SEPTEMBER 23, 1996
...with Ford engines?
The Sauber Ford relationship has been rather tense in recent weeks, Sauber is known to be unhappy at the attempts by Jackie Stewart - Ford's new works team - to convince the Malaysian government to pump sponsorship into Stewart Grand Prix. To date this has been moderately successful with a small sponsorship deal - rumored to be $2.5m - from the Malaysian Tourist Board so that the car will bear the message "Visit Malaysia".
In addition Sauber and Ford have been unable to agree on two particular sticking points: the amount of money Ford wants for the V10 engines and the specification of the engines which will be supplied.
Ford is understood to be offering Sauber a deal which will cost Sauber over $8m for year-old engines. Sauber says this is too much. In addition the team is arguing that it should get similar specification engines to those of Stewart.
Ford has to tread a careful path because while not wishing to upset Stewart it needs to make sure that if the Scottish team is not very successful, there will be a back-up.
The deal seems to be a stop-gap measure and in 1998 Ford looks likely to concentrate on Stewart, while Sauber is expected to forge a new alliance. Our sources suggest that a deal being discussed is for Petronas to fund a complete V10 engine, which would be called the Petronas V10. The Malaysian company recently tried to organize such a deal with Yamaha but the Japanese company wanted its name to remain in F1.
The most likely scenario at the moment is for the Malaysians to fund Brian Hart - who has a couple of V10 projects on the cards. This makes a lot of sense as the Malaysians are planning a major engineering project in F1.