Hinwil, 2001-10-25 - The Sauber Petronas C21 will start into the 2002 season without the Red Bull trade mark. Sauber released the following brief statement on the matter: "After a long lasting partnership and the most successful season of the team...
Hinwil, 2001-10-25 - The Sauber Petronas C21 will start into the 2002 season without the Red Bull trade mark. Sauber released the following brief statement on the matter: "After a long lasting partnership and the most successful season of the team so far, the co-operation with Red Bull will end as of 31 December 2001. The seven years together with Red Bull had an essential impact on the team´s image. Peter Sauber and his crew thank Dietrich Mateschitz and Red Bull for the confidence in the partnership and wish Red Bull all the best for their future."
The Austrian company has been a major sponsor and shareholder of the Swiss team, and has been in partnership with them for seven years. Last week Arrows announced that Red Bull were increasing their backing of the team, giving Bernoldi a better chance than expected of being retained next season. They stated it would be the start of a "wider, more inclusive relationship" that also saw Red Bull extend their motor racing interests into the Indy Racing League. This was followed by today's announcement.
Rumours of problems in the partnership first emerged last year, when Peter Sauber appointed Kimi Raikkonen as the second driver for the team in preference to Red Bull sponsored pilot Enrique Bernoldi. Bernoldi had acted as test driver for the team that season, and had won praise from Sauber. It had been expected that he would take over from the departing Mika Salo until Raikkonen showed great promise in testing.
Although both parties denied the rumours, it was thought that this could lead to Red Bull withdrawing their sponsorship of the Swiss team. This seemed more likely when they put their logo on the Arrows' cars after the British team contracted Bernoldi for 2001. In May this year Sauber confirmed that the energy drink would not be the main sponsor of their cars after their contract ran out at the end of the season.
At that time, Peter Sauber said that Dieter Mateschitz was just as happy as we were about signing Raikkonen: "he is the main shareholder of Sauber and is therefore concerned that the team should do well and is successful. Our current contract with Red Bull runs out at the end of the 2001 season and they will then quit as our main sponsor, this issue has already been settled between ourselves." However, a later interview with Mateschitz hinted that he could be considering extending his sponsorship of the Swiss team when he said that the partnership would continue based on "short-term decisions".
It remains to be seen if this move by Red Bull is in the right direction: Sauber took fourth position in the Constructors' Championship in 2001, their best result ever, while Arrows finished tenth with only one point.