Audi F1 team announce first EVER driver ahead of 2026 debut

Audi has announced that Neel Jani has joined their team ahead of the brand’s return to F1 in 2026.

The former Le Mans winner will become a sim driver for Audi as the team build a power unit to compete with the other F1 cars on the grid.

The 39-year-old Swiss driver also a former reserve driver for Red Bull. He has competed in GP2 and Formula E, and won Le Mans in 2016 with the Porsche team.

Jani: This is an honour and a great responsibility

The Swiss driver was very positive about the move. He said: “I am delighted to accompany Audi on their way into Formula 1.

“It is both an honour and a great responsibility to be involved in a project of this magnitude at an early stage.

“I am sure that with my experience from Formula 1 and LMP [Le Mans Prototype] projects I can forge good links between theory and practice.”

Audi prioritise experience for sim driving

Oliver Hoffmann, member of the board of management for technical development of Audi AG, said of the move: “Just like in production development, simulation plays a major role in our Formula 1 project.
“Our simulator is an important tool for the power unit development. It requires a development driver who in addition to a grasp of technology brings versatile experience to the project, especially in terms of energy management in racing conditions.”

Adam Baker, CEO of Audi Formula Racing GmbH, explained that the team are focusing on concept and performance.

He said: “At the moment, we are mainly focused on fundamental concept questions with high relevance to performance. However, in evaluating various technical solutions we rely not only on digital methods.

“Know-how, experience and practically relevant development are indispensable elements of drawing the right conclusions from the simulation. With that combination, we can assess various operating strategies at an early stage and pave the way for efficient energy management of the power unit.”
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