With nothing much but a top end niche motor industry as exemplified by the likes of the enigmatic Monteverdi, and no circuit motor racing since the fatal accident at Le Mans since 1955 Peter Sauber would have been hard pressed to find a less conducive environment in which to found a motor racing team that would build a succession of sportscars that competed first in the Swiss Hill Climb Championships and later with the backing of Mercedes win at Le Mans in 1989 and then the World Sports Car Championship in 1990 beating works teams from Jaguar, Nissan and Toyota.
In 1993, with a little back door funding from Mercedes Benz, Sauber entered Formula One with a V10 Ilmor motor branded as a Mercedes Benz. This arrangement lasted for two years until Mercedes Benz decided to increase their involvement with McLaren as their partner. Sauber continued with Ford Motors in 1995 and 1996 and after four years has a reputation for being regular points finishers.
Form 1997 to 2005 a Sauber subsidiary built Ferrari motors and gearboxes under licence for his Formula one team, under this arrangement the team finished a best 4th in the championship with Nick Heidfeld and rookie Kimi Räikkönen sharing the driving duties.
In 2006 BMW bought the Sauber team and called the shots until they sold it back to Peter Sauber in 2009 when the economic crisis precipitated by the credit crunch hit Formula One. Under BMW’s stewardship Sauber finished 2nd in the constructors championship in 2007 following McLarens exclusion. The following year they finished 3rd and Robert Kubica scored the team’s only win in Canada, ahead of team mate Nick Heidfeld.
Since 2010 Sauber has returned to running with Ferrari motors, now built in Maranello. Last year Nico Hülkenberg, red helmet, joined the team from Force India and was joined by Mexican rookie Esteban Gutiérrez, yellow helmet, who had been the teams driver since 2011, to drive the Sauber C 32 designed under the direction of Matt Norris.
The highly rated Nico recorded ten points scoring finishes from 18 starts including the teams season high 4th place finish at the Korean Grand Prix. At the following Japanese Grand Prix Esteban came home 7th behind team mate Nico to record his only points finish. Sauber finished the year 7th in the championship.
For much of 2013 Nico was touted as a possible replacement for Felipe Massa at Ferrari, however as things began to unravel for Kimi Räikkönen at Lotus and Fernando Alonso committed the ultimate crime for any Ferrari driver, to suggest he wanted “another car”, i.e. built by another manufacturer, for his birthday, Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo took exception to the comments and took the opportunity to wake Alonso up by signing up the man whom Alonso had replaced at Ferrari !
A disgruntled Hülkenberg took the only route available to him offering any hope of career advancement and rejoined the Mercedes Benz powered Force India Team. Esteban will be joined in 2014 by Force India refugee Adrian Sutil with a well financed young Russian prodigy Sergey Sirotkin doing the testing duties. The Ferrari powered C33 was launched a couple of days ago on the Sauber teams website and it’s progress can be followed on the team’s Facebook page.
Thanks for joining me on this “Steady Swiss” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be looking at a US built Edwardian vehicle. Don’t forget to come back now !