Peter Sauber, F1’s perennial survivor, has succeeded in bringing the world’s richest man on board and giving his team a platform to build for the future after the shock failure of the BMW Sauber project.
Carlos Slim, whose Telmex company is a global telecoms giant, has come on board as a partner of the Sauber team and will have “significant” branding on the car. Telmex will fund the drive of 20 year old Mexican Sergio Perez in the team next year. The GP2 star will partner Kamui Kobayashi in an exciting, if inexperienced line up. They also have 19 year old GP3 star Estaban Gutierrez as test and development driver.
One would imagine that both will get a chance to have their first F1 runs in the tests after Abu Dhabi next month, Gutierrez in the Young Guns test and Perez in the Pirelli test.
The move means that once again Nick Heidfeld is left looking for a ride. The German was drafted in by Sauber for the final five races of the season in place of Pedro de la Rosa. One would imagine that Sauber will want his experience and technical savvy on the 2011 car, but the rookies will need as many laps of winter testing as possible.
Perez has been part of the “Escuderia Telmex”, which is a young driver programme funded by Telmex and overseen by former IndyCar ace Adrian Fernandez, for several years. He finished runner up to Pastor Maldonado in this year’s GP2 Series, winning four races, including Monaco.
Sauber has been pursuing Slim and Telmex for some time. Slim and his son Carlos Jr came to Silverstone this year. Slim is a friend of three times world champion Sir Jackie Stewart, whose Royal Bank of Scotland deal comes to an end this year as the bank pulls out of F1. It will be interesting to see whether he becomes a spokesman for Telmex next year.
Meanwhile the influx of Mexican interest in F1 will be very good news for the organisers of the new US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, just over 300 miles from the border with Mexico.
Peter Sauber has a bit of a conflict to deal with this weekend as Carlos Jr is getting married in Mexico, but it is also the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka.
Slim is 70 years old and has amassed a fortune of over $50 billion from telecoms. This year he overtook Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to become the world’s richest man. He is also the world’s foremost collector of paintings by the French impressionist artist Renoir.
He also holds a significant stake in the New York Times. He is a philanthropist, but once said that, “Wealth is like an orchard. You have to share the fruit, not the trees.”
After sticking to his course, Sauber has managed to pick some low hanging fruit. Time will tell whether Slim will buy the tree as well.