Op-Ed: Sauber ~ Reticent owner on a 5-year plan?

Taking some time to read all of the press releases and terrific coverage from the major news media and other F1 blogs today, I am finding some key quotes, thoughts and comments about today’s car launches. Both the Renault F1 team and the BMW-Sauber F1 team launched their 2010 challengers today.

Both cars looked nice in my estimation and featured some unique aerodynamic nuances and interesting liveries. If you have followed the car launches so far this year you will no doubt notice the changes in wheel-base, aerodynamic adjustments and car shapes etc. The two driving forces for these changes have been the re-fueling ban and the narrower front tires for 2010. The fuel cell must hold 200 liters in 2010 and the front tires are 25mm narrower than last year. While seeming relatively benign in word, they mean enormous challenges in the engineering world.

Sauber C29

The driver lineup for Sauber is one of tidiness. The seasoned tester with sponsor backing and the exciting young Japanese who showed more spark and grit in two races last year than some drivers did all year long. Team owner Peter Sauber said it was time for a change. They wanted a fresh look at the driver lineup.

One thing that caught my attention was the story that the BBC ran today regarding Sauber’s feelings about being back at the helm of a F1 team. It seems he is not entirely comfortable in his new clothes as team owner again and is viewing this with some trepidation:

“When I realised I had to start all over again the feeling was very bad,” he said.
“I was absolutely sure I would not stay in Formula 1, but please understand, I don’t have any problems with F1.
“After 36 very, very hard years in motorsport, that life was okay for me.
“I don’t plan to stay for another five years, but at the moment I’m also not looking to sell the team.

It is a unique thing to say at a car launch and to be honest it would be a little disconcerting for me as a driver as well. I believe it may be lost in translation as I have heard Sauber talk before. If I can put words in his mouth I would suggest he is just being matter-of-fact about his feelings. Having to scramble to save the team after selling to BMW and finding that arrangement to his liking.

Sauber, Peter

You could assume he is merely suggesting that saving the team was the main goal as he has a tremendous amount fo respect for what they had built but his long-term goal in 2009 was not to dive back in to F1 as a full-time owner. Fair enough?

The words are there, however, and it would be prudent to start thinking of Sauber F1 as a 5-year plan at best. Who will buy the team and will Sauber sell at any point between now and the 5th year? Will he close the doors if no buyer is secured?

Those are all knee-jerk reactions to a statement that was probably broken down via the language barrier but to be perfectly honest, we probably should just be looking to the first few races and sponsor deals for 2010 and 2011. Ultimately this is the man who, with Mercedes, introduced the world to Michael Schumacher and who has survived some difficult times in F1. His buyout of the team was a terrific move on so many levels and from speaking with close, personal friends of his, Mr. Sauber is just that type of guy. He cares very much for his employees and the team and let us hope that is rewarded in the long run.

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