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Sauber finally gets his Mexican wave
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Sauber finally gets his Mexican wave
Posted By: James Allen  |  05 Oct 2010   |  9:01 am GMT  |  56 comments

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.

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56 Comments
  1. Aaron James says:

    Am I the only one that thinks Slim look ever so slightly like Alan Sugar….

      1. Haydn Maidment says:

        I think you’ll find that it is Nick HEidfeld who is fired …

      2. kieran says:

        Brilliant.

  2. Rich says:

    I really hope that Sauber do well in the next couple of years. I think PS is a nice guy and it would be nice for them to stick 2 fingers up at BMW to show them what a mistake they made, in much the same way brawn did in 09. They often seem on the very edge of success but don’t just make it. Perhaps with the budget caps and other changes now is there time! It would be nice to see the same with Williams too.

  3. David Hamilton says:

    GrandPrix.com website accurately predicted this a week ago – http://www.grandprix.com/ns/ns22645.html

    That article also suggested that Peter Sauber is likely to hand over day-to-day running of the team to Adrian Fernandez (who already has experience of running his own team in Champcar, IRL and ALMS).

    The other rumour it floated was that Mercedes may have placed Nick Heidfeld at Sauber to get him race-sharp in case he was needed for next season… presumably covering off the possibility of Michael calling it quits.

    1. jmv says:

      Off topic: but I do wonder… if Mercedes next year produces another “wreck” of a car… whether MS will sit out the entire 2011?

      1. David Hamilton says:

        Am I right in thinking the front tyre dimensions will remain the same for 2011?

        If that is the case, I struggle to see how Pirelli can significantly change the balance from this year. After all, putting a softer compound on the fronts would surely result in their going off before the rears?

      2. nickname says:

        Ross Brawn does not have the habit of talking nonsense so when he mentions that there are grounds for optimism in making Michael more comfortable with the car especially by tweaking its front end, I for one would not be questioning him

      3. David Hamilton says:

        Agreed that Mercedes can move the weight distribution to compensate. But the choice of weight distribution is always a compromise.

        I.e. if they push the weight further forward than their competitors to suit Michael’s style, then the car will struggle to get power down out of the corners.

        My point was that it might be that current F1 rules might be ones under which Michael may never thrive.

      4. jonrob says:

        Shirley it depends on the weight/mass/downforce front/rear distribution.
        Greater mass at he rear next year with KERS pack behind the driver’s back.

      5. David Hamilton says:

        Just looked up an article on Handling – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automobile_handling#Center_of_gravity_forward_or_back

        Seems I was wrong in my last post. Turn-in understeer would be reduced by moving the weight to the rear, not the front. I was working from my karting experiences where you lean forward on turn-in and lean back on exit (guess that’s to reduce the ‘push’ from the solid rear axle).

        James – do you have an article on how designers modify handling in F1?

      6. James Allen says:

        No, but I’ll add it to the list. Thanks

      7. Aey says:

        I Think Micheal is worthless now.

        My opinion is even the new car is more suit to Micheal, the best it could be is it just make the smaller gap with Nico, or at best on par with Nico. I don’t think in anycar Micheal would be obviously faster than Nico.

        Why Brown just try to make the car the way Micheal like, why don’t they do the other way that make the car faster for everyone, not just for schu.

        even with the new car that is tailor made for schu, if it going well, it just make Micheal look less bad at most, no more outstanding driver for him.

        Why Mercedes GP just spend time for Micheal, to pretend that they didn’t make the wrong dicision to bring Micheal back.

        Mercedes GP shold look for someone eles who is fast out ot the box as Nico. I quite sure that the team will regret to spend another 1 more year to give another chance for Micheal to prove himself, to prove that Micheal is not so so good anymore.

        head to head battle, no way now that Micheal would be faster than Nico, why don’t develop the car the way Nico like.

        Micheal loss his racecraft already, let say this year car is bad, Nico can put it look less bad while Micheal can’t.

        Only one thing that Micheal didn’t loss, is the bad behavior driving on track. He can do the same thing as 20 year ago. He still think he is the king that he can put the car anywher he want and anyone else have to give him the way. . . . no more.

        Micheal is the least sportman on track right now.

    2. Yo says:

      If I was C. Slim I would not hire Adrian to run the team. Maybe as an advisor (ala H. Marko), but most certainly not as team principal. What did he achieve in Champcar, IRL and ALMS? I wouldn’t go with Adrian just because he is Mexican. F1 has more complexities than the other categories (e.g. building a chasis rather than buying one) and you don’t want make things more complicated than needed.

  4. Just A Bloke (Martin) says:

    Well that’s good news for Sauber, however I really do think they need at least one driver with some experience. I have not really been following GP2 so do not know much about young Perez.

    1. Rich says:

      Wouldn’t suprise me is Kobayashi got a bullet end of the season with the return of quick Nick!

  5. cliff says:

    Hi James,great article.Somehow I can see Sauber becoming the next Red Bull.Time will tell I guess.Keep it up James.

  6. Matt W says:

    It’s does make me wonder whether Mercedes are covertly prepping Heidfeld to take over from Schumacher. It works well in that Nick has time to get up to race speed whilst not making it look like Merc are pushing Schumacher out.

    That’s what the conspiracy theorist in me says anyway!

    1. Tyler says:

      While I wish this were true, somehow I think its a far reaching rumor, the reasons for MS to stay make far more sense then for him to go.. but who knows. Poor Nick…the guy had his best chance with BMW and it didnt work out. I just wanted to see him get a win…thats all.

  7. Grabyrdy says:

    Just a pity they have to handicap themselves with so many inexperienced drivers to get the dosh. James, have you formed an opinion on Kobayashi’s skills at set-up ?

  8. Galapago555 says:

    So, more difficult to understand the strange way they got rid of Pedro de la Rosa and hired Nick with just five races to go. If they are not counting on Nick for the forthcoming season, I bet that he will not have time even to get used to his “new” car, so I can’t see a reason for this change.

    Of course, I can not believe that Sauber could be looking for some relevant information re the new tyres developed by Pirelli for next year…

  9. James says:

    I know that Sauber has to go where the money is, but that’s pretty much Heidfeld and De La Rosa’s F1 careers up the Swanee river. I wonder what he would have done if Heidfeld had got a podium or even a win in his only race before this new deal was signed? lol

  10. Kris says:

    Hi James,

    Just wondering about the financial impact of this deal. We have read that Sakon is paying something like $450,000 per race to be in the seat for HRT. Now that Perez is on board with Sauber and he is backed by the richest man in the world, what sort of deal you reckon we are looking at? It is probably huge, considering that Sauber is willing to drop Heidfeld, the only man with a working knowledge of Pirelli tyres which could prove to be a huge advantage in planning the car for next season.

    Thanks!

    1. Alesi says:

      30 Million Dollars for 2 years (15 Million each year)

      1. Kris says:

        Thanks Alesi. That seems quite a significant amount, something close to 1million per race??

  11. Stevie P says:

    Commenting on Lotus getting their act together and now this… wow!!! Slim will back the Sauber team! And there will be plenty of jockeying for position in midfield – which bodes well :-)

    I concur with Galapago (above) though, what was\is the point of getting Nick in for 5 races in place of De La Rosa? Ok, so Heidfeld ran the first Pirelli test, but the tyres will change and change again… I find it a little odd.

    1. Grabyrdy says:

      Nothing to so with the tyres, from what I heard. Sauber said that they wanted a benchmark, i.e. they thought they knew how fast Nick is, so from that they could judge how fast the car is, and from there, how good a job Kamui has been doing. You can sort of see it, but I don’t ever remember hearing a team say it quite like that before.

      I do hope Nick finds another place – he deserves it – but I can’t really see where. Hope he gets 3 podiums before the end of the year to make everyone embarrassed !!

      1. Paul says:

        It doesn’t make much sense though. Sauber signs Heidfeld to see how Kobayashi is doing, although they had already signed Kamui for 2011 by that stage. The Perez deal for 2011 would have pretty much been in place by the time Heidfeld came on board too, so Nick probably knew there were no options in the team for 2011. And this is a team that had already dropped Nick twice.

        There much be some other reason why he was invited back. I would like to think it is for replacing Schumacher next year, but if Mercedes wanted Heidfeld they would have taken him this year.

      2. Grabyrdy says:

        except that it was primarily to see how the car was going, not Kamui. Anything they learn about him is a free extra.

        But I agree with you – an odd way to go about things.

      3. Stevie P says:

        It is odd, when you consider that Pedro is known to be a good tester and thus should prove a decent benchmark (note – I didn’t say the best benchmark :-)). Perhaps, it is Merc GP giving Sauber some dough and covering themselves if Micheal does decide to go, but for some reason I don’t see Schumi doing that – if the car’s not good (or doesn’t have potential) in 2011, I can see MS leaving before 2012 though.

        I do seem to recall Nick saying that he knew he wouldn’t be at Sauber in 2011. And I admit I thought De La Rosa in the Sauber from the beginning of 2010 was an odd move, but maybe he was cheap(ish) and could have taken with him some ideas from McLaren [in his head obviously; not on paper or memory-stick etc, etc, etc ;-)]. Perhaps it was a partially sentimental move from Mr Sauber, to go with Pedro in the first place!?

        Mind you, it all pales besides HRT and their driver swaps… do you think they play scissors\paper\stone to decide who’s in the car? ;-)

        I can’t see 3 podiums for Nick though, Grabyrdy… perhaps a point or two, if he’s lucky; which I feel would be a good return and show he’s still very much capable… but as you suggest there doesn’t seem to be any free spaces, for him, for 2011.

  12. richie675 says:

    Wow, fantastic news and great article James.

    Some of the independent teams are really moving forward significantly now that the manufacturers have taken leave. Lotus announcing an agressive new technical strategy and now Peter Sauber progressing a huge deal like this.

    James, do you know if the team will be rebranded as “Telmex Sauber” now that the BMW affiliation has ended?

    I’m also curious how Virgin will respond to some of these recent announcements – they have been very quiet all year on the PR front and my understanding is that they won’t increase the budget for 2011. James, do you have a view on their technical and commercial situation for next season? How do you think this will affect their results/standings, will they progress at all?

  13. Koby fan says:

    Nice coverage James. Any idea whether the Telmex deal is a title sponsorship? With the US GP back on the calendar soon and the current Telmex corporate restructuring, I wonder whether the C30 will have sport Telmex or America Movil livery? If its Telmex, I hope they can spice up the light blue/white livery from what is being used on the 2010 GrandAm Ganassi Racing cars!

    Imagine what the C29 could have looked like with more sponsorship: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXs74f5t1f0

    Given the quick session of recent news at Sauber, its hard not to think that Heidfeld must have known he was only racing with the team for 2010. Some interesting behind the scenes scenarios going on I think. BTW, are Sauber still taking Ferrari engines in 2011?

  14. john g says:

    perez seems a good choice, probably the pick of the GP2 drivers, and comes with massive backing. totally understandable choice from peter sauber, who looks like he’s just secured the future of his team for another good few years.

    unfortunately money can only go so far and with two rookies you have to wonder how they will get their car anywhere near the front of the grid again. however, i think saubers choices were probably limited to fold or midfield runner

  15. Nilesh says:

    It’s hard to imagine Nick would part with whatever knowledge he gained from the Pirelli tests without a firm contract.

    So was it too early to learn anything useful from his tests? Why aren’t teams falling over themselves to get Nick signed up?

    1. Tyler says:

      Agreed. Regardless of the Pirelli tests its a mystery why someone hasnt signed him.

  16. Bec says:

    In a roundabout way it’s good news for the Austin Grand Prix too.

  17. Kenny Carwash says:

    Fantastic that Peter Sauber has finally tempted Carlos Slim into F1, but I can’t help thinking they’ll struggle to develop the car with that driver lineup. Kobayashi has proven this season that he’s quick, but also still unpredictable and I don’t think he’s near ready to be leading that team. Perez was impressive in GP2 and may soon grow into the dependable driver Sauber will need him to be, but I just hope Mr Slim isn’t expecting overnight success.

    If Heidfeld is still available then it might pay to give him some running at the early tests, probably with Kobayashi making way as Perez will need to maximise his time in the car. If I were in Peter Sauber’s shoes right now though, I’d be trying to poach the most experienced set of race engineers and key techincal people I could, and giving the Telmex chequebook a damn good thrashing in the process!

  18. Harvey Yates says:

    This seems to have the smell of a buy-out. I’m with the others here: I would see better drivers as a better investment rather than just money. Whilst I want to see Sauber get some decent funding and stability, it might be nice to have some decent drivers.

    It seems odd that whilst there is no South American, let alone Mexican, GP this chap has come in.

    With BMW evidently not being able to cut it at the sharp end of motor sport one wonders if Audi might also struggle. At the moment it appears that the worst thing you can do in F1 is have a German owner or driver.

    It would be (will be?) a shame to see Peter disappear. He seems to have been around for ages.

    1. Yo says:

      Brazil is in south america!

      1. Harvey Yates says:

        Point taken.

        If I could suggest that it might have been far kinder to remind me that Brazil was still in the F1 calendar.

        Derek (O-level Geography GCE, grade C)

  19. Ben G says:

    Delighted for Sauber – he’s a true gent and a great sportsman (Swiss, you see…).

    Now then, Messrs BMW; Mercedes have their own team, Porsche/Audi are thinking of joining the grid, and F1 is going global as never before and heading back to the US. Schadenfreude?

  20. Romeo ( MEX in USA) says:

    This is a coup for Peter Sauber and for Luca de Montezemolo(engine provider). Telmex Racing is a big team in a number of categories and will be as Peter Sauber wanted someone to keep his legacy intact in the futue. BMW loss is now Sauber-Ferrari-Telmex win. Now we have almost all the telecom giants in F1 – AT&T, Telefonica, Orange, Vodafone and others.

    Sergio was to be a Honda driver when the team folded.

  21. Romeo ( MEX in USA) says:

    BTW, everybody talks about Carlos Slim but CS Jr. is the one involved in racing. In the Telmex racing press conference they made very clear that the partnership is a commercial one, but PSauber message was that Sergio focus should be a long term, not expecting early wins.

    Also they made very clear that Sergio got his contract on his own and that Telmex came later. I think after Esteban Gutierrez also a Telmex GP3 champion as test driver Peter Sauber was just doing the wooing. Both Slim’s, Fernandez have been in five GPs this year.

    They refused to mention total Telmex will pay just that it was big and in Euros.

    Now Austin GP becomes a huge future success with the Mexican fans.

  22. Romeo ( MEX in USA) says:

    About Jackie being a possible spoke person, another person rumored is Mexican Joe Ramirez with a huge F1 story and very close to Ferrari.

  23. Mark M says:

    So PS has signed up the f1 equivalent of the fly by night football owners except for one thing telmex is a long time sponsor of US racing and will be used to the monies involved as well as the fact success isn’t instant. Well done I say after the shambolic way BMW treated HIS team that HE built from nothing and that was what BMW almost left him with, now that the future is looking bright the technology that BMW left will now allow a team that like Williams just exists to go racing, to go from strength to strength and emulate the mclarens and ferraris to championship success

  24. Race seat won it by Perez, now Pastor Maldonado needs to keep pushing for a seat in 2011, it is being said he’s pushing for a seat in HRT, if the StefanGP and Toyota union goes ahead. Also he have being talking with Force India, Lotus and Renault. Maldonado is being supported by PDVSA, local oil company and he said 99.9% he will be in F1 next year… Allan: what have you heard about him?
    Many thanks!

  25. fausta says:

    I would have gotten rid of Kob instead of Nick. Kob doesn’t strike me as anything special and Nick’s experience is vital to a team.

  26. zenmeister says:

    Sergio Perez is one of the most under-rated drivers just below F1. He won the National Class in British F3 in 2007 and could very well have won the title outright. He won the two races at Monza, in both places starting from 14th on the grid and at that point he had a lead of 32 points. The fact that he failed was probably due to Carlin finding an edge for their three drivers, Jaime Alguersuari, Oliver Turvey and Brendon Hartley. He still finished 4th ahead of Esteban Guerrieri, who is also being talked about in terms on an F1 drive for next season with support from the Argentine government.
    He has driven solidly and well in GP2 last year and this, establishing his credentials.

  27. mtb says:

    All the best to Sauber, a team that I have always had a lot of time for.

  28. Robert Powers says:

    Welcome to F1,thanks for spending money on it in tough financial times.

    Adrian Fernandez is a good choice as you will soon see.One good Fernandes deserves another!And as Tony is a welcome addition to the paddock so will Adrian.I know it’s just a rumor-a good one!

  29. MIke Purcell says:

    I just cannot believe Pastor Maldonado still hasn’t gotten a seat for 2011 !!!

    That dude really shined this year.

    He reached a high level of maturity, avoided rookie mistakes and took the GP2 title comfortably. In previous years he was fast but a total jerky crasher.

    Many rookies go to F1 and spend their 1st or 2nd year learning just to keep their cool under race conditions. The team that ends up hiring Maldonado will have a “rookie” who already learned to keep a clear head in difficult situations.

    If Vettel had a bit more of maturity, he already be champion.

    Lets hope Maldonado makes it, so we can see more Americans in F1 besides the brazilians.

    1. He will be, right now he’s talking with Williams to replace Hulkenberg who lost 4 sponsors… local government is going to support Maldonado’s F1 seat with 10-12millon euros or more.
      It is true that this year for Maldonado has being amazing, but this was his 4th year in GP2 and 60% of the grid or even more, were rookies… some of F1 director or managers doesn’t like him because he makes many mistakes, but what they want from him is the money from Chavez and PDVSA!

  30. Jonathan says:

    I’m terribly confused by your metaphor at the end… who is the tree, Slim or Sauber?

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