JULY 27, 1998
Sauber re-signs with Ferrari
Sauber decided to stay with Ferrari after long discussions with Supertec, which was demanding $23m for a supply of its rebadged Renault engines. This was about the same price as Ferrari was asking and with Supertec planning to supply four teams next year there were question marks over the capacity of the French operation to provide enough reliable and competitive engines. The major problem, as we understand it, is that while it is easy enough to build the engine blocks and hire people to do the rebuilding, there is a serious problem with the availability of specialized dynos which run the engines attached to the gearboxes and rear suspensions of the cars. Insufficient testing may result in poor reliability and Sauber concluded that although it cannot expect to beat the Ferrari factory team, it was a better idea to stay with the Maranello engines than to switch to Supertec. The deal means that Sauber will have Ferrari's 1998 engines but will have less technical knowledge of what is happening inside the engines.
The Swiss team appears to have given up its plan to build its own engines in Switzerland because there is simply not enough funding to do the job properly. Petronas would like to continue with the program but is being called upon by the Malaysian government to help fund some of the other industries which have been hit by the Asian financial crisis. Petronas is rumored to be paying all Air Malaysia salaries at the moment and is helping Proton to develop new models to keep the car company afloat.
One stumbling block has, however, been removed from Sauber's path with the team having decided to stop objecting to the new Concorde Agreement. It has now signed the deal.
The team is hoping to keep Johnny Herbert alongside Jean Alesi next year but the Englishman is in demand elsewhere and is not very happy with the performance of the team this year. Johnny may be convinced to stay but the team is also talking to several other drivers, notably Ralf Schumacher.