BMW Sauber

Founding Years

Sauber motorsport began life in the 1970s when Swiss-born Peter Sauber began building cars. His first car was built in his parents’ basement, and powered by a Ford engine. He raced his car in a hill-climb championship in Switzerland, but soon after handed over the driving gloves and focused on building cars for other drivers. By 1973 Sauber had begun to become successful, and that year he built three of his custom Sauber C3 cars for different customers. All were used in the Swiss Sports Car Championship. 1974 brought the next development of the car, and the first and only C4 was developed with an aluminium chassis.

The next year was when things began to look up, and the Sauber C5 was built, with a new 2-litre BMW engine. The car was an instant classic, winning the 1976 Interserie Championship and entering the world famous Le Mans 24-hour race in 1977 and 1978. A year later the team took a break from making the C-series of Sauber cars, and began making the Lola F2.

In 1985, Sauber linked up with Mercedes-Benz, the beginning of a relationship that would see the team consider and eventually enter the world of Formula One. In 1989, a return to building the C-series of cars saw the team, in conjunction with Mercedes, win the Le Mans 24-hour race. The Sauber/Mercedes C9 excelled and also won the 1989 and 1990 world sports car championship

Formula One

By 1993, Sauber had decided to mount a serious F1 challenge, despite Mercedes’ decision not to get involved directly. However, the company continued to fund Sauber’s F1 adventure behind the scenes. The Sauber C12 was the first F1 car produced by the company, and finished fifth in its debut grand prix. However, the unreliability of the car proved to be its downfall, and Sauber ended the season in seventh place.

The next season Mercedes decided to enter the fray publicly, and the team was renamed as Sauber Mercedes. The new C13 car came complete with Mercedes pit crew and management. However the team was once again disappointing, and ended the season in eighth place after losing their star driver Karl Wendlinger, who suffered serious head injuries in a crash and was sidelined for most of the season. Mercedes severed its ties with the Sauber team soon after, signing a deal to form Mercedes McLaren.

In 1995 Sauber signed a new works deal with Ford, and in the same year secured a 10 year sponsorship deal with Red Bull. The season saw a return for Wendlinger, though it soon became clear that his accident had seriously affected his driving ability. He was replaced by rookie Jean-Christophe Boullion after two races, who was partnered by Heinz Harald Frentzen. The new C14 with a Ford engine was again unreliable, though the team managed an improved seventh place in the constructor’s championship. 1996 saw the Sauber-Ford partnership place seventh yet again, despite an upgraded C15 car with new Ford engines.

The next season Sauber set up their own works company, Sauber Petronas Engineering, to produce engines for their cars. The company produced Ferrari designed engines that were almost exactly the same as those sold by Ferrari themselves. The team continued to perform with mediocrity, until 2001, when a young Kimi Raikkonen joined the team. His talented driving gave the team 21 points that season, the most they had gained since joining Formula One. Raikkonen was soon snapped up by the big boys, but another young talent was signed to the team in the form of Felipe Massa. Both Massa and Raikkonen would go on to partner each other at Ferrari in the 2007 season. Massa stayed with Sauber for a number of years, helping them maintain a healthy standard of placing in the championship.

In 2006, Sauber was bought by BMW, and re-branded as BMW-Sauber. Team Sauber’s last grand prix was in China in 2005, when loyal driver Felipe Massa finished sixth.

BMW Sauber came fifth in its first season in F1, a higher finish than Sauber had ever managed before the takeover. Founder Peter Sauber remains on the staff of the newly formed team. Nick Heidfeld and Jacques Villeneuve were named as the drivers for BMW Sauber’s first F1 season. 2006 was also the year in which the team trialled the ‘twin towers’ addition to the front of their cars, designed to improve aerodynamics and give advanced performance. However, the idea was soon scrapped after the governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), banned the concept, stating that it could compromise safety as it reduced the driver’s view of proceedings.

In 2007, Villeneuve was replaced by former reserve driver Robert Kubica, who partnered Heidfeld. The team confirmed itself as the best of the rest, behind championship fighters Mercedes-McLaren and Ferrari, both of whom race with higher performance cars. BMW Sauber finished the season in second place in the constructors championship, after McLaren were stripped of their points earlier in the season following a spying scandal involving Ferrari. Heidfeld and Kubica finished 5th and 6th respectively in the driver’s championship, placing behind the drivers of Ferrari and McLaren. The two have been confirmed as the teams’ partner drivers for the 2008 season.

Sauber F1 History

1993
Drivers: Wendlinger, Lehto.
Constructors Championship Points: 12

1994
Drivers: Wendlinger, de Cesaris, Lehto, Frentzen
Constructors Championship Points: 12

1995
Drivers: Wendlinger, Boullion, Frentzen
Constructors Championship Points: 18

1996
Drivers: Herbert, Frentzen
Constructors Championship Points: 11

1997
Drivers: Herbert, Larini, Morbidelli, Fontana
Constructors Championship Points: 16

1998
Drivers: Alesi, Herbert
Constructors Championship Points: 10

1999
Drivers: Alesi, Diniz
Constructors Championship Points: 5

2000
Drivers: Diniz, Salo
Constructors Championship Points: 6

2001
Drivers: Heidfeld, Raikkonen
Constructors Championship Points: 21

2002
Drivers: Heidfeld, Massa, Frentzen
Constructors Championship Points: 11

2003
Drivers: Heidfeld, Frentzen
Constructors Championship Points: 19

2004
Drivers: Fisichella, Massa
Constructors Championship Points: 34

2005
Drivers: Villeneuve, Massa
Constructors Championship Points: 20

2006
Drivers: Heidfeld, Villeneuve, Kubica
Constructors Championship Points: 36

2007
Drivers: Heidfeld, Kubica, Vettel
Constructors Championship Points: 101