Peter Sauber has bought back his team from BMW and it will race next season as Sauber with Ferrari engines. The deal under which Qadbak, the mysterious Swiss Arab investment vehicle was to acquire the team, is off.
The contract is subject to the team being granted a place on the F1 grid, but as Toyota has withdrawn and Sauber has an unblemished record in F1 and the support of the other teams, particularly Ferrari, the team is hoping that the F1 commission and the World Council should give them the nod at a series of meetings in early December in Monaco. FIA president Jean Todt has always had a strong personal relationship with Sauber, to whom he sold customer Ferrari engines for many years when he was in charge of Gestione Sportiva and it will be interesting to see how much faith the FIA has in the team. One would expect quite a bit. They should be able to pick up in 2010 at a pretty high level.
However Toyota has been trying to tempt new F1 teams and other potential entrants with a deal whereby they can lease the facilities in Cologne and use the intellectual property of next year’s cars. I’m told that the deal on the table is quite attractive and that a group of investors from Serbia are looking at it. It is getting quite late in the day now to pull something together, but this will present an interesting situation at the FIA meetings in early December. Toyota has the entry, Sauber does not. That situation either has to be upheld or overturned in Sauber’s favour, based on which team the FIA believes will do a better long term job.
The door will close on 2010 at the WMSC meeting on December 11.
Sauber tried to buy the team in August after BMW made the surprise decision to pull out of F1, but they could not agree a price. BMW missed the deadline to sign the Concorde Agreement as a result. Qadback came in and did a deal but it was dependent on the team getting an entry and Lotus was granted the 13th slot ahead of the Qadback/BMW offerring.
Lately there were stories about the Qadback deal falling apart and BMW’s misgivings. Now the Munich manufacturer has gone back to Sauber and done the deal it should have done in the summer. So much has been lost by not doing it then and by losing all the commercial rights the team had built up over time. Now non-signatories of the Concorde Agreement, they effectively have to start from scratch commercially.
It is not known yet what price Sauber paid or who his backers are, although I’ve seen rumours on the internet that they may be American. I have yet to get that confirmed. Sauber will downsize the team to 250 employees from the 388 it had grown to and this will be mirrored with other teams over the next 12 months as the resource restriction agreement comes into place.
“I am very relieved that we have found this solution” said Sauber. “It means we can keep the Hinwil location and the majority of workplaces. I am convinced that the new team has a very good future in Formula One, whose current transformation with new framework conditions will benefit the private teams.”
If Sauber gets the nod, it offers a strong option to Nick Heidfeld, who is still waiting to see what Mercedes will do. Another Sauber alumnus, Giancarlo Fisichella, has also been taking to the team about a drive for next year, with Ferrari’s support.
The door closed for Fisi at Force India today as they announced Adrian Sutil and Tonio Liuzzi will race for the team again next season. Scotsman Paul di Resta is testing for the team in the young guns test at Jerez next week hoping to be awarded the third driver role.