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.