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Sauber goes for Russian cash; plans to debut Russian driver in 2014
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Jul 2013   |  12:13 pm GMT  |  100 comments

The Sauber F1 team has announced a deal with Russian Investors which it hopes will safeguard its future in F1.

As part of the deal it is also training up Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin, a 17 year old currently competing in Formula Renault 3.5, to race in F1 next season.

Sauber becomes the second F1 team in recent months to take on new investors, following Lotus, which sold 35% of its stock to a US/ Middle East consortium.

The Swiss team has been reeling ever since the BMW deal collapsed in 2009, as the German car manufacturer exited the sport leaving Peter Sauber with a choice between seeing his team collapse, or fighting on without a wealthy shareholder.

He chose the latter route, a precarious one when faced with rivals backed by companies like Red Bull and Mercedes Benz. This year the financial struggle has begun to bite wit suppliers unpaid and even Nico Hulkenberg released from his contractual obligations should he wish to leave.

The team has been negotiating with Russians, in the form of the Investment Cooperation International Fund, the State Fund of Development of North-West Russian Federation and the National Institute of Aviation Technologies.

They have come in to partner with the team, the exact details such as shareholdings, will be released at a later date. It is never ideal to negotiate from a position of weakness, but at least Sauber is confident that it will survive.

Part of the deal is to help promote the forthcoming Grand Prix in Russia, according to a team statement,

“The partnership includes further activities for the promotion of the inaugural Formula 1 Grand Prix in Sochi in 2014 and attracting the talented young Russian generation towards motorsport. In particular, a development programme will be set up for the Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin to prepare him as a racing driver for the team in 2014.”

This will be interesting to watch. Sirotkin would be 18 at the start of next season and would therefore become the youngest driver to race in F1.

He will have to step up significantly if he is to get an FIA superlicence. But Sauber has some form in this area, bringing Kimi Raikkonen into F1 directly from the junior Formula Renault category in 2001.

It may be that it takes longer than the time remaining before next season to train him up.

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Russia, the country that sends people to jail for protesting the lack of democracy, which has no independent court system and now sends people to jail for kissing in public.

Why would I risk going there ?


Dieter Rencken on Autosport made some interesting comments on this. The deal has apparently been on the cards for some months and Bernie P and Vlad P have reportedly been aware of it and discussed it. So the first point is that at the moment, the Russian side is backed by Putin. He also suggested that since Sauber would be taking advantage of Russian aerospace technology transfers as part of technical partnership, Sauber would have a large loophole with the resource restrictions as it would be tricky to audit a Russian company to say the least.

It is an interesting article, but it is part of the subscription package, so there’s not much point of me posting a link.


With all due respect, I wouldn’t say it’s a done deal without the money on the bank and a signed contract in the pocket, if I were Monisha of Peter Sauber.

So far it looks to me like a lot off talk and no real substantial news and information, yet!

My bet is it will fall through (although I definitely want to be wrong in this case).

Let’s wait and see for a couple of weeks 😉


Anyone know the process/qualification you need to get a Superlicence? Never really thought about this till now. Cheers


I think it may well be too early for Sergey Sirotkin to be in Formula 1, considering how old he is.

I know what Sauber are trying to do, but you have got to be careful about bringing up young talent, and making sure you don’t bring them up too early.

Sirotkin has got some talent and ability, which is developing well, but I believe at least one more year in Formula Renault 3.5 Series, GP2 Series, or something like that would be of benefit to him, and prospective F1 teams.

I think it is a matter of when, not if he makes it to Formula 1. He could be a future champion.

Stephen Taylor

James what is going to happen to Grosjean in all this?


F1 has so much money yet so little. F1 has so much credibility yet so little.


Meanwhile Stoffel Vandoorne, who is leading the Formula Renault 3.5 in his debut season isn’t allowed to test for McLaren at the YDT because he is “too inexperienced”…


I’m surprised Ferrari haven’t bought Sauber and run them as a junior team, similar to Red Bull and Toro Rosso. Ferrari clearly have links with Sauber and it would have been ideal to give younger drivers such as Bianchi the experience in a better car


Great, another “money” driver, exactly what F1 needs! What a joke this sport is becoming.


Raikkonen -> Red Bull

Hulkenburg -> Lotus

Based case senario.


I really wish people would go and find out a bit more about Sirotkin before they dismiss him as a talentless pay driver. He did well in Auto GP last year despite his lack of experience and has punched above his weight in FR 3.5 this year. I would go as far to say that he’s the most talented Russian in single seaters in the last 5 years. I don’t think he’s ready for F1 next year, but he won’t be a disaster.


It amazes me when people start talking trash about new young drivers in exchange for money… That has ALWAYS been in F1!

Same was said about Kimi.

Run a team without doing that succesfully and then come to internet forums to talk nonsense.



Please comment on allegations from Swiss TV that deal is a fraud!

“SRF’s correspondent in Moscow warns, “Sauber deal sounds like a swindle!”


One word: “Broker”.


Broker? Sorry, I don’t follow. Can you clarify? Thanks.


“black hole in the middle distance.”


It’s pretty ok to have a trained, fully professional paid driver to race for you – but isnt putting a 18-year old rookie with no significant achievements and experience into an F1 car taking unnecessary risk?


The reality is that only Ferrari, McLaren, Merecedes and Red Bull will consistently be without financial worries. Force India and Lotus, financially, are the second tier. Solid, but they can see the black hoe in the middle

Sauber can’t be alone here, and right now they seem to be at or near the same financial condition Arrows was in right before their demise: Don’t forget that a financial savior was supposed to be in place for that team too, a deal announced shortly before Arrows imploded. Until regular payments start coming in, this new tie-up for Sauber is simply nice music to hear.

Williams, Marussia, Caterham may not be as bad off, but by next season we may see one or more of them go to the wall, particularly since Bernie has announced that Constructors’ payments won’t go to as many teams next season.

Even STR, which may (only may) have greater financial resources than the others as the Red Bull satelite team, may not be safe: So far, Vettel’s been the only return on the STR investment. Every other STR driver, ever, has been washed out of F1 (in ways that can fairly be described as harsh). Red Bull may finally conclude that its driver development program isn’t worth the effort and pull the plug.


Sauber has always been my favorite team in F1, i’m glad to see them survive..if indeed these investors come through, F1 is so fluid and changes week to week who knows what this really means.

But sadly this compromise of another pay driver is in my view just a continuation of their downhill trajectory. The may live to fight another day, but just proves they are truly scraping the bottom of the barrel and clawing to survive, as a successful racing team they are sadly in decline.


So is it Hulkenberg or Gutierrez that’s out? I know telmex is big but it seems like securing funding also secured Sauber’s status as a back marker……


Hulk has just cancelled his contract, with immediate effect, that was about to end this year anyway, as he was not receiving his paycheck in time. It was said that he is now free to go whenever he wants, but will continue to drive for the team for the time being.

That doesn’t look like Hulkenberg will stay st Sauber, but rather like him being free to put his nose in any car he likes. Which may be black and gold or even red.


What about Red Bull?

Tornillo Amarillo

So the 3 entities interested in SAUBER seems to be owned and founded by Russia Government. It’s not clear for me if they are buying shares or just signing an agreement of technical cooperation or similar.

Russians also have the ownership of MARUSSIA, since owner MARUSSIA MOTORS is apparently a private car manufacturer.

The SOCHI circuit in Russia is being build in a Olimpic Park by the Government.

So we have new players from Russia. It would be difficult for some traditional circuits in Europe to keep their spot if more countries arrive to the F1, wouldn’t it?


According to Sauber officials there are no shares involved, just a technical partnership, the driver deal. They’ve kept silent about stickers on the car, but I expect the livery to change.


Let’s hope you’re right, Sauber’s livery has been one of the ugliest in recent years. I expect blue, white and red will be the dominant colours in their design for next year. Good luck Sauber!

Tornillo Amarillo

James, are the Russians paying suppliers right away just for putting a driver next year?

I guess suppliers -including Ferrari- do not want to wait for the cash anymore.


Mr Allen,couple of questions if I may please.

Has Ferrari new wind tunnel operational or

they still use Toyota one?.

Secondly one would have thought Luca d M,

would have bought out Sauber and by the same

token lease it out, thus given him an a opportunity he has championed for so long

for a third car.

Fact: the wealth of India is controled by

bit more of 10% of its population, in Russia

less so,meaning there is a lot of money in

Russia,they own half of London real estate a

some top Footbal Clubs and print media.

If they are fair dinkum one may say beware of

of the Russian Bear.Sauber has the best wind

tunnel and facilities thus far.

Adrian Newey Jnr

Another journalist has stated that the new Russian owners have close links to the Ferrari factory through a GT3 racing program. I would hope that LdM with his business skills and contracts might have assisted with finding a partner?


This is the reality in F1 these days now.

Now that Russian is set come to F1 let us hope he brings some blistering pace immediately unlike Gutierrez.


On the one hand, it’s good for Sauber that they will stay in F1.

On the other hand, it’s clear that they have completely sold their souls. These guys are clearly connected to Putin, and people in this level of Russian society very much have a controlloing mentality, and they bring this to the deals that they make. They have already chosen one of the team’s drivers for next year. They will certainly try to control many other decisions that are made, and this can very well interfere with what’s best for the on-track development of the team.

It’s regrettable that F1 has gotten to such a point financially that a long-standing team created by one of racing’s true entrepreneurs has essentially been taken over by Russian sponsors who clearly aren’t in this for racing.


Best of luck Sauber


Sad to see the team of HH FRENTZEN,MASSA,KIMI, in this position. This is the team that had Mercedes, Red Bull, and Bmw all enter modern F1 and somehow they never reap the benefits. I love teams that outperform their budget but I think they may have a few years in the wilderness as they restructure. They have much blame in this as well. Even last year the team was running without a commercial director. How did they expect to progress?

Scuderia McLaren

Dear lord. A soon-to-be 18 year old with little to no real success or pedigree in racing will be steering one of the fastest machines on the planet in close combat with another 20 or so drivers in 8 months. It might be different if the 17yr old was a clear prodigy and he’d been setting the world ablaze with junior category success ala Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen so as to justify an inclusion at such a young age. I hope th FIA make him earn the super licence at least. For his sake more than anything else. Didn’t we just have an article about Maria De Violtta and inexperienced testing issues???

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