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Deadlock on 14th team slot for Sauber
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Deadlock on 14th team slot for Sauber
Posted By: James Allen  |  07 Oct 2009   |  6:38 am GMT  |  49 comments

The Sauber team faces an uncertain future as the rest of the F1 teams voted at the weekend not to allow a 14th team on the grid next year.

Will a place come up for Sauber? (Photo: Darren Heath)

Will a place come up for Sauber? (Photo: Darren Heath)


The Malaysian-backed Lotus team was handed the coveted 13th slot on the same day as BMW announced that it had sold the team to Qadbak, a mysterious investment group with Swiss and Arab investors. One of the names in the Qadbak set up is Russell King, who was once involved with Jenson Button’s management and who has had several abortive attempts to do deals with McLaren to set up a team with funding from the Middle East. McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh does not have positive things to say about him.

On Sunday in Suzuka the FOTA teams met to discuss the 14th team issue. Unanimous agreement among all signatories of the Concorde Agreement was required for them to get a slot and Williams and Campos are believed to have vetoed it.

FOTA had made it clear when BMW withdrew that it would do everything in its power to help the team to be on the grid, but the FIA selected Lotus instead. We’ve seen this tactic before used by Bernie Ecclestone when he wanted to enlarge the calendar beyond the agreed 17 races. He would insert a new Grand Prix into the schedule as the 18th race, making one of the traditional races provisional, knowing that the teams will vote to restore the traditional race and thereby enlarge the calendar that way, rather than try to get them to agree a new race from the outset.

In this case it is tricky, because since FOTA voiced its support, it has become enlarged as a group, taking back the Williams and Force India teams and adding the three new teams originally signed up to the Concorde Agreement. And it is Williams and Campos, one of the new members, who are vetoing it.

The team has gone from being insiders to being outsiders. BMW decided not to sign the Concorde Agreement at the time when it pulled out, even though it planned to sell the team. By doing that it not only lost the team’s guaranteed slot on the grid but also some £40 million of TV and prize money income per year, something which Peter Sauber was very angry about at the time. It also lowered the value of the team as a saleable concern.

Sauber has been talking to Ferrari about a supply of engines. I asked Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali about his feelings on the 14th team and he said,
“My feeling is that we need to have the unanimous agreement of all the signatories to the Concorde Agreement in order to have the 14th team there. I can speak for Ferrari and for FOTA, we would love to have the Sauber team because of the structure and because we know they can deliver a great thing. We are happy for them to be part. But some of the small teams are not in favour of it.

“So now we have to see whether some of the small teams will be able to be there (next season). I can understand for the Sauber team it is a matter of timing. They cannot wait and see whether the small teams will be there. They need to plan they need sponsors and as you know we are discussing a possible supply of engines.”

The FIA is in the process of inspecting the facilities and plans of the new teams and although there are plenty of rumours in the paddock about various teams not being ready, or being short of money the new teams themselves are all making positive noises about being on the grid in Bahrain.

BMW boss Mario Theissen admitted that the situation is looking a little dicey,
“It is certainly a drawback for the team because we need to talk to sponsors, we need to talk to drivers and it only makes sense if you have a confirmed place on the grid. We are waiting for this, and every week we lose is damaging.”

Knowing the way F1 works, some pressure is likely to be applied somewhere soon.

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49 Comments
  1. James (or anyone that can answer this)_
    Aside from the drivers at BMW what will/could happen to the hundreds of “normal” people working for the race team? Will they/ could they find jobs with the new teams or are we looking at several hundred people unemployed as a result of this?

    1. James Allen says:

      There are several businesses there; a full size wind tunnel, composites etc. R&D department. Even if they don’t race the place would be able to get plenty of work as a supplier

  2. Prionser Monkeys says:

    I think that if QADBAK were a little more open about who thy are and what their plans are, thn FOTA might be a little more amenable to them. McLaren may think little of King, but King is not QADBAK; the person named in the initial plan was a Swiss national, Lionel Fischer.

    Right now, the problem seems to be that QADBAK is registered in the British Virgin Islands – a tax haven – represents the interests of “several Middle Eastern families” and will be represented by a Swiss national. As such, they really are that ambiguous and might as well cahnge their name to QADBAK Sinister Foreign Investment Group. If they talked with FOTA – and kept it all confidential – then they might be received more warmly. Because as it stands, their joining the grid will happen by default if someone withdraws, and I think FOTA would like the idea of as many teams as possible. So if I were QADBAK, I’d be talking with team bosses, dispelling some of the secrecy that surrounds my organisation.

    But I don’t think they’re after world domination, based in a hollowed-out volcano and headed by guy with a white Persian cat.

    If they are, I think they’ve committed a fairly grievous error in judgement and are in the wrong industry.

  3. Adrian says:

    James, not a question related to this thread, but didn’t know where else to ask it:

    Williams has been making positive noises about Massa’s return to the cockpit, which struck me as a little odd, until I realised that they are looking for an engine supplier for next year (I’ve read rumours that the mooted change to Renault power may now not happen) and Ferrari would be a good choice for them…

    Williams Ferrari anyone?

    1. James Allen says:

      Wow, that is a little hard to imagine. But you never know

      1. Malcolm46 says:

        True, but if they were trying to keep Ferrari happy it could of been sensible to not annoy them by blocking Schumacher from testing in August….

      2. In August Williams probably thought Renault engines were a shoo-in…

  4. Fausta says:

    It would have been interesting if they allowed the 14th team and then let only 26 cars on the grid after qualifying, the slowest two are out.

    1. rpaco says:

      That’s how it used to be, DNQ every race.

  5. Martin P says:

    Sir Frank treading his own path yet again!

    James, I’m looking forward to your analysis of why Williams is taking so many opposing stances (14th team, 2010 KERS, brake pads, testing, Concorde sign-up, etc. etc.) and their chances for next year.

    1. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

      Williams are becoming killjoys for many fans. Frank seems bitter now that there glory days seem long behind them. Frank, look to the future and be more positive….great people always bounce back.

  6. Alex Yarnell says:

    Mario Theissen seems to be quite acitve hear in securing the team’s future. He he just seeing out the last part of the BMW’s involvement in F1 or might he actually be a part of the new team?

  7. Kedar says:

    Hi James,
    I dont understand why the existing teams will be for a 14th team. I mean in terms of TV coverage the 2 hrs they get on the race will be further divided. In no way any of the 13th or the 14th team is going the challenge for points let alone the championships but the TV coverage for the front running teams will be reduced as the drivers of these teams will keep binning the car in the wall or will retirements. Even the Lotus team doesnt look great as we may have a Driver who is there just because of his nationality or because he is bringing in money.
    Given the “Talent crunch” like the BBC commentators put in F1 currently, Is this really a good idea to fill the grid with these teams?

  8. Renn Sport says:

    Why did Williams and Campos veto allowing Sauber back?

    1. Relativity says:

      I can understand the motivation of Williams and Campos. More teams on the grid means more competition and more teams to split the money with. These teams are trying to protect their business interests.

      Big teams (Ferrari, McLaren, etc.) have enough money so they don’t care about a 14th team. The smaller teams are obviously worried.

  9. john g says:

    does anyone know the reason that BMW did not sign the concorde agreement? it makes absolutely no sense to me. was it a board decision rather than a theissen decision?

    also you have to question the intelligence of qadbak buying a team without a guaranteed entry to race next year for $60m or whatever it was. makes brawn look like a bit of a bargain doesn’t it!

    as an aside, have williams and the 3 new teams officially accepted to be part of FOTA? i had read about the invitation but nothing more…

  10. Luciano says:

    Why is it always Williams doing things like this?

    It seems some posters here believe Williams stands for some kind of ‘Great British Sporting Tradition’. But their actions off track don’t really back this up.

    1. Martin P says:

      Based on what?

      From what I see many of their off-track decisions suggest that they’re the ones sticking to the rules and wanting to compete as racers; while others want to adapt rules and change contracts to suit their management, marketing and accounting needs of the time – or worse, because they’re just finding it difficult to compete.

      Williams always seems to take a hard line – but it’s a hard line completely in line with the contracts and rules all the teams signed up to.

      Besides, we might well find out that there are elements of Qadbak that make Briatore look like Saint Flavio Of Renault.

  11. Cabby says:

    Why are the two teams opposed to a 14th, because they get less money from CVC?

    Williams seem to be opposition quite a lot, apparently they try and use every opportunity to increase their negotiating position.

    Ferrari probably wants to have another engine deal, see what they can do so Williams and Campos change their mind…

  12. Spyros says:

    Am I alone in being a bit annoyed with some of Williams’ decisions this year?

    - They signed on to FIA’s proposals, going against the other break-away FOTA teams.

    - They vetoed Schumacher’s August testing.

    - They went against the others on KERS for 2010.

    - And now this…

    I’d like them to make more noise in the track, but so far this year they only seem to be able to draw attention to themselves out of it (Rosberg’s Singapore performance excluded).

    Do we know of any arguments of theirs for this one, apart from having one less competitor for next year in the mid-field, where they obviously think they will be, too?

    1. Williams4Ever says:

      - They signed on to FIA’s proposals, going against the other break-away FOTA teams.
      >> Thats the classic and permanent wedge Bernie/Max has that creates rift in the teams does anyone remember GPMA and how they had split. The objectives of Manufacturer Teams in FOTA- Vs – Privateers will alway create this situation. Teams like Williams and FIF1 are on grid only for racing and their sole source of revenue is from Bernie/FOM/ or any race series they participate in. I won’t blame privateers for breaking rank and signed FOM’s proposal/Concorde agreement. How will the survive, their FOTA partners are not going to take high road and give them monies for sticking with them, they don’t even give cheaper engines to the privateers.

      On side note one reaason why Max was so keen on Budget cuts is that will encourage more privateer teams to grid and Bernie/FOM/FIA will able to control the privateers better than the manufacturer backed team.

      - They vetoed Schumacher’s August testing.
      >> They Vetoed Schumacher/Ferrari testing with current spec car. It would be grossly unfair given that FOTA have agreement on number of Days/Mileage teams can test per year. If Ferrari indeed wanted Schumi to test a current spec car, with all the monies they have they could have offered all teams on grid Testing times All expenses paid by Ferrari.
      Then it would have been fair to all the teams.
      Did you read James’s article on how RedBull had to use Mark Webbers aborted Suzuka Session as test session for Interlagos race. That should stress how much testing has become a dear commodity with new regulations.

      - They went against the others on KERS for 2010.
      >> Point to note that while the other privateer like FIFI decided to piggyback on solution that McLaren would offer them.Team size/budget of Williams has invested heavily in developing KERS, everytime FIA comes up with rule changes the teams have to go back to drawing board and spend monies, this is ironic given that FIA talks big of reducing costs. We have classic case of BMW who spent millions of dollars on the KERS solution and then promptly shelved it, RED Bull spent money on KERS and didn’t use the system at all, Big Teams can afford luxuries of spending these monies not a small team like Williams. It is but natural for them to want to test the solution developed in races. Who knows if the solution is best on grid, they can sell it to other team (Like McLaren/Microsoft ECU used by all teams) and make some returns on their investment.

      - And now this…
      >> The Source of Funds for QADBAK is shady even the Football team that is funded by this setup is currently under review. I hope we the F1 fans don’t want F1 to be used as medium of money laundering or worst still used by shady outfits which have connections with antisocial elements and use the team to generate revenues for them, Do we?

  13. Dave says:

    Don’t know what all the fuss is all about, if this team is genuine about its entry then it will enter because it’s obvious a couple of mad max’s puppet teams (Campos & USF1) will probably not make it… simple.

  14. Neil Williams says:

    It is incredulous that BMW did not sign up to the Concorde agreement until 2012 particularly when you bear in mind that it carries no penalties if they were to subsequently withdraw. It has undermined the teams efforts to stay on the grid and gave the FIA a big stick to try and break FOTA’s resolve which they promptly used by giving BMW’s slot to Lotus, a name with history but a team with none. As was mentioned by Domenicalli you have to believe that BMW have done due dilligence on their new backers, but Martin Whitmarsh who had dealings with one of their number in the past is less than complementary of him. Do BMW want to avoid the ‘egg-on-face’ scenario that is currently the sole domain of Honda executives by not having their former team on the grid next year?

  15. " for sure " says:

    If someone had wanted to speculate how not to go about disposing of an F1 team, it is hard to imagine that they could have imagined the reality. Could BMW have made a bigger mess of this had they tried?

    I would anticipate that the buyers T’s&C’s would have incorporated a condition that they must be able to obtain a slot, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole deal doesn’t now collapse.

  16. Stu says:

    Seems a shame not to have an established team such as ‘Sauber’ on the grid when you have 4 unproven newcomers, but rules are rules.

    I had heard USf1 were looking a bit suspect to join next year though? Would that be a way in for them?

  17. Howard Hughes says:

    I can sort of see Campos’ perspective – they probably see BMW as unlikely to do well next year, so they feel they could eliminate a potential rival at this stage by vetoing.

    But Williams?! My god, Frank seems to be turning into one bitter old man. Lest he forgets, for years he was known as W*nker Williams by almost everyone in the pitlane, such was his perceived dodginess and lack of success. This was the man who sold the very trousers he was wearing to a complete stranger in a garage en route to a race, in order to raise the entry fund. The same man who used to conduct his business calls from a telephone box, pretending that it was his office line. And now he wants to veto a team, thus ensuring that hundreds of people will be unemployed?

    Frank, you need to sort your head out. And this is from someone who’s met and liked you very much. If you win on the track, you’ll never need to battle people off it. So get your deteriorating team back to the front and let whoever wants to try and compete.

    Your attitude is shameful, and given your patriotism, sadly neither sportsmanlike nor very ‘British’.

  18. Mike S says:

    This wouldn’t be the same Russell King and Qadbak involved in the increasingly perplexing takeover of Notts County would it ?

    1. Neil Williams says:

      Oh Yes!

    2. Williams4Ever says:

      Exactly thats the Russell King and Qadbak. Do we want F1 to launder black monies for some shady rich guys??

  19. Brace says:

    Williams really acted rather disappointingly in this situation. Sauber isn’t just some new team, it’s a team which has a proven track record and it wouldn’t be like extending the grid for just anyone, as Williams puts it.
    As far as Campos is concerned I don’t understand why are the new teams even allowed to have a voice in any of this. Some say it’s because they are going to be part of it too, but they could just as likely fail to make it to Bahrain grid at all.

    You know, underaged people can’t vote and I see no reason why this new teams should be given a vote when as far as we know they have no track record and no F1 experience at all AND no solid proof they are going to make it to the next year’s grid.

  20. Silas Denyer says:

    I was always surprised that, having scuppered the team’s forward finances by not signing up to the Concorde Agreement, BMW didn’t reprise previous strategy and sell the team for ten pounds to a group of otherwise-unremarkable Midlands businessmen…

  21. Carl M says:

    well they’ve messed up either way because they’ve lost Robert Kubica to Renault.

  22. smellyden says:

    Such a shame BMW has runied a team like Sauber. A real independent and real racer.

  23. monktonnik says:

    I feel that if BMW had signed the agreement they wouldn’t be in this position. I think they handled this poorly.

    It is a shame that their future now hangs on the misfortune of others.

  24. Dvo Ferguson says:

    Nice job BMW. How long had Peter Sauber kept that team going? How long after buying it did it take you to drive it into the ground? You should feel ashamed at the half-assed job you’ve done.

    An utterly sad end to what was a bright spot in the paddock. Long live Sauber.

  25. James,
    Is this Russell King one of the people who “managed” Jenson during the Williams/BAR contract debacle?

    1. onyx says:

      The same Russell King that served 2 years at ‘Her Majestys Pleasure’ for fraud in 1991-told an insurance company that his £600k Aston had been stolen and actually hid it in his garage…nice guy..no wonder Martin Whitmarsh is concerned for BMW/Sauber…this deal wont happen and we will probably end up with about 12 teams for next year…

      1. Howard Hughes says:

        On an unrelated note, I find it disgusting that it’s possible to serve 2 years for defrauding an insurance company, yet people who mug and batter others get away with far less…

      2. Harveyeight says:

        Just as well F1 cars are fitted with trackers then, isn’t it.

  26. Relativity says:

    I do not understand why BMW did not sign the Concorde Agreement in the first place. They could have still walked away from F1 but atleast the team would have a guaranteed slot.

    James – What could be BMW’s motivation for not signing the Concorde Agreement? They gave up a grid slot and millions in TV money so they must have some sound logic, that escapes me.

    The decision to sell the team to a faceless company (Qadbak) also seems to be an expedient solution for BMW, as if they wanted to get rid of their F1 obligations as quickly as possible.

    From my perspective, BMW have acted irresponsibly with this team, its sponsors and most importantly, the employees of this team. With new teams coming into the sport, I am sure most of the BMW employees will find a home in other teams. From the outside, I do not understand all these dealings but maybe you can shed some light on the inner workings of this deal.

  27. john g says:

    i found it very interesting that norbert haug blasted campos’ decision not to agree to allow Sauber to race – what do you make of that?

    I really do hope the sauber guys will on the grid next year as they are a great team, a really good bunch of guys. the future of the BMW employee’s is probably at more risk tho, they are very unhappy at how BMW have handled, and are handling, the whole situation.

  28. Harveyeight says:

    Is Williams the new Ferrari, at least in Mosley/FIA’s eyes?

  29. John M says:

    Bring ‘em on!

    14 teams would be great. I can understand Williams’ seemingly nit-picky veto of some things (like Schuey testing) that are simply following the letter of the law. This one, I don’t really see where Williams is coming from.

    Side point, I’d love to see F1 revise the points system now that we’re going to have 26 or 28 cars on the grid.

    My proposal: 20, 15, 12, 9, 7, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 for the top ten finishers. I’d also love to see them add 1 point for pole position and 1 point for fastest lap.

    1. Rudy Pyatt says:

      That’ll be the old CART point system, then.

      But I’m with ya! The more the merrier. I’d actually like to see 15 teams and 20 races: More teams + more races = more exposure = more $$$, answering the business case for such expansion.

      Sauber’s (apparent) pending doom reminds me of Arrows, in the sense that someone posted above; Peter Sauber kept that team respectable for years, even if they didn’t win, they didn’t embarrass themselves. Jackie Oliver did the same at Arrows before corporate ambition overextended things until the team went bust.

  30. DK says:

    Why Williams vetoed Sauber’s entry? Could it be Frank is still angry with Mario for pulling out from Williams-BMW partnership after buying Sauber??

  31. Leslie says:

    Russell Kinghttp://www.buzzle.com/articles/311238.html

  32. Monktonnik says:

    Just thinking as ti why FW would veto this team. If this Russell bloke was involved with the Button contract mess and Williams feel that lost out then I can see why there might be an issue with this guy.

  33. Paulo Amore says:

    Was it all a con?

    REPORT: BMW hoodwinked by fraudster in sale of Sauber F1 team

    http://www.autoblog.com/2009/11/24/report-bmw-hoodwinked-by-fraudster-in-sale-of-sauber-f1-team/

    No wonder the FIA aren’t letting them in.

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