Sauber set to split with Ferrari

Sauber could lose its supply of Ferrari V10 engines in 12 months time, when the current contract between the two companies expires, according to reports in Italy. The news has already been communicated internally at Ferrari's factory in Maranello and engineers currently involved on the Sauber programme are reported to have been told they'll be moved to other areas of the company

Sauber set to split with Ferrari

The Swiss team claims it has no knowledge of this and Peter Sauber, present at Barcelona for the first winter test, denied he knew anything about it.

"This would be very strange," he said, "because such a decision would have a big impact for us and, therefore, we should be told well in advance if this was the case so that we could prepare ourselves for the future. Recently Paolo Martinelli, the engineer responsible for the engine programme at Ferrari, was in Hinwill, to talk about next year's programme, and he said nothing about ending the cooperation between the two companies."

But the Swiss team owner, who watched his new signing Jacques Villeneuve make his debut for Sauber on Friday in Spain, did not deny that his team could swap engine supplys for 2006.

"It's true the contract with Ferrari expires at the end of 2005 and with the engine situation changing a lot for 2006 we have to look around to see what's best for the team. We've seen Toyota supply engines to Jordan for 2005 and there seems to be a bigger overture from most engine manufacturers currently involved in Formula 1 to supply engines to more than one team.

"I have to speak with everybody to see what opportunities are available for Sauber - that's my job - but nothing at the moment tells me we are not continuing our relationship with Ferrari beyond the end of the current contract."

According to sources close to the Swiss team, BMW and Toyota seem to be the best alternatives for Sauber should Ferrari go ahead with the decision to stop supplying engines to the Hinwill-based team. Talks between Sauber and BMW took place a while back but, so far, the Bavarian company has opted to concentrate all its efforts on the partnership with Williams. This may change in the near future, while Toyota has already opened the door to other teams by agreeing to supply engines to Jordan in 2005 and could, should the opportunity arise, do the same with Sauber in 2006.

Ferrari's decision to stop supplying engines to Sauber has, apparently, nothing to do with technical problems, but comes on the aftermath of a number of discussions between Peter Sauber and Jean Todt about the future of F1.

The Swiss manager surprised everyone in Interlagos, when he signed the same document as the other eight team principals which called for a serious reduction in testing. This left Ferrari, which does not support the proposals, isolated. This didn't please Jean Todt and even though the two men claim to remain in excellent terms, the relationship between their companies is certainly strained and could come to an end soon.

But this does not mean Ferrari will stop supplying engines to other teams in the future. According to Italian sources the Scuderia approached Red Bull's Dieter Mateschitz to discuss the possibility of supplying engines to the team he just bought from Ford, but Midland F1 team ownner Alexander Shnaider has also stated his interest in having the Italian engines for his newly formed team.

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