F1 Winter Break
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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If nothing else it will be interesting to see how he'll go next season, hopefully for sauber he won't crash like some other rookie drivers..


I wouldn't hold your breath. Apparently he is currently sitting in 8th position in the Renault championship with a best finish of 2nd. Unless he wins the championship, he will only qualify for a super licence by wriggling through on some dodgy clause, designed to enable rich kids to race F1.

Bit of a joke really.

Tornillo Amarillo

Max Chilton sounds like a senior driver, eh?


Better than losing a privateer team that can, on a good day, mix it with the big boys.


Do you think so? I certainly have no wish to see Sauber disappear from the grid.

However, taking on unproven drivers who (on the face of it) are just not good enough, doesn't feel like the answer to me.


+1, my thoughts exactly!


Great to hear, would have been such a shame to see them go. What can they do from here? Is this year a write off for them or could the fresh cash injection bring about a resurgence?


Looking at the results of his last few races, I hope he had just had a lot of bad luck recently.

I just wonder how many potential Senna's there are stuck racing go-karts just because they don't have the right financial contacts to progress.


I agree with you. Way way too much emphasis on the cars these days versus little emphasis on the driver skill and its detrimental to the sport.

Adrian Newey Jnr

Your comment is ironic given Senna himself came from a wealthy family.


He had a comparatively wealthy upbringing in regards to his home country. His wealth was nothing like the insane $$$ of some of today's "paid" drivers.


Senna's family was not wealthy in the same way as Chilton or Pic. Senna's wealthy background helped him progress towards Formula 1 but his F1 opportunity was not bought.


Good news for Sauber but I am surprised they didn't go for Vitaly Petrov who at least has some reasonable F1 experience and has shown some good pace at times. Going straight from Formula Renault 3.5 to F1 is a big step for an 18 year old no matter how good he is.


Another paid driver. The important thing is where is Hulk going.


Lotus and Ferrari retain their drivers and Ricciardo replaces Webber. No good seats for Hulk left.

It might happen.


I heard RIC is rumored to be in talks with Ferrari? Probably just hogwash, maybe someone could shed some light on this?

I would love to see him at Ferrari, much more so than Red Bull.


I don't see that happening


So if Hulkenberg leaves you'll have a team comprised of an 18 and 22 year old next year. Somehow that doesn't inspire a lot of confidence for me in the team.


Gutierrez will not be driving for Sauber next season


Monisha Kaltenborn is a lawyer by trade which might seem a tad counter-intutive at first. It does, however make good sense when the team needs to negotiate deals like this. Good news, I think - hoping Sauber will stay in F1 for a long, long time.


HA! You assume that the Rule of Law reigns in Russia! hehe...


How will he get his superlicence in time? Doesn't look good if you have to ditch Hulkenberg for unproven Russian. I thought Gutierrez was taken on to bring Mexican money in - clearly not enough!


Why did Hulkenberg so desperately want this Sauber seat? Also why did Sauber ditch Kobayashi who was willing to pay for a drive, the nonsense Monisha was talking last year when she said and I quote "Kamui doesn't need more sponsoship" all seems a bit of a lie now, so instead of trying to pay the Hulk and watch him struggle this year they could have gotten a couple of million euros at least and kept on Kobayashi, Sauber was on its way up in 2010 when Kamui joined and inspired the team but then they favoured Perez and left Kamui out in the cold, nice job Monisha now you will probably field 2 substandard Russian rookies and god knows what control of the team she and Peter Sauber have left of the team.


"Why did Hulkenberg so desperately want this Sauber seat?"

I think Force India was in financial trouble and Sauber was quite fast. For 2013 the roles reversed. Bad luck for Hulk.


I don't want to sound like a male chauvinist, but I think Monisha is the wrong person for a F1 team-boss position.


An accident waiting to happen...?


Good news for Sauber and their creditors. Though time will tell how solid this new investment really is. I hope they got some cash when signing.

Regarding the driver Sirotkin, well he's no superstar as of now thats for sure, so lets see how that one goes.

Also be interesting to see how Sauber manage their current drivers and whether they've chosen to become a full pay driver -talent starved racing team .


F1 is hurting big time. Another "pay for the crash" driver.


I thought the FIA will, if asked, grant a super license to a driver who has completed over 300km in an F1 car, so Sirotkin should be okay.


Okay, bring the kid in if you have to but why not go for Kubica as lead driver...his return to F1 (it will happen sooner or later - the man is just too determined not to succeed) is bound to attract decent sponsorship. Come on Monisha, here's a real chance to show your guile!


Kubica will not come back, get over it.

If I was to speculate I would say Hulk gets Kimis seat, Kimi gets Webbers and Sauber are left with a highly backed, very young russian nobody in need of a serious team leader - and I have no idea who that could be apart from Kobayashi.

I doubt that they will keep Guiterrez for another year, if Telmex' sponsorship should be gone (which I expect), as he was just an underperforming cash cow too.

If Massa gets sacked at Ferrari, he might be a tempting option for Sauber, but I doubt they could pay him properly.

Petrov could bring some russian sponsorship money, but two russians in one team is hard to imagine.


It's not going to happen. Sad but true.


Just change the name of F1 to PayDrivers1 and get it over with already.

The amount of drivers who are there just because of a special talent are in a minority now.


I think your being a tax unfair, who are the pay drivers exactly? Redbull - no, Ferrari - no, Merc - no, lotus - no, force India - no, mclaren - no, Torro Rosso - no. Sauber hulk - no and Gutiérrez (won GP3 and third in GP2) - no, Williams - Bottas (won a camp every year from 2008 to 2011 then impressed as test driver last year) - no and Maldonardo (2010 GP2 winner and won a GP) - no. Marussia - Bianchi - no chillton (never won a series or finished top 3) -yes. Catheram Pic - probably and Van der Garde - defiantly.

That's 2 or three from a field of 22 who don't deserve there spot at most, I think your exaggerating the problem. Do you disagree with any of the above?


Grosjean sure drives like a paid driver.


Grosjean won the feeder GP2 series, i think that qualifies him to deserve a shot at F1.


You think Santander is not paying for Alonso's gig?


Yes they sponsor Ferrari and follow Alonso but he has his driver on merit and is not a "Pay Driver"


Perez is a pay driver

Tornillo Amarillo

So Button is a lucky driver.


Perez has his drive because of his very impressive performances at sauber last year, before he got his sauber seat he finisher second In GP2. Seems to me hes working his way up

Midnight Toper

Yes, its about 1/3 of the grid starting with Perez, Sutil, Guittierez, Maldonado etc.


All those drivers also have numerous race wins and titles in junior formula so deserve there shot, pastor even won a GP in a Williams against 7 world champs.


Depends on your definition of 'paydriver' !

Count ONLY those who got to F1 purely on talent and results (which would be the ideal..)

and you would be left with about half...,

and the way things are going financially in F1

at the moment, it will only get worse !

All thanks to Bernie and FIA....




The banning of tobacco advertising has brought this situation about.


No I think a pay driver is a driver who is there only because of money. They nearly all (except for 2 or 3) performed very well in junior formula. People are just complaining for the sake of complaining


Read my post again, I did not say the majority were pay drivers. I said "The amount of drivers who are there just because of a special talent are in a minority now." Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton, Kimi, Hulkenburg, Rosberg. The rest have no special talent and could be replaced by anyone.

But you seem to be exaggerating the amount who aren't there because of their backing:

Grosjean brings a huge sponsor, Perez brings a huge sponsor, Di Resta brings free Mercedes engines, Maldonado brings a huge sponsor, Bottas brings lots of money, Gutierrez brings a huge sponsor, Pic/garde also bring money. None of these would have a seat if they didn't bring the goodies with them.


I know some people bring sponsorship, even Alonso dose but it's not like they guys who bring sponsors can't also drive. I just think that most the guys have done enough to deserve a shot.


I have to argue a bit here, regardless talent, Gutierrez actually is in Sauber because Slim is paying for that, PDVSA is paying a lot for Maldonado to be in Williams. So, what it is said is that Sauber and Williams didn't look to much at their talent but at their wallets.


Totally agree with you about talent and what they deserve, but you said that they are not paid drivers, and what I mean is that there are some companies that pay for having them in certain team, if this companies wouldn't have paid for that we couldn't know if they would be in F1 even if they deserved it, it is a fact and is now normal in F1.


Read my post again, pastor won GP2. If the winner of HP2 doesn't deserve a shot at F1 then who dose? Gutiérrez has won lots junior titles including GP3 and came 3rd GP2 winning 3 races, it's not like he's no experience.


Crucial difference between Kimi and Sirotkin: Kimi impressed Sauber with his talent, Sirotkin is being fed to them. He may be a great driver, but his career will most certainly be destroyed if he jumps to F1 too soon. Kimi really was an exceptional case.


Sirotkin and Gultierez for Sauber Next Season. Yikes.


Mr. Abramovich's Chelsea became a top club after his purchase of the club, so hopefully Sauber will repeat the same success story as the team ll be able to benefit of Russian scientists works.

Sirotkin's Daddy is the General Manager of the National Institute of Aviation Technologies


I may be wrong, but so far as I recall, Abramovich didn't insist on his friends or relatives playing for the club.

My knowledge of football is not great so happy to be corrected - it's a game played by muddled oafs 🙂


Andrei schevchenco (hope I spelled that right)


I don't know about the spelling, but I think you are right. I remember a bit of a hubbub in the press about Abramovich wanting a particular player in the team and the Manager arguing it was his decision who played etc. Still, that's only 1 player out of a squad of around 40, not half the team and choosing who takes the penalties 😉


James It's great that Sauber live to fight another day but what will be the guidelines for the FIA to allow Sergey to take to the track ?. Raikkonen was undoubtedly a rare/mature 20 y/o when he got his start but there's a world of difference in those 2 years though& what happens if Sergey doesn't make it. Im sure no one would be stupid enough to risk it !.

Perhaps Monisha will be showering Hulkenberg with dollars now- just to get him to stay because they desperately need an experienced driver- can this mean the return of KK if Hulk does get a drive elsewhere. Interesting few months coming up. Thanks James


Raikkonen's application required Ferrari boss and McLaren boss to agree. He also had to do a minimum mileage in F1 testing first. He was blindingly quick, of course


Of course Raikkonen was a real talent as well unlike this driver who isn't even a standout in his series, Kimi is 1 of the most naturally gifted driver alongside Vettel and Hamilton this new dude will just cause accidents, hope no one gets hurt...


Sirotkin's proven quick if inconsistent (but so is the ISR team he races for) but next year will be far too soon for him to step up to F1, and maybe 2015 as well. However, given the strength of the Renault 3.5 series at the moment, I feel he has greater potential than any other Russian driver out there, Petrov included.


It is really good to have a Russian driver. I think they should bring Petrov back. He was really good especially as a rookie in Abu Dhabi 2010.


Tell that to Alonso.?


Yes, he kept Alonso behind him, and did not mess up, which was pretty well done...


I would hate to see Sauber go. It is one of those committed no-nonsense teams that means business unlike some other fly-by-night operators. I sincerely wish BMW or Toyota would consider making a comeback. They are selling record number of cars, and Sauber gives them a great value. Makes one wonder what teams like Force India and Sauber could achieve if they had the resources of the top 4 teams..

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???


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?


Best of luck Sauber


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.


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.


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?

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.


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?


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.


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.


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?


"black hole in the middle distance."



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.


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.


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.


Raikkonen -> Red Bull

Hulkenburg -> Lotus

Based case senario.


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


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


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"...


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

Stephen Taylor

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


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.


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


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 😉


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.

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