Sauber F1 Team
|Based in: Hinwil|
Founded: 1970 (active 1993 - 2005, since 2011)
Managing director: Peter Sauber (1993 - 2005)
Technical director: Leo Ress (1993 - 2002), Willy Rampf (2003 - 2005), James Key (2010 - 2011)
Chief designer: Jorg Zander (Mar 2006 - Jul 2007), Christoph Zimmermann (2008 - 2010), Matt Morris (since 2011)
Head of aerodynamics: Willem Toet (since Nov 2011)
Head of track engineering: Tom McCullough
Head of vehicle performance: Ben Waterhouse
Team manager: Beat Zehnder (since 1995)
Sauber are one of the few teams who have succesfully made a debut in the 1990s and not only hung on to their place on the grid, but improved. A strong driver line-up in Johnny Herbert and Jean Alesi, and continued use of the Petronas-badged Ferrari engines means that the team could get their maiden win in 1998.
Peter Sauber made the step up to Formula 1 from sportscars in 1993. Sauber had built the operation up from small beginnings, first taking Sportscar World Championship points in Austria in 1976. Things really began to happen for the Swiss outfit when it linked up with Mercedes for the Sportscar World Championship in 1986, taking sixth place and a win at the Nurburgring. In 1989 Sauber-Mercedes were team champions, Jean-Louis Schlesser taking the driver's title. The feat was repeated the following year when Schlesser shared the drivers' championship with co-driver Mauro Baldi. The team were also heavily involved in Mercedes’ Junior sportscar team with Michael Schumacher, Karl Wendlinger and Heinz-Harald Frentzen.
The strong links with Mercedes continued for the move to F1 in 1993, JJ Lehto getting things off to an excellent start by scoring points with fifth place in the team's debut Grand Prix. The team eventually finished joint sixth in the Constructors’ Championship with Lotus. In 1994, Heinz-Harald Frentzen joined Karl Wendlinger at the team. With increased sponsorship and support from Mercedes, much was expected. However, a nasty crash for Wendlinger at Monaco left the Austrian in a coma, and funding for the team collapsed.
The expected success didn’t come, and in 1995 the valuable Mercedes engine deal was lost as the German giant switched to McLaren. It was quickly replaced with a Ford works contract, but Sauber's fortunes didn’t improve. At the beginning of 1996 it was announced that the new Stewart Grand Prix team had signed a five-year exclusive deal with Ford, putting Sauber's supply into serious doubt. The loss of Heinz-Harald Frentzen to Williams provided a double blow, but their future was secured with a deal to run year-old Ferrari engines in 1997, badged by Malaysian industrial sponsor Petronas.
With 1996 signing Johnny Herbert continuing with the team, and qualifying a fine seventh on the grid at Melbourne, things were looking good for 1997 although the highlight was a single third place for Herbert in Hungary.
For 1998, Sauber retained Herbert and signed Jean Alesi. The emotional Frenchman integrated well into the family atmosphere of the Sauber team, driving as well as ever and securing nine championship points. The price of his easy transition was Herbert. The popular Englishman felt excluded and as a result experienced his worst ever season in Formula One. As a result he announced that for 1999 he would be joining the Stewart team.
For 1999, Alesi remains while Brazilian Pedro Diniz provides some well-needed big bucks. The team was optimistic that the latest spec V10 Ferrari engines would prove considerably more competitive than the 1997 specification they have had to use all season. Kaiser and Sauber disagreed on the future direction of the team in the course of 1999 and when Mateschitz supported Sauber, commercial director Kaiser departed.
Early in 2000, after more disappointments, Sauber dumped technical director Leo Ress and replaced him with Willy Rampf. The results in 2000 were disappointing and so Sauber took the risk of hiring youngsters Nick Heidfeld and Kimi Raikkonen for 2001. Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz however wanted his protege Bernoldi in the car and decided to sell his shares back to Sauber. These shares were later passed on to Credit Suisse. Sauber's risk with Raikkonen paid off and the team finished fourth in the Constructors' Championship in 2001. Raikkonen went to McLaren but the money paid for his contract enabled Sauber to begin work on an impressive new windtunnel facility at Hinwil and the team hired another youngster Felipe Massa for 2002. He did a good job but at the end of the year Sauber had the chance to hire Frentzen again and so dropped Massa.
Massa returned in 2004 as team mate to Giancarlo Fisichella and the team installed the most powerful computers in F1. The new windtunnel went into operation but the relationship with Ferrari became increasingly strained and Peter Sauber began looking to BMW for engines in 2006. For his final year with Ferrari engines in 2005 Sauber picked Jacques Villeneuve to partner Massa and switched the team from Bridgestone to Michelin tyres. Midway through the season BMW announced that it had bought the Sauber team to start its own team, named BMW Sauber F1. 2005 was the last season of this privateer team.
3 years later, after a disappointing 2008, BMW announced it would withdraw out of the sport completely. After initially rejecting Peter Sauber's offer, the company finally gave into it after failing to find a higher bigger. The BMW Sauber C29 was still officially a BMW Sauber product, but as of 2011, Peter Sauber dropped the BMW name and continued as a fully privateer under the Sauber Motorsport moniker.
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