Q & A with Peter Sauber

Q: What were your reasons for agreeing to the buyout offer from BMW?

Peter Sauber: In the last ten years, Formula 1 racing has developed by leaps and bounds technically and as a result has become extremely expensive. That has made it extraordinarily difficult for small, independent teams to hold their own. We have an excellent infrastructure and really outstanding people, but otherwise we're a little short on everything. It's very difficult to keep up under these circumstances. That's why I announced years ago that I would be willing to work with a strong partner or even sell provided I could improve the team's motor sport future and safeguard both the jobs in Hinwil and the entire infrastructure. There's another important point. I'm now 62 years old. It was high time to find a good solution for the succession issue. The deal with BMW is thus also ideal in terms of timing.

Q: What's the new ownership situation?

Sauber: Credit Suisse, the main shareholder, will gradually reduce its stake to zero over the next three years. I'll also scale back my shareholding, but ultimately will keep 20%, which is quite a lot.

Q: as Credit Suisse involved in these negotiations?

Sauber: Of course. It was in the picture right from the word go and welcomed the sale for the same reasons I do. After all, it guarantees progress on the motor sport side and up to a certain point secures the future of Hinwil.

Q: Talking about Hinwil, what's going to change there in future for the staff?

Sauber: Very little will change for them. The team is 300 strong right now and will even be expanded somewhat. Teams like Renault or Williams employ 450 or 500 people. BMW doesn't want to go quite that far, but staff levels will be much higher than right now. And that's important not only for the employees but also for the entire region.

Q: So the jobs of all Sauber employees are guaranteed?

Sauber: There are no guarantees for jobs. I've been doing this for 35 years now. I've always offered attractive jobs and steadily built up the company. I think that's more important than talking about guarantees.

Q: How quickly will the new ownership make its impact felt on the work in Hinwil?

Sauber: The impact will be felt very fast. We have a state-of-the-art wind tunnel that is underutilized now because we don't have the personnel. We're operating only a single shift, whereas our competitors run three shifts. We want to change that, so we're going to increase our personnel as quickly as possible, but with all due caution of course. The same is true, for instance, of the test team, which only operates one car, while everyone else is using two. This is another handicap that we want to eliminate as quickly as possible.

Q: What will Peter Sauber's role be in the new BMW team?

Sauber: I will no longer have any operational role in the team. And that's a good thing. I've put my stamp on this business for the past 35 years. With BMW taking over, the new management will want to do a lot of things differently. BMW also has completely different structures. We need a clean break. However, I'll be around as a consultant to advise BMW and the team in the next few years.

Q: What are your thoughts at the end of this crucial day?

Sauber: That's a bit difficult for me to answer. On the one hand, I feel very relieved that the company with which I am so closely connected is in good hands. Since I started in Formula 1 racing, about ten different teams have come and gone. On the other hand, retiring from active involvement is certainly not easy for me. I think I won't really know what it means for me for another few weeks yet.

Q: Have you got any plans for starting something new?

Sauber: No. That's why I'm happy to have this consulting agreement with BMW. That will take up so much of my energy that it won't make sense to start anything new at the same time. But I hope that things will be a little calmer. With 19 races this season, I'm sometimes really at the limit.

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