APRIL 10, 2000
Sauber's engine supply
THERE is much talk in the Formula 1 paddock at the moment over the future engine supply for Sauber with all the indications being that the Swiss team will be continuing with Sauber Petronas-badged Ferrari V10 engines again in 2001. The team knows that ultimately it needs to emerge from Ferrari's shadow and find its own engine supply if it is to take the next step forward in F1. The problem is that there is not an obvious source of engines in the immediate future and so the best policy is to continue with the current arrangement in 2001, particularly as Ferrari will want to have some reference to gauge the performance of the Michelin tires next season.
Petronas may have long term plans for its own Lotus-designed engines but it will be at least two or three years before they could be ready. With the automotive world consolidating and most of the major engine manufacturers already allied to other teams, logic suggests that Sauber needs to look beyond the immediate suppliers in the hope that it can bring a new manufacturer into the sport, perhaps by agreeing to pay for its engine (as British American Racing is doing with Honda).
Of the major car companies not involved in F1 at the moment, it is unlikely that Peter Sauber would be able to swing a deal with General Motors or Volkswagen as there are other teams better placed for that. Volkswagen will probably not become involved until the future of BMW is settled as a BMW-Volkswagen merger would give the company an F1 involvement.
Beyond the big six car companies there is really not much left these days in the automotive world. Peugeot could be one choice for Sauber but the French company has never shown any real understanding of the problems that it faces in FormulaŹ1 and after 100 Grands Prix without a victory it would probably be wiser for the French to go off to the World Rally Championship in which it can be successful with both the Peugeot 206 and the Citroen Xsara Kit Car.
The few remaining niche market companies are not really big enough to fund their own F1 program or do not have the technology necessary to do the job. The obvious exception to this would be Porsche which has always said that it would be happy to build F1 engines for teams if they can pay for the program, just as TAG did for McLaren in the early 1980s and as Footwork did (disastrously) in 1990. Porsche is probably the best option for Sauber because of the ease of language, the proximity of the team to Weissach and because several of the major players within the reformed Sauber management who have Porsche connections, notably chief operating officer Jost Capito. Such a deal would also be interesting to the Malaysians as advancing the country's automotive capabilities would be greatly enhanced with Porsche engine technology.
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