Q & A with Mario Theissen
|By Jonathan Noble||Thursday, September 24th 2009, 13:17 GMT|
The BMW Sauber team's future looks brighter after it found a new owner in the shape of the Qadbak investment group - but with no space in the 2010 Formula 1 entry unless another squad withdraws or the FIA can increase the field to 28 cars, the team remains in an uncertain position.
As current boss Mario Theissen told the press in Singapore today, he remains confident that the team will be on the grid and in competitive shape next season.
Q. BMW Sauber announced that it had found a buyer for the team last week, but it came after the FIA announced that Lotus had got the final slot. Can you explain the background to the timing?
Mario Theissen: It was incidental. The negotiation had been ongoing for several days, and the buyer was aware of the situation about the start position. So it just incidentally came at the same time.
Q. But if the decision to buy had come 24 hours earlier, do you not think you would have got the automatic entry?
MT: I don't know. I don't know. It would be something for the FIA to answer.
Q. What is the status now regarding your entry for next year?
MT: We are very confident to be on the grid next year, and the new investor apparently is quite strong. He wants to continue with the team in a strong state, not just as an also-ran. That is an excellent perspective for the team. We could not really expect that. So there is strong morale. The team is really positive. We have a good upgrade for the car here, and we want to achieve something in the final four races.
Q. Why are you so confident? Does the investor know something about the entry situation - because it is a lot of money to spend if you don't have an entry?
MT: They know what to expect. They know about the financial structure of the team, and they have a clear view of what they want to achieve. In order to be a strong team next year, it takes some resources – and they are prepared for that.
Q. Do they have a plan B if you don't get an entry?
MT: The FIA has announced a plan B already, and they have immediately started an initiative to allow 14 teams on the grid next year.
Q. But is there room for that?
MT: I think so. I think so. I don't know if there is a certain limit depending on performance, but for the lower categories like Formula BMW we know we can go up to 39. I think it would be possible to do it for 28 cars.
Q. So does that mean the new team will definitely be on the grid, and you will be team principal?
MT: That is a lot of assumptions. We are confident that the team will be on the grid next year, either as number 13 or number 14. My personal future is fully open, and I will keep it open until the end of the season. It would not be helpful to mix up my own situation with all the efforts to secure the future of the team. And I am not concerned that there will be [too little] time later this year.
Q. So who is doing the planning for next year? You or the new owners?
MT: We are still operating the team. Apparently, all the decisions are done together with the new owner. But we are still in charge, and we have to do anything necessary to give the team a strong future until Abu Dhabi.
Q. Which engines will the team run next year?
MT: It will run a Ferrari power-train.
Q. Does Peter Sauber have any equity in the new deal? Will he be involved in the team?
MT: This is open as well. It is up to the new owner coming to an agreement with Peter Sauber. It is between those two parties.
Q. So what is the situation regarding his 20 per cent shareholding?
MT: The previous situation has nothing to do with the future one.
Q. So were his shares written off then?
MT: Peter Sauber had 20 per cent with the current team. It doesn't mean anything for the new team.
Q. And the finance is all secure, and due diligence done?
MT: We have no concern at all about the seriousness and the capabilities of the investor.
Q. What about the development of next year's car. Are you working on that?
MT: Yes. It is ongoing. We kept full pace with everything and it is in the interests of the new owner to keep on going as strong as we can, so there is no change at all.
Q. And the driver situation is completely open?
MT: Drivers is open, yes.
Q. How many people within the organisation know who Qadbak is, or which people are behind it?
MT: So far, Qadbak has not identified the background of its operation to the team. It wants to keep it confidential.
Q. So even the board of BMW does not know?
MT: There is certain information available to individual people at BMW, but that is all I can tell you.
Q. Do you know?
MT: I wouldn't tell you if I was!