FEBRUARY 12, 1996

Sauber's 1996 package unveiled

SAUBER last week launched its Sauber-Ford C15 in Switzerland.

SAUBER last week launched its Sauber-Ford C15 in Switzerland. The dramatic launch at the Space Theater in Baden, near Zurich, involved a startling musical show with special effects laid on by the theater.

The aim appears to have been to shrug off Sauber's image of being a rather dull team, and the new color scheme of the Sauber C15 follows this trend. The car being dark blue but featuring turquoise-green sidepods. The car is uncluttered with sponsorship, backing coming from energy-drink maker Red Bull and the Malaysian national oil company Petronas.

The car features the new Ford V10 engine and, according to Sauber chief designer Leo Ress, was a completely new design.

"Ford's move from a V8 to the new Zetec-R V10, combined with the technical changes specified by the FIA for the 1996 season, gave us the opportunity to start with a clean sheet of paper," said Ress. "Instead of just improving existing parts we made a fresh start and designed new ones. Our goal is to win races as soon as possible. To achieve that in such a competitive environment you have to take bold steps in order to have the chance of making a significant improvement."

The new car - two chassis are already completed and a third close to being finished - has already been run successfully at both Paul Ricard and Estoril, with Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Johnny Herbert both favorably impressed with some promising times being produced.

"The engine is not yet quite as good as the Renault," said Herbert, "but there are a couple of changes I can think of which will make it very competitive."

The team says that it is hoping to surprise people, not just with the launch of the car - but also with its performance.

The Sauber-Ford relationship, of course, is due to come to an end after the last race this year, with Ford top management having taken the decision to supply the V10 to the new Stewart Grand Prix operation.

The decision appears to have overlooked the fact that Stewart has no infrastructure to build F1 cars and currently does not have any money for his program, and there are some sources within Ford suggesting that negotiations with Sauber should not be stopped until Stewart's project is successfully off the ground.