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Slow start for Sauber in Formula One

Fisichella crosses the finish line Keystone

Swiss Formula One team Sauber have made a disappointing start to the season, failing to win a point in the opening grand prix in Australia.

Giancarlo Fisichella of Renault won the race in Melbourne ahead of Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello. Sauber’s Felipe Massa came tenth and Jacques Villeneuve was 13th.

Italy’s Fisichella, who drove for Sauber last year, finished the grand prix circuit in one hour, 24 minutes and 17 seconds. Massa had a time of 1:25:21.

Despite starting in fourth position on the grid, Villeneuve dropped back to 13th place, one lap behind the leader.

World champion Michael Schumacher did not finish, retiring after a collision with Williams driver Nick Heidfeld.

Sauber’s poor performance comes amid media speculation that owner Peter Sauber may sell the team.

An article published recently in the German magazine Focus claimed that BMW was negotiating the purchase of the Swiss team for €60 million (SFr93 million).

Sauber denies he wants to sell out but, after the departure of sponsor Red Bull, he needs to find a new partner.

Wind tunnel

The Bavarian firm wants to improve its record in F1 and would apparently like to get its hands on Sauber’s state-of-the-art wind tunnel, which opened last year near Zurich.

Peter Sauber has vehemently denied that negotiations to sell the team are underway, claiming he will not give up his life’s work. But he admits that he has been in talks with BMW about motor engines.

Sauber’s contract for the supply of Ferrari engines runs out at the end of this year, and a switch could have considerable financial advantages.

It costs the Swiss team SFr25 million per season for the Ferrari machinery, whereas BMW, Mercedes, Renault, Honda or Toyota could offer a much cheaper package.

Red Bull’s departure has made the problem even more acute, since it has left a yawning gap in the team’s budget.

“I want my company to survive in the coming years,” Sauber told German media. “If somebody can help me reach that goal, I’m not against it as long as it doesn’t clash with my own ideas.”

swissinfo with agencies

Sauber finished sixth last season in the constructor’s championship.

Sauber’s drivers this year are Canada’s former world champion, Jacques Villeneuve, and Brazil’s Felipe Massa.

The Swiss team has an annual budget of SFr160 million ($137 million), SFr300 million less than Ferrari.

Top three finishers in Melbourne:
Giancarlo Fisichella, Italy, Renault 1hr 24min 17secs
Rubens Barrichello, Brazil, Ferrari 1:24:23
Fernando Alonso, Spain, Renault 1:24:24

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR