Ties between the small Swiss Formula One team, Sauber, and Italian giant Ferrari are stronger this year than ever before.This content was published on January 13, 2004 - 15:42
The new C23 racing car, which Sauber presented in Salzburg on Monday, will have the same type of engine as the 2004 Ferrari.
Sauber have bought Ferrari engines since 1997 but always the previous year’s model. The Swiss team will also be using Ferrari’s seven-speed gearbox for the first time.
The new car was unveiled in front of 1,000 invited guests at Salzburg airport. Among those present were team boss Peter Sauber and drivers Giancarlo Fisichella from Italy and Felipe Massa from Brazil.
The C23 will make its track debut at Valencia in Spain on Wednesday.
The car is smaller and lighter than its predecessors and marks a new departure.
“We needed a break with the past,” Sauber’s chief engineer Jacky Eeckelaert told swissinfo. “With this car, we’ve made a big step with its aerodynamic properties.”
“We’ve still got to fine-tune the details in our new wind tunnel. But we’re also concentrating on the suspension to better adapt it to our Bridgestone tyres.”
Peter Sauber is confident that the C23 will be a clear improvement on the team’s 2003 car, which finished sixth in the constructors' championship. Ferrari came first.
“Our goal for 2004 is to clearly increase our performance,” he said, adding that success would depend on how quickly the team could translate the results of its wind tunnel work to the racetrack.
In Ferrari’s shadow
Besides having a Ferrari engine and gearbox, there are other connections between the teams.
Both Fisichella and Massa will test drive for Ferrari.
“The fact that the two teams are so close also played a part in my decision to sign for Sauber,” said Fisichella
He is tipped as a successor to partner Michael Schumacher when Brazilian Rubens Barrichello’s contract runs out at the end of the 2004 season.
But despite running on a relatively tiny $120 million (SFr147 million) budget, Sauber are keen to preserve their independence.
“If by chance a Sauber car was in competition with a Ferrari to win the race, nobody could ask us to slow down,” said Sauber’s technical director, Will Rampf.
According to the Swiss newspaper, “SonntagsZeitung”, the company receives $60 million sponsorship from Petronas, $30 million from Credit Suisse and $16 million from Red Bull, with the rest of its finances coming from smaller sponsors and race performance.
Sauber have been competing in the FIA Formula One World Championship since 1993. The team's development centre is in Hinwil near Zurich.
swissinfo, Mathias Froidevaux in Salzburg
Sauber’s Formula One adventure started about 12 years ago.
The company’s budget this year is about $120 million (SFr147 million).
Ferrari’s budget is $600 million.
About 1,000 people attended the presentation of Sauber’s latest car, the C23, in Salzburg, on Monday.
This season, the two drivers are Italian Giancarlo Fisichella and Brazil’s Felipe Massa.