Sauber and Mercedes-Benz

Nick Heidfeld, Monaco GP 2003

Nick Heidfeld, Monaco GP 2003 

 © The Cahier Archive

There has been speculation in recent days that Sauber's new windtunnel in Hinwil has caught the attention of the Mercedes-Benz management in Stuttgart which can see considerable value in a deal involving use of the facility for road car programs in exchange for a deal on F1 engines. If Mercedes-Benz has to supply a second team it is fairly clear that it would prefer that team to be Sauber rather than one of the other available choices.

Peter Sauber made his name on the international racing scene in the 1990s, running a team of Mercedes-Benz engined Group C sportscars. The first success came in 1986 when Mike Thackwell and Henri Pescarolo won the Nurburgring 1000. This led to the formation of a Mercedes-Benz Competition Department in 1988 and official support for Sauber's efforts and after a promising season in 1988 the cars became official Mercedes-Benz entries in 1989 and won two World Championships and the Le Mans 24 Hours. Sauber then began preparing a Formula 1 program for Mercedes but at the end of 1991 the management of Mercedes-Benz cancelled the project and, officially at least, left Sauber to go it alone. The team used Ilmor V10 engines and by 1994 these were carrying Mercedes-Benz branding. That year however McLaren pounced and Mercedes-Benz took the decision to go with the Woking team in 1995.

Sauber was briefly the Ford factory team but then started a relationship with Ferrari which has been going since 1997. The deal has meant that Sauber has been as successful as a customer team can be but at a considerable cost, as the Sauber Petronas engine supply costs at least $25m a year.

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