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J J Lehto, Sauber C12.
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Why a Mercedes U-turn couldn't deny Sauber's F1 debut surprise

Having wedded itself to a future with Audi in the hope of recapturing the success of its BMW dalliance, Sauber has a habit of forging strong ties with German car giants. But its first in F1 with Mercedes three decades ago perhaps should have yielded much more

Thirty years ago today, the Sauber team made its grand prix debut in South Africa and announced its arrival with a stunning fifth place for JJ Lehto. No new team had made the top six on its debut since Wolf won in Argentina in 1977. The Formula 1 world was surprised by the form of the newcomer, whose sleek black car carried only a few logos, including one that proclaimed ‘Concept by Mercedes-Benz’.

The fact that the Swiss squad’s first F1 car was designated C12 was a good clue as to why it had come out of the blocks so strongly. Peter Sauber had been manufacturing racing cars for over two decades, and had won the world sportscar championship with works Mercedes support in 1989 and 1990.

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