The German car manufacturer, BMW, has acquired a majority stake in Switzerland’s only Formula One team, Sauber.This content was published on June 22, 2005 - 17:08
The current owner, Peter Sauber, said on Wednesday that the team headquarters would remain in Hinwil, near Zurich, and the 300-strong workforce would be kept on.
Sauber - one of the last privateers in Formula One - said the recent arrival of teams run by major car builders like Toyota, Renault and Honda made competing a struggle for small outfits.
"For the private teams in particular it has become increasingly difficult to secure the kind of solid financing that will also allow for sporting success," Sauber admitted.
"The partnership with BMW guarantees continuity," he added. "For that reason, too, it represents an ideal solution."
The Swiss bank, Credit Suisse, played a key role in the deal, agreeing to sell off its shares in the team to the German manufacturer over the next three years.
Sauber joined Formula One in 1993. Its best season was 2001 when it finished fourth in the constructors' championship and made the podium six times.
BMW said in a statement that it would race next season independently – the first time in its history of involvement with F1.
"At Sauber we have found a solid foundation for vehicle development and production, along with the requisite know-how and one of the most modern wind tunnels," said Mario Theissen, director of motor sport at BMW.
"The results achieved there so far [by Sauber] are worthy of respect in the light of the team’s limited budget," he added.
BMW will operate the team as an independent company based in Hinwil. It expects to increase the number of employees currently working there.
Up until now, BMW has provided engines for British outfit Williams, with the team racing under the joint name of BMW-Williams.
But relations between the two sides have deteriorated over recent months. Motor sport analysts say that the partnership is likely to end when this year's championship is over.
"For BMW, Formula One is thus the right platform for demonstrating our competence as a car manufacturer," BMW board member, Burkhard Goschel said in a statement.
Goschel was vague about the future of the relationship with Williams. "Naturally this decision impacts on our partnership with Williams F1," he said.
swissinfo with agencies
Sauber is taking part in its 13th F1 season.
The Swiss team claimed its first spot on the podium in 1995 at Monza.
Sauber celebrated its best season in 2001, coming fourth in the Constructors' Championship.
By taking over Sauber, BMW will start the 2006 F1 season as an independent team - the first time without a partner.
Currently, Ferrari has a contract to provide the engines for Sauber.
The Swiss team has an annual budget of SFr160 million ($126 million), which is about SFr300 million less than Ferrari.
Sauber's drivers this year are Felipe Massa and Jacques Villeneuve.
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