competitive straight away in 2026

Nico Hulkenberg believes that Audi will hit the ground running immediately when they take over Sauber for the 2026 Formula One World Championship.

Hulkenberg has so far impressed for Haas F1 Team in 2024, scoring in three of the five rounds contested so far. The 36-year-old returned to Formula 1 full-time in 2023 for Haas following a three-year absence from the sport apart from a few stand-in drives for Racing Point and Aston Martin in 2020 and 2022 respectively.

His consistent driving performances and impressive Qualifying record against teammate Kevin Magnussen has drawn the attention of Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber, who have hired his services from the 2025 season onwards.

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Sauber will compete as Audi’s works team from 2026, after the Audi Group acquired a majority stake in the Swiss engineering firm earlier this year. It is still unclear who Hulkenberg will be replacing, and who will claim the seat at Haas that he is vacating.

The German driver recently matched Andrea de Cesaris’ unwanted record of the most race starts without a victory in F1. He has also held the record for the most races without a podium finish for quite some time. Despite this, Hulkenberg is well-regarded in the paddock and by fans as well for his surety behind the wheel and delivering regular points finishes for middling teams over the course of his 200-strong career so far.

Now he can look forward to joining a fully-fledged works team from his home country, which could prove immediately competitive owing to the significant regulation changes scheduled for the 2026 Formula One World Championship.

We need to be successful as quickly as possible

audi f1 2026-001

Speaking to media in Miami, Hulkenberg admitted that there are plenty of unknowns heading into the 2026 season with a new team. He said: “It’s really a white piece of paper… The advantage different teams have will be wiped away a little bit and it’s more a level playing field for everyone.

” So, I think that offers a good opportunity to be competitive straightaway, but expectations are always you need to be as successful as quickly as possible”, added the Haas driver.

Hulkenberg also added that he believes he was selected by Audi due to his vast experience in F1. He continued: “I think they value my experience. Probably my judgment, my feeling for setup on the car, and pushing on development.

“Of course, you know, it’s also a big opportunity for me, but also a lot of expectations and a huge job to deliver.”

Ultimately, Hulkenberg admits he chose to accept Audi’s offer as he believes in their long-term goals: “Obviously, they have big ambitions. You know, it’s a huge project with huge ambitions.

“Racing for a manufacturer there’s always a lot of expectations, naturally. But yet, they’re pushing”, he concluded.

For now, Hulkenberg’s focus is on Haas and the 2024 campaign. The Miami Grand Prix will start at 21:00 BST (16:00 local time) on Sunday May 5th.

(Quotes by Agnes Carlier)