Who is Neel Jani joining Audi’s F1 team ahead of 2026 season entry? looking at the role of simulator driver

Audi is arguably one of the biggest names in terms of manufacturing fast sports cars and luxury vehicles. The four-ringed demon has dominated all possible forms of motorsport, but now the time has come for it to prove itself on track.

This beautiful harmony started with the Sauber Group, as Audi has already purchased a minority stake in the team. Sauber currently runs on Ferrari power units, which is expected to end with the 2025 season. From 2026, we will hopefully see an Audi team in the paddocks.

Audi has recruited Neel Jani as F1 simulator driver

Neel Jani is not a new name in the F1 circuits as he has served much time as a Toro Rosso reserve driver and helped out Red Bull when they were starting in 2005. 39-year-old Neel Jani is expected to help out Audi as their Simulator driver for testing out their new power unit. These tests would likely be carried out in their Neuburg engine plant. 

Audi to join Formula 1 from 2026 season | Formula One World Championship Limited

For those who remember the 2016 World Endurance Championship and how it went for Porsche (919 Hybrid Evo project)! Neel Jani was the one who won it and broke the lap record at Spa. He guided the Porche team towards its maiden win in Formula E in the 2019-20 season with Andre Lotterer.

John Phillips

“I am delighted to accompany Audi on their way into Formula 1. It is both an honor and a great responsibility to be involved in a project of this magnitude at an early stage,” said Neel on the recent partnership.

Explaining the role of simulator driver in detail

The F1 simulator is almost like a video game, but it cost millions to make. It is designed to be as lifelike as possible, with the same chassis, cockpit, steering wheel, and pedals as the car. In most cases, the drivers are also expected to suit up just like they would in a race to immerse themselves in the experience fully.

The more time the driver spends inside a simulator, the more beneficial it is usually for them. An average driver spends five days a week, and a typical day in the simulator can see a racer chalk up to 170 laps while simultaneously changing minute details to have immaculate performances. 

Oliver Hoffmann, Head of Technical Development of Audi Racing, commented when asked about the importance of simulation,

“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 regarding energy management in racing conditions.”

The F1 simulators used by drivers like Neel Jani help the team understand what to expect regarding race lengths (number of laps), starting guidelines and positioning, restarting mechanics, and even crucial things like pitstops.

New teams are entering the mix, and old ones are backing out. New drivers are coming in while old ones are retiring. We are in a significant era of motorsport as we witness maiden teams take a shot at the title. 

Navneeth Menon

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