The Chinese Grand Prix will mark the last time that Peter Sauber will be sitting at the helm. At the end of the season he'll be handing over his life's work to BMW. The pioneer sits with sponsor Credit Suisse's Emagazine to reflect on 35 years of...
The Chinese Grand Prix will mark the last time that Peter Sauber will be sitting at the helm. At the end of the season he'll be handing over his life's work to BMW. The pioneer sits with sponsor Credit Suisse's Emagazine to reflect on 35 years of motorsports. And hazards a look toward the future.
Q: When the new Formula One season gets underway in March 2006, we won't find you sitting at the command post you've occupied for the last 13 years. Aren't you worried about any withdrawal symptoms?
Peter Sauber: That could happen -- I'm anxious to find out too.
Q: What are you going to miss most? The adrenaline rush?
PS: That too, but you get past that after a while. I'll miss the people most of all, particularly the employees, but also all the others in the paddock -- even those that I argued with once or twice over the years.
Q: But you're not completely disappearing from the scene. You'll be on-hand as an advisor to the new team. What will that involve actually?
PS: I'll primarily be available to the sponsors, above all Credit Suisse.
Q: So no longer an operational role?
PS: No. I think it's important and right that I no longer have anything to do with the operational side. That wasn't just what BMW wanted, I felt that way too.
Q: In the wedding between BMW and the British-based Williams team, the cultural differences were often cited as reasons for divorce. Is there less danger in the Munich-Hinwil relationship?
PS: From a cultural perspective, I see no reason for worry. After all, there are already a number of Germans working on the team, and they've settled in well here. Where there definitely could be some friction -- and BMW has nothing to do with it -- is the challenge of merging a medium-sized operation into a large company. The important point here is that you can adopt the positive aspects of the small partner and apply them as well as possible in environment of a multinational. The attitude will also have to change: The new team is no longer a little David who stands up to the big guys once in a while. At the end of the day, BMW is a giant that you expect victories from.
Q: In the final analysis, what was more important for the decision by BMW to buy the Sauber team: the ultra-modern wind tunnel, or the expertise of the team's employees?
PS: The wind tunnel most certainly played a role, after all it's an excellent tool, a very attractive one at that, and lends itself well to serving as a venue for events. Still, it's just a tool. Our most important asset is the employees and their expertise. BMW has also emphasized that point.
Q: Which of the cars in your big collection of race cars would you most like to show your grandson one day?
PS: Hard to say. I'm actually not that attached to my cars. I'm also not a collector -- I just have a collection. If I really had to pick one, then it would have to be the C9 or the C11. We won in Le Mans with the C9, and with the C11 we won the Sportscar World Championship for the second time.
Q: If there isn't actually a favorite car, is there at least a favorite driver?
PS: No. Each was special in his own right. And many of them were excellent. I helped a few of them get their start in racing, including Karl Wendlinger, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Michael Schumacher, and later also Kimi R?ikk?nen and Felipe Massa. Frentzen drove for us the longest, and also earned the most points for the team. I definitely had a good relationship with him.
With Karl Wendlinger the connection was perhaps a bit deeper. That's also due to his serious crash. But I still get along great with Jean Alesi even though we had a tough time with him in his second season with us, and we also had a few rather heated debates. And of course I have fond memories of the time with Johnny Herbert: He had a really sunny disposition and was very fast as well.
Q: Your team did a superb job developing talent throughout the years. In Kimi R?ikk?nen's case, his jump to the top went perfectly. But that's not the case with Heinz-Harald Frentzen. Why?
PS: From a talent perspective, both were in much the same situation. But they have totally different characters. Kimi is a very special case. He's incredibly goal-oriented. That most definitely helps him. Perhaps that's the difference.
Q: What category does Felipe Massa belong in?
PS: I think he'll enjoy being with Ferrari. He's not far off being another Michael Schumacher. And anything that's even close to Michael is considered good in Formula One circles.
Q: As a Team Principal you'll never experience a Grand Prix victory. When do you expect to see the new BMW team get its first win?
PS: I don't want to make predictions on that. Today, the competition is so fierce that it's not easy to move up to become one of the front-runners. You see it now with the Williams team, which is having a hard time catching up with the leaders again.
Q: Assuming a BMW car wins a race. Would you feel as if a Sauber car had won the race?
PS: I'd be really delighted. But to be honest, being on-hand at the command post to experience a victory would be completely different from watching on TV at home.
Q: It's pretty much the same with your fans. A lot of them are mourning the departure of the only Swiss Formula One team. What do you say to these people?
PS: We continue to have a Formula One team in Switzerland, based in Hinwil, and most of the employees are staying with the team. The advantages are so much greater that you can get used to any differences quickly.
Q: Will the Sauber name live on?
PS: I really don't know. And I'm not even sure if BMW has made a decision on that yet. That'll be a decision for the marketing side to make. You can't forget that the global market is so huge that Switzerland plays only a minor role in it. On the other hand BMW isn't anxious to take anything away from the Swiss. They'll weigh the decision very carefully.