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I n the Zürcher Oberland, racing has a great tradition. From 1982 to 1991, Peter Sauber's racing team built Group C cars here for the FIA ​​World Sports Car Championship, in which the team clinched two World Championship titles and one Le Mans victory. From 1993 onwards, Sauber devoted itself entirely to the Formula 1 project.

Together with engine partner Illmor /Mercedes, the company, which was founded in 1970, entered the premier class. Already on the debut in Kyalami, JJ Lehto finished fifth.

From 1995 the team found a new partner in Red Bull, and from 1997 the Malaysian oil company Petronas joined them. Both with Ford engines (1995 and 1996) and with Ferrari engines (under the name Petronas 1997 to 2005), however, there were no major successes. The best result was Nick Heidfeld's eighth place overall in 2001. In the team standings, Sauber never came out on top of fourth place.

Sauber talent factory

At that time, Sauber was known as a talent factory and was well known Pilots like Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Felipe Massa and Kimi Räikkönen earned their first spurs in Switzerland. Sauber pilots made it onto the podium five times between 1993 and 2005. However, Sauber still has to wait for a Grand Prix victory.

In 2006 BMW took over the majority of Sauber and continued to run the team as a works team. The engines came from Munich, the chassis continued to be manufactured in the development center in Hinwil. In the four years under the leadership of the Munich-based car manufacturer, the team ended the 2007 season as runner-up world champion and in 2008 drove to the first GP victory in team history in Canada. In 2009, however, the crash to sixth place in the world championship followed and partner BMW decided to get out of Formula 1.

When looking for a buyer, BMW decided on a group of investors called “Qadbak”, the However, it turned out to be an aerial number. BMW had no choice but to return the team to Peter Sauber in order to save the Formula 1 racing team and the jobs in Hinwil.

In 2010, Sauber entered the race with Ferrari engines. Kamui Kobayashi and Pedro de la Rosa were hired as pilots. Good results were however a long time coming. It was only when the new chief technology officer, James Key, began to bear fruit in the middle of the year that the car became noticeably faster. Since the engineers with the two new drivers could not quite assess how good the C29 really was, De la Rosa became theSeptember replaced by Nick Heidfeld.

Telmex helps Sauber financially

With eighth place in the Constructors' Cup, the sporting expectations could not be fully met. At least the team was able to put itself on a secure financial footing. Sauber has been working with the Mexican telecommunications company Telmex since the 2011 season. As part of the partnership, Sauber signed Sergio Perez as a new team mate of Kamui Kobayashi.

Perez, initially dubbed a paydriver, was able to convince from the start. Fast laps and a tire-friendly driving style made him very popular with the strategists in the team. The Sauber C30 showed its potential especially at the start of the season, but instead of seventh and eighth, there was a disqualification in Melbourne due to illegal rear wings. Without the blown diffuser there was no chance in the season's final spurt against Force India. At least seventh place was secured ahead of Toro Rosso.

In 2012, no one in the field was allowed to abuse the exhaust gases as an additional output donor. That suited Sauber. The C32 turned out to be a direct hit. In the second race of the year in Malaysia, Sergio Perez could almost have clinched the second victory in the team's history. Although he had the faster car, he couldn't catch Fernando Alonso. With a total of four podium places, however, the team exceeded its own expectations. They only narrowly missed fifth place in the team classification in the fight against the Mercedes works team.

Peter Sauber passes on Zepter

After the financial future and sporting success were secured in the medium term, the decision was made To finally give up the reins towards the end of 2012, team founder Peter Sauber. Monisha Kaltenborn took over the position of team boss. The Austrian with Indian roots also received a third of the team shares.

In 2013, Sauber started with a new driver duo. Nico Hülkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez should continue their sporting promotion. But nothing came of it. The car did not come out of the starting blocks fast enough. For a long time, the Swiss were far from podium places. Only a larger update package in the middle of the season was able to improve the results somewhat. In the end, the team landed on rank 7 in the Constructors' Cup.

Worse than the sporting misery, however, the financial crisis depressed the minds of the team members. In the course of the 2013 season, rumors grew that Sauber was struggling with a high debt burden. Even the bankruptcy or the sale of the racing team threatened in the meantime. Thanks to patient creditors and sponsorship money from Russia and Mexico, it was possible to secure the continued presence in Formula 1 for the time being.

In terms of driver personnel, there was another change after the 2013 season. Nico Hülkenberg said goodbye to his old Force India team. ThereforeAdrian Sutil was signed as a new Gutierrez teammate. However, it was not because of the drivers that Sauber drove the worst season in team history in 2014. Both in terms of aerodynamics and in terms of (Ferrari) engine power, they followed the competition. The pilots didn't collect a single point.

Financial difficulties at Sauber

The sporty downward trend was exacerbated by the financial difficulties. There was simply no money for the necessary updates. How great the bankruptcy pressure actually was, you could see from the driver choice for 2015. With Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr, two young pay drivers were signed with dowry of millions. Adrian Sutil and Giedo van der Garde also signed contracts. In Australia there was a showdown between Sauber and Van der Garde, who wanted to sue his cockpit in court. Only a comparison at the last second could prevent a big pile of broken pieces.

In terms of sport, things went brilliantly at the season opener. Nasr and Ericsson received a total of 14 World Championship points for places 5 and 8. It was the first World Cup points after more than a year of drought. But things didn't go that well afterwards. For lack of money, Sauber fell further and further behind in the development race. And if there were updates, they didn't bring the desired progress. In the end, the team finished 8th with 36 points.

In 2016, things went even further downhill. With a happy ninth place in the penultimate race in Sao Paulo, Felipe Nasr Sauber secured the penultimate place in the team classification. As a thank you, the Brazilian was replaced by the German Pascal Wehrlein during the winter break. The best news of the year was the takeover of Sauber by the investment company 'Longbow', which ensured financial stability.

Although the financial worries were less, 2017 did not progress either. The reasons for this were the development deficit from the previous year and the Ferrari engines, which corresponded to the status of the previous season. Wehrlein provided the only 5 championship points of the year. Sauber was beaten last in the team classification. Otherwise, the Swiss team hardly made any positive headlines. The long-time team boss Monisha Kaltenborn has been replaced by the Frenchman Frederic Vasseur.

Sauber becomes Alfa Romeo Racing

The new cooperation with Alfa Romeo, which takes place during the winter break, made some hope for the future was announced. She made sure that Sauber received permanently updated material from Ferrari. In addition, Ferrari junior driver Charles Leclerc was committed. Wehrlein had to take his hat off after only one year at Sauber.

Apparently, the team management made the right adjustments. With 48 points, they managed much more than just catching up with midfield, which was given as a goal before the season. Rookie Leclerc in particular was able to keep up with the fansinspire strong achievements. But the rookie's good performance also aroused desires. After the season, the Ferrari junior was appointed to Maranello.

Marcus Ericsson also had to take off his hat. For the 2019 season, Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi, two drivers with a Ferrari background, were signed up for the season. With the renaming of the Formula 1 team from Sauber to Alfa Romeo Racing, the external link with Italy was also intensified. Can Sauber build on its old successes again?


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