Red Bull and Sauber split is official

SAUBER has confirmed that after a seven-year partnership culminating in its most successful season to date in 2001 its relationship with Austrian soft drink giant Red Bull is at an end.

In a brief statement the team declared: "The Sauber Petronas C21 will start into the 2002 season without the Red Bull trade mark. After a long lasting partnership and the most successful season of the team so far, the co-operation with Red Bull will end as of 31 December 2001.

"The seven years together with Red Bull had an essential impact on the team's image. Peter Sauber and his crew thank Dietrich Mateschitz and Red Bull for the confidence in the partnership and wish Red Bull all the best for their future."

The rift with the Swiss team, believed to have been brought about not only by lack of competitiveness in recent years but also capped by Sauber's preference for Kimi Raikkonen over Red Bull-supported Enrique Bernoldi in the 2001 driver line-up, has been one of the ongoing stories of the season. Red Bull now plans to further its relationship with Arrows, for whom Bernoldi drove in 2001.

The remaining question mark hangs over Red Bull's stock in the Sauber team. Dieter Mateschitz, the Red Bull boss, has a significant holding in the outfit and as a result is understood to be looking to sell up - although Peter Sauber will not yet confirm as much.

"Mateschitz was just as happy as we were about signing Kimi," he said. "He is the main shareholder of Sauber and is therefore concerned that the team should do well and is successful. Our current contract with Red Bull runs out at the end of the 2001 season and they will then quit as our main sponsor, this issue has already been settled between ourselves."

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