OCTOBER 12, 1998

Diniz signs for Sauber

BRAZILIAN millionaire Pedro Diniz has signed to drive with the Sauber team in 1999.

BRAZILIAN millionaire Pedro Diniz has signed to drive with the Sauber team in 1999. The announcement comes as a blow to Tom Walkinshaw of Arrows while also underlining the fact that Sauber cannot currently afford to run two paid drivers. Diniz is expected to bring around $10m to Sauber from Parmalat and other companies which deal with his family's supermarket chain in Brazil.

While everyone concerned was keen to dress up the deal as being a result of Diniz's good showings this year with Arrows, the fact remains that the Brazilian would not have been hired if there had not been considerable finance behind him.

Having said that Diniz has done better than expected on occasion in the course of the last two seasons, showing flashes of speed against Damon Hill in 1997 and this year against the highly-rated Mika Salo. He also has plenty of experience having now raced for Forti in 1995, Ligier in 1996 and Arrows in 1997 and 1998. He has scored points for the last three seasons.

Sauber's need for more money stems from the fact that Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz, who owns the majority of shares in Red Bull Sauber Holding, is believed to be reigning back on his investment in the team. Mateschitz became a partner in the team at the end of 1994 but allowed Peter Sauber to retain the majority of the votes on the board of directors. Mateschitz - like the Benetton Family in the late 1980s - now wants others to fund his team but finding money has not been easy because of the lack of really good results.

Sauber's deal with Petronas runs out at the end of the year 2000 and although the Malaysians intend to continue in F1 there is pressure at home to stop.

The team is expected to land more backing this winter from Swissair and from SMH, a Swiss watch-making group which includes Omega, Longines, Rado, Tissot, Pierre Balmain and Swatch.