And they'll be backing McLaren and Red Bull.
There has been much talk in the news of late concerning embattled McLaren's potential takeover by another automaker. Last year, rumors of Audi buying McLaren turned out to be false, or at least that's what the people in Woking claimed. But barely three days later, fresh rumors on the matter surfaced. At the same time that this has been going on, there have been reports that Audi and another VW-owned brand, Porsche, would be keen on entering Formula 1 thanks to rule changes for 2026.
The latest news is that the two stories are actually becoming one, with the UK's Car Magazine reporting that new F1 entries are all but confirmed and that McLaren could be the catalyst.
The report claims that the Volkswagen supervisory board's approval is all that's standing in the way of Audi and Porsche joining the sport, with Audi said to be interested in taking over McLaren assets, including its motorsport division and automotive arm. The report further continues that the diligence phase has not yet begun but that lawyers on both sides are in talks. One of the main stakeholders at McLaren, Mumtalakat Holding Company, is apparently willing to sell the cash-strapped automaker.
This would put the Volkswagen Group in an amazing situation, as development costs on engines, electrification solutions, chassis designs, and more could all be shared across Lamborghini, Porsche, and McLaren. Each of these already uses a 3.8- or 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 for many mainstream products, so combining ideas to create one ubiquitous powertrain wouldn't be difficult and would be valuable. Don't hold out hope for a rear-engine McLaren 720S or a mid-engine Porsche 911 though.
So how would F1 fit into the plans? It seems that Audi and Porsche will join the sport as powertrain suppliers, with Audi powering McLaren and Porsche said to be working on an arrangement with Red Bull Racing, likely to commence after the latter's consultancy with now-retired engine supplier Honda comes to an end.
If these partnerships fall through, Car reports that Audi would then work with Williams, and Porsche could turn to Alpha Tauri or Haas. As for the engine that these two would supply, VW's brands were hoping for a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, but the FIA has instead opted to run a 1.6-liter V6 turbo engine in 2026, as this was a precondition for Ferrari - one of the biggest draws in any form of motorsport - to remain in F1. Still, Audi Sport and Porsche Motorsport will work together on the new drivetrain.
Audi and Porsche are expected to collaborate on their future R&D of the engine but would provide unique setups and visual identities. Audi is said to be bidding for McLaren Cars and its F1 unit in a deal said to be worth around £1 billion (over $1.3 billion). The potential acquisition of McLaren's F1 know-how would be expensive but valuable, as Mercedes says that its F1 team generates an annual media value of around $1.5 billion. As for McLaren Automotive, acquiring this road car arm would block a rival like BMW from taking over instead.
In case you're unfamiliar, BMW has shown interest in McLaren in the past, reportedly having talks with McLaren investors in early December. BMW returning to F1 would be great for its own marketing too, and would add substance to its claims of offering outstanding driving machines.
At the time of writing, nothing appears to have come of BMW's talks, but you can understand why the Munich-based manufacturer would be interested in a company like McLaren. For a start, it already has a link to the brand thanks to its supply of the marvelous V12 that saw the McLaren F1 become the world's fastest car in the 1990s. That could be used to build upon, and BMW could finally have the means and motivation to develop its own supercar once more. A modern-day BMW M1 with McLaren DNA could be truly fantastic and a much better halo car than the hideous BMW XM.
At this point, it's too soon to guarantee an Audi takeover of McLaren and it's too soon to discount BMW from buying it either. But one way or another, it seems that Audi and Porsche will definitely be enjoying the world's most-watched form of motorsport in 2026.