AUGUST 22, 2001
Will Raikkonen and Heidfeld stay at Sauber
PETER SAUBER has given a stern warning to anyone seeking to lure either Nick Heidfeld or Kimi Raikkonen away from his team: no way!
Although his choice of drivers for this year was made in favor of young talent as opposed to established stars for reasons of finance ("we couldn't afford a Barrichello" he said in February), the youth policy has helped bring Sauber its biggest ever points haul.
Heidfeld gained a very useful reputation in Formula 3000 with the Mercedes- backed West Junior team in 1999, but his debut year in F1 with Prost in 2000 was a disaster. With the Ferrari-powered Sauber beneath him however the young German has been given one of the best packages in the sport and responded with a podium finish in Brazil.
Meanwhile his team mate Raikkonen has taken on Jenson Button's mantle as the signing of the year. Having been spotted by the Sauber test team boss, Sauber took the chance of forever upending his relationship with backers Red Bull in opting for the Finn over their man Enrique Bernoldi, and many feel that he has signed the man most likely to take over from Michael Schumacher as the dominant driver of his era.
Both men have received interest throughout the Formula 1 paddock as under- performing established stars have been held under the spotlight by the fired-up youngsters - who are also a great deal cheaper than many others in the paddock. Yet Sauber is determined that the price on his young team is going to be too high for many to meet and is looking forward to maintaining his place as a regular points scorer for some time to come.
"We are going to keep both Kimi and Nick next year," he said. "We have every intention of keeping them as long as possible to build on the success of this year. If Ferrari want Kimi Raikkonen they can have him if they give us free engines in exchange."
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