Audi's new CEO has reaffirmed the manufacturer's plan to enter Formula 1 in 2026 in his first interview since taking the job to quash speculation it was considering backing out.

Long-serving Volkswagen Group manager and strategist Gernot Dollner took the top spot at Audi in September after former CEO Markus Duesmann, who led the marque's decision to enter F1 via a takeover of Sauber and the construction of its own power unit, was ousted by the board.

While Audi has kept quiet about its F1 programme in a bid to avoid overlap with outgoing Sauber title sponsor Alfa Romeo, the lack of communication led to doubts about the entry's progress.

There were reports that its nascent engine build was months behind rivals before speculation emerged that Audi was considering backing out of the F1 altogether.

These rumours, which are believed to have come from within Audi and the Volkswagen Group, went unchallenged as Dollner opted to keep out of the limelight for the first 100 days of his reign.

But in his first interview since taking charge, Dollner has moved to confirm the F1 commitment.

Speaking to German business publication Handelsblatt, he said: "There is a clear decision from the board of management and the supervisory boards of Audi and Volkswagen that Audi will enter Formula 1 in 2026. The plan is in place."

Sauber team principal Alessandro Alunni Bravi has strongly denied throughout that Audi's F1 interest was wavering. He explained: "Why there is a lack of communication is simple. We are Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake.

Theo Pourchaire at Abu Dhabi post-season test 2023

"So, until the end of the year, we have certain limitations in communicating about the team, about the future, about the involvement of Audi, and we fully respect Alfa Romeo for this.

"We don't want to make any kind of announcement or more than what is strictly related to the race and the championship. The commitment, as I said, is there."

In his interview with Handelsblatt, Dollner did allude to slow decision-making under the former leadership structure. He continued: "We used to have a very complex landscape of committees.

"That is why we have now abolished an entire level of committees below the executive board… in short: we are now faster and all-important decisions are once again made by the entire executive board team."