Peter Sauber has reacted angrily to the behaviour of BMW in his attempt to rescue the team, following the manufacturer’s decision to withdraw from Formula 1.
The team had a deadline of yesterday (Wednesday) to sign the new Concorde Agreement or face the possible loss of TV money and prize money from this year, amounting to tens of millions of dollars.
“I negotiated for three days but couldn’t find an agreement with BMW,” said Sauber in La Gazzetta dello Sport. “I’m dismayed, but I’m not giving up, even though now it is more complicated as it will cost many millions to stay in F1 as we would have to register as a new team.”
This is shocking news for Sauber who thought he was safe to entrust his workforce and their livelihoods to BMW when he sold the team to them in 2006.
When Honda pulled out of F1 last year, no buyer could be found and Ross Brawn felt morally obliged to save the team and together with his partners took significant risks to save the jobs of most of the workforce and keep the team on track.
Honda was persuaded to give the team to the management for a nominal fee and set them up with a budget for the first season. Initially Bernie Ecclestone was unwilling to release the prize money and TV money due to Honda for 2008, some €35 million, but the team received it this week, on signature of the new Concorde Agreement. This provides a timely boost to their coffers as they attempt to keep up with the Red Bull cars.
Sauber feels even more morally obliged to save the team, as he set it up in the first place. But BMW have clearly not got the integrity Honda had. Admittedly the time frame was very tight, given that they only decided to quite a week ago, but they have not done the right thing by the sport and by the team’s employees and set the team up for the future.
FOTA put out a statement last night saying that they would do whatever they could to help Sauber get on the grid for next year.
Meanwhile Robert Kubica has expressed his sympathy and concern for the workforce,
“It will not be difficult for me or Nick Heidfeld to get a drive for next year, but it will be far harder to find jobs for the hundreds of people who work at the team.”
“I am incredibly disappointed and disconsolate,” Sauber told Autosport. “For me this is the bitterest day in my 40-year career in motor sport. It is also a devastating setback for the team.
“Other solutions must now be sought. The responsibility for that lies in the hands of BMW. Needless to say, I am willing to help, as before.”