DECEMBER 21, 1998
Sauber confirms engine setback
THERE have been stories circulating for some weeks that the Sauber Petronas V10 engine program had been stopped and last week Peter Sauber confirmed that this was indeed the case and that the Swiss team is looking for a deal with an engine manufacturer for the long-term. For the moment, however, the team will continue to use Ferrari V10 engines badged as Sauber Petronas V10s.
This relationship has enabled Sauber to be a strong midfield runner in recent years but is unlikely to lead to victories as Ferrari is not going to be very happy to be beaten by what is in effect a customer team. The only way the team can go forward, therefore, is to find an engine manufacturer. At the Japanese Grand Prix we heard strong rumors that Sauber and his partners Dieter Mateschitz and Fritz Kaiser were being linked to plans for a Toyota Formula 1 program. Such a deal would make a lot of sense for Toyota as the Sauber Petronas engineers have a great deal of data about the Ferrari V10 engine and this would mean that the Japanese car manufacturer could cut out a lot of development work and enter F1 with an engine which would be quite competitive from the start.
Sources in Japan continue to insist that the Toyota management has not yet made a decision about whether to enter F1 and even if that decision is taken soon it will be at least 2001 or 2002 before the Toyota name appears in Grand Prix racing.