The Swiss team Sauber announced an “announcement soon” on its Twitter channel on Thursday morning, precisely for September 27. 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. On the contrary, 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, but remains a matter of speculation at this time. More recently, there has been talk of a possible takeover of 75% of the team’s shares by 2026, with a deal done in several tranches that could initially start at a 25% stage.
By the time the remaining 25% remain, current team owner Finn Rausing of Tetra Pak fame wants to keep it to himself, at least according to the latest insights from ‘Radio Paddock’. Nevertheless, according to well-informed circles, the team will be called Audi and will act as a “thoroughbred” factory team.
This marks the start of a new chapter for the Sauber team. Company founder Peter Sauber sold his last shares to investment firm Longbow Finance in 2016, in which the Rausing family also appeared as partners 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, cooperation with the Alfa Romeo brand will end at the end of 2023, an inevitable consequence of the entry of ‘Audi, because otherwise two competing automakers would be involved in the same team.
While Audi’s entry into Formula 1 from 2026 is already taking 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 collapse of the Red Bull deal, but alternative scenarios are being explored.
According to information from ‘Motorsport-Total.com’, a joint venture with Michael Andretti, who would like to enter Formula 1 on the same basis as Porsche, is also out of the question. Andretti-Porsche would have its fans among the fans and in the Formula 1 paddock.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, for example, had always made clear his opposition to Andretti becoming the eleventh member of the exclusive Formula 1 club to be run by a private team. However, if Andretti had a world famous OEM like Porsche, he would change his mind.
“If someone new wants to enter Formula 1, everyone is free to apply to the FIA,” says Wolff. “Then the FIA and Formula 1 need to understand if such a team could be profitable for our business. That has not been the case so far.”
“But if now a team comes with an equipment supplier, it’s a completely different set of conditions. I say that from my point of view as a shareholder in a team: if the cake gets bigger, I have no problem sharing the cake with more people than before.
What Wolff means by that is that while an Andretti team would no doubt be popular with fans, the financial benefit it could bring to Formula 1 is presumably manageable. A manufacturer like Porsche, on the other hand, usually has big blue chip sponsors, who book perimeter advertising at racetracks, for example, making the pie bigger for everyone.
If the pie doesn’t get bigger, existing teams naturally have an interest in not sharing with more people. Wolff explains:
“Formula 1 thrives because we have ten teams with independent DNA who have invested billions in Formula 1 over many years. This has made Formula 1 what it is today.”
An investment that those who made it want to protect. Wolff has never hidden his position on this issue. At the same time, however, he emphasizes that he has no decision-making power: “
I can give my opinion. But I think Mohammed (bin Sulayem, FIA President) and Stefano (Domenicali, CEO of Formula 1) will make their own decisions.”
“No matter what I say, if Stefano thinks it will make more money for the sponsors, he will be for it. And if the FIA thinks an eleventh team would be good for F1, it will be too. have no say in the matter. This whole discussion about Toto having such a big say in locking out other teams is pure polemic,” Wolff said.
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