Analysis: End of the Road for Sauber

Peter Sauber's decision to sell his Formula One team to BMW provides a happy ending to the cigar-smoking Swiss's Formula One adventure

Analysis: End of the Road for Sauber

"The partnership with BMW is an ideal solution as it supports the two goals which have always been paramount for me," the 61-year-old said on Wednesday as the takeover was announced in Munich.

"Firstly, to offer the team the possibility of improving their sporting performance and secondly, to safeguard the site at Hinwil and the jobs of today's 300-strong workforce."

BMW will acquire the majority shareholding, entering the Championship for the first time as a team in their own right from 2006.

Sauber, whose Swiss-based team have not won a race in 206 starts since their debut in South Africa in 1993, will step down from operational management while remaining as an advisor to the German carmaker.

BMW said they would also increase the number of employees at the Swiss factory, which has one of Formula One's most advanced wind tunnels.

"The involvement of six car manufacturers has resulted in significant changes to Formula One in recent years," continued Sauber.

"For the private teams in particular, it has become increasingly difficult to secure solid financing which enables the achievement of sporting success as well.

"For some years I have also been thinking in terms of succession planning - in the light of the very specific demands of Formula One, that is no easy matter," he said.

"The partnership with BMW guarantees continuity.

"Over more than 35 years, I have guided this company through often stormy seas, which is why it is so important for me to know that it will be in good hands in the future as well."

Beetle Racer

Sauber, an electrician by trade, leaves as a respected boss who has quietly and methodically kept his team competitive against those with far bigger budgets.

His career in motorsport started with race-tuned Volkswagen Beetles, before he moved on to sportscars with a C1 - named after his wife Christiane - designed in the basement of his parents' house.

Since then, every Sauber has carried a C designation with the current Formula One car named the C24.

Among the early highlights was a Le Mans victory with Mercedes in 1989 and the world sportscar championship titles in 1989 and 1990.

Future Formula One World Champion Michael Schumacher was part of that Sauber sportscar team, along with Germany's Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Austrian Karl Wendlinger.

Supported by Mercedes, Sauber scored points in their debut race and were Ford's official works team in 1995 and 1996 with backing from sponsor Red Bull.

The team took a further step forward in 1997 with a technical agreement with Ferrari, using their engines under the name of sponsors Petronas and recording their best Championship finish with fourth place overall in 2001.

This season has been disappointing in comparison, with the car slower than expected and Canadian former World Champion Jacques Villeneuve struggling to match the pace of Brazilian teammate Felipe Massa.

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Series Formula 1
Teams Sauber
Author Alan Baldwin
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