Sauber F1 Team
|Based in: Hinwil|
Founded: 1970 (active 1993 - 2005, since 2011)
Team Principal: Peter Sauber (1993 - 2005, 2009 - Oct 2012), Monisha Kaltenborn (Oct 2012 - Jun 2018), Frédéric Vasseur (since Jun 2018)
Technical director: Leo Ress (1993 - 2002), Willy Rampf (2003 - 2005), James Key (2010 - 2011), Jan Monchaux (since Aug 2019)
Chief designer: Jorg Zander (Mar 2006 - Jul 2007), Christoph Zimmermann (2008 - 2010), Matt Morris (since 2011), Eric Gandelin (since Jul 2013), Luca Furbatto (since Jun 2017)
Head of aerodynamics: Willem Toet (Nov 2011 - Sep 2015), Jan Monchaux (Apr 2018 – Jul 2019)
Head of track engineering: Tom McCullough (2013), Xevi Pujolar (since Jun 2016)
Head of vehicle performance: Ben Waterhouse (Jan 2013 – Aug 2014), Ian Wright (since Jun 2017)
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.
Return as independent 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. Sauber's re-purchase of his team was formally announced on 27 November 2009, though the new owner waited for another year to drop the BMW part from the team's name, partly due to complexities with the then active Concorde Agreement.
As such, the 2010 BMW Sauber C29 was still raced with the BMW name, and obviously developed under the lead of BMW, but it was raced through 2010 by Sauber Motorsport as an independent team. The season also turned out reasonably successful, and thanks to solid drivers from Kobayashi, Heidfeld and de la Rosa, the team finished with 44 points and 8th on the Constructors' Championship.
The following years were to be quite successful, thanks to cars that were well thought out. Technical director James Key, for instance, was given a lot of praise for the 2021 Sauber C31, which was the first to feature exhaust blowing by relying on the coanda effect, after more efficient ways to blow the diffuser were banned after the 2011 season.
During these years, Peter Sauber sold a third of the team to CEO Monisha Kaltenborn in May 2012, before announcing later that year that he would leave the day to day running of the team to the same Monisha Kaltenborn.
James Key however left the team, and while the team was previously able to punch above its weight, the limited resources started to show. It went from 57 points in the WCC in 2013 to 2014, where the team failed to score a point in the first Hybrid V6 season. In 2015, the team ended up 8th, ahead only of struggling McLaren and Marussia, with the next year, 10th, ahead of Manor who were already on the edge of collapse.
Meanwhile, Sauber had got involved in a legal dispute, as it has managed to sign three racing drivers for 2015. It lead to a court case in which Giedo van der Garde was proven right to demand a race seat, while Sauber's Monisha Kaltenborn pushed on with Nasr and Ericsson. The matter saw Sauber not take part in first practice of the 2015 Australian Grand Prix, before Bernie Ecclestone intervened, and Sauber eventually settled with van der Garde for $16million.
Revival under new ownership
On 20 July it was announed that Swiss based investment firm Longbow Finance bought all shares of Sauber Motorsport. Peter Sauber left the team as Chairman of the board, and was replaced by Pascal Picci. Monisha Kaltenborn, who had made the deal materialise, remained CEO and team principal of the team.
What she didn't know at the time, was that his reign was about to end soon with another strange contractual mess. In fact, on 30 April of 2017, Kaltenborn announced the signing of a partnership with Honda, that would see the Swiss team use Honda power units as of 2018. But, just two months later, Kaltenborn was replaced by Frédéric Vasseur at the helm of the team.
Less than a month later, the Honda deal was cancelled for "strategic reasons", and one day later, Sauber announced a new multi-year agreement with Ferrari to get up-to-date power units in combination with a commercial deal that rebranded the team into Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team - later changed into "Alfa Romeo Racing" for 2019.
Under the Alfa Romeo branding, rookie Charles Leclerc drew some attention in 2018 that got him promoted into Ferrari for 2019. When that news broke, Raikkonen opted to make a quick deal with Alfa Romeo Sauber that saw the Finn return to Sauber for 2019 and 2020.
|Car designation||Race years|
|Alfa Romeo C38||2019|
|Alfa Romeo C39||2020|