SEPTEMBER 14, 1998
Who drives for Sauber?
THERE was considerable activity in the Sauber motorhome at Monza following the news that Johnny Herbert has quit the team to join Stewart Grand Prix and that Sauber has failed to reach agreement with Heinz-Harald Frentzen. There are a number of possible drivers with suitable connections including test driver Jorg Muller and Jos Verstappen, who signed a deal with Sauber a few years ago but then lost out when Ferrari insisted that Sauber take its test driver Nicola Larini. Luca Badoer is obviously a potential choice if Ferrari wish to place him with the Swiss operation while both Tora Takagi and Pedro Diniz have been linked to the team because they have money available and are looking for drives next year.
Sauber may not appear to be in need of money at the moment but the problems in Malaysia, which have resulted in the team abandoning plans to build its own engine, could force Petronas to downgrade or even rethink its F1 involvement. The team would thus need both money and engines in the long-term.
This had led to speculation that Sauber may try to do a deal with one of the McLaren Mercedes test drivers. Sauber has long enjoyed links with Mercedes and might be willing to do a deal which would allow McLaren to place drivers in exchange for a secondary supply of engines in 2000 or 2001. The obvious candidates if this was the case are Nick Heidfeld and Ricardo Zonta and our spies say that Heidfeld is the more likely of the two as this would enable Sauber to tap into some of the German companies which are looking at F1 sponsorship in the future.
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