The Swiss Sauber team announced an “announcement soon” on its Twitter channel on Thursday morning, specifically for 27 September. The tweet is under the hashtag #KeepMakingHistory – loosely translated: “Let’s keep making history!” – Many had reported that this was the announcement of the Audi deal. However, this is not correct. Rather, another announcement is expected from the Sauber team, possibly news of the 2023 driver line-up or a new partner.
An Audi entry into Sauber is still expected regardless but remains a subject of speculation for the time being. Most recently, there was talk of an eventual 75 per cent takeover of the team’s shares by 2026, with a deal carried out in several installments that could initially start at a 25 per cent stage.
By the time the remaining 25 per cent remains the current team owner Finn Rausing of Tetra Pak fame wants to keep for himself, at least according to the latest knowledge of “Radio Paddock”. Nevertheless, according to well-informed circles, the team will be called Audi and will act as a “thoroughbred” works team.
This marks the beginning of a new chapter for the Sauber team. Company founder Peter Sauber sold his last shares to the investment company Longbow Finance in 2016, within which the Rausing family also appeared as a partner for the first time.
Alfa Romeo has been the title sponsor of the Swiss racing team since 2018, and the sole name sponsor since 2019. However, the cooperation with the Alfa Romeo brand will end at the end of 2023, an inevitable consequence of Audi’s entry, because otherwise two competing car manufacturers would be involved in the same team.
While Audi’s entry into Formula 1 from 2026 onwards is already taking on very concrete forms, there is still no solid news from sister company Porsche. According to reports, no partnership with an existing team is being considered after the Red Bull deal fell through, but alternative scenarios are being examined.
According to information from ‘Motorsport-Total.com’, a joint venture with Michael Andretti, who would like to enter Formula 1 just like Porsche, is also out of the question. Andretti-Porsche would have its fans both among fans and in the Formula 1 paddock.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, for example, had always clearly declared his opposition to Andretti becoming the eleventh member of the exclusive Formula 1 club to be run by a privately owned team. However, should Andretti have a globally known OEM like Porsche in tow, he would change his mind.
“If someone new wants to enter Formula One, anyone is free to apply to the FIA,” Wolff says. “Then the FIA and Formula One have to understand whether such a team could be profitable for our business. That has not been the case so far.”
“But if now a team comes along with an OEM, that’s a completely different set of conditions. I say that from my point of view as a shareholder in a team: if the pie gets bigger, I have no problem sharing the pie with more people than before.”
What Wolff means by this is that while an Andretti team would undoubtedly be popular with fans, the financial benefit it could bring to Formula One is presumably manageable. A manufacturer like Porsche, on the other hand, usually has big blue-chip sponsors in tow, who book perimeter advertising at racetracks, for example, thus enlarging the pie for everyone.
If the cake does not get bigger, the existing teams understandably have an interest in not sharing with more people. Wolff explains:
“Formula One is prospering because we have ten teams with an independent DNA that have invested several billions in Formula One over many years. That has made Formula One what it is today.”
An investment that those who made it want to protect. Wolff has never made a secret of his position on this issue. At the same time, however, he stresses that he has no decision-making power: ”
I can give my opinion. But I think Mohammed (bin Sulayem, FIA president) and Stefano (Domenicali, Formula One CEO) will make their own decisions.”
“No matter what I say, if Stefano thinks it will bring in more sponsorship money, he will be for it. And if the FIA thinks an eleventh team would be good for F1, they will be for it too. The teams have no say in it. All this talk about Toto having such a big say in locking out other teams is pure polemic,” says Wolff.
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Yeh, Yeh. Toto has no say in it eh? Domenicali & Sulayem Play to whatever tune Toto calls. Too afraid not to, they have already proven that. “Yes Toto, whatever you want Toto”
Wally by name, Wally by nature.