Today in Valencia, the BMW Sauber and Renault teams revealed their new cars ahead of the first day of testing tomorrow.
BMW Sauber went first in the morning, Peter Sauber showing off the first car since acquiring the team back from BMW and showing off his two new drivers, Kamui Kobayashi and Pedro de la Rosa. The team has yet to be apply for a name change and is staying “BMW Sauber” for the moment, according to Sauber. It is noticeable that the BMW colours are still to be seen around the nose of the car and to the casual observer it will look as though BMW is still in F1. The car is powered however by a Ferrari engine.
Renault followed in the afternoon, with Russian Vitaly Petrov, as expected, joining Pole Robert Kubica as a race driver. It is a sign of the changing times that a leading team has two drivers from the former Eastern Bloc.
“We are very aware of the nationality of our drivers and as a result of that very aware of where the marketing and sponsoring effort should go to,” said Renault owner Gerard Lopez.
Petrov is a graduate of GP2, the F1 feeder series which is backed by Renault and uses Renault engines and technology. Petrov follows Heikki Kovalainen, Nelson Piquet and Romain Grosjean as GP2 drivers given a race seat.
The team is now majority owned by Lopez’s Genii Capital company, but the engines are still 100% Renault. For the moment it is a question of aligning the objectives of both Renault and Genii. The team was looking for a paying driver and Petrov brings a healthy budget, but it’s not the only reason he is there. He was runner up in GP2 last season and as the first Russian driver in F1, he offers Renault, Genii and Bernie Ecclestone a great lever into the Russian market.
Renault has returned to its corporate colours, similar to the colours the cars ran in back in the late 1970s when they first entered the sport with the famous turbo engined cars. The main sponsor looks to be Total oil company, but judging from the amount of space they have on the car, it is not much bigger a deal than last season.
For Sauber, this is a moment he hadn’t planned for, but after BMW’s decision last summer to withdraw from F1, Sauber had to step in to save the team. Ironically, not long before that, Lopez and Genii had tabled a serious offer for the BMW Sauber team, but it was rejected by the BMW board. So he went for Renault instead.
“The last few months have been very intense for us,” said Peter Sauber. “First we had to battle to secure the survival of the team and then we focused on putting a strong set-up in place for the future.
“The technical preparation of the 2010 car has continued uninterrupted and according to plan since the spring of 2009, despite all the turmoil. We have a long tradition of bringing together an up-and-coming youngster and an experienced campaigner as a driver combination – and it’s an approach that has brought us a lot of success.
“Pedro has been working at the highest level technically for many years and for a top team, and we can benefit as a team from this experience. Young Kamui also has a lot to offer us, and last year he impressed me particularly in Abu Dhabi.”
Sauber does have a tradition of mixing older drivers with younger ones, but he’s also made his fair share of mistakes with hires over the years, the last one being Jacques Villeneuve who struggled and was replaced by Robert Kubica.
The BMW Sauber C29 was unveiled without prominent sponsors. The team’s long relationship with Malaysian oil giant Petronas ended recently when Mercedes won a competitive pitch for the €30 million a year sponsorship against Sauber and other teams.
There is only a relatively small deal with Certina watches to be seen. De la Rosa brings a small amount, less than €1 million, from Universia, a Santander-run foundation which sends kids to universities around the world. It is part of Santander’s corporate social responsibility programme.