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Swiss team gears up for formula one season

Switzerland's Formula One team has high hopes for this year's racing season, which kicks off in Melbourne on Sunday. The Red Bull Sauber Petronas team has totally revamped itself, with new engineers, new cars and a new driver.

This content was published on March 10, 2000 - 16:09

Switzerland's Formula One team has high hopes for this year's racing season, which kicks off in Melbourne on Sunday. The Red Bull Sauber Petronas team has totally revamped itself, with new engineers, new cars and a new driver.

Strictly speaking, Switzerland shouldn't have a Formula One team at all. The sport was banned here in 1953, following a particularly bad accident, and since then, teams cannot even put their cars or drivers through their paces on Swiss soil.

Nevertheless, the Sauber team has chosen to stay in Switzerland. The team's boss, Peter Sauber, says he has no intention of leaving, despite the difficulties. "We started here, working with sports cars and their prototypes, before expanding into Formula One, and we don't want to leave."

Sauber might be happy to stay in Switzerland, but he has been happy with little else. Recently, he has totally revamped the team, employing new engineers, new technicians, a new driver, and two new cars. He's optimistic that the new vehicles will boost the team's chances.

"I'm sure we are going to take a decisive step forward with the new car. Naturally, it depends on how good the competition is, but not only is the car as reliable as it was last year, but it also weighs less and the aerodynamics are better."

Sauber has reason to be optimistic. The engine for the new car was made by Ferrari, and should perform better than any car Sauber has had before.

Sauber also has high hopes for its new driver, the Finn, Mika Salo. He stood in for Michael Schumacher last year, and along with Sauber's other driver, Pedro Diniz from Brazil, is expected to push the new cars to better positions, both on the starting grids and finishing straights.

"Naturally, you can't compare our drivers with people like Schumacher," says Sauber. "But we are happy with both of them. They have potential, and are much more comfortable with the new cars."

And what of the fans? Like most sports, Formula One tends to be supported by home crowds. No one knows whether any Swiss will make the journey to Melbourne for the year's first race, but the team's Chief Executive Officer, Heinz Haller, believes there is plenty of support out there.

"At our launch in February, 7,000 people came to show they were behind us. I'm confident we have a strong fan base in Switzerland."

The same cannot be said of Swiss business. The team's main partners, Red Bull and Petronas are American and Malaysian respectively. This year, for the first time, a Swiss company has decided to put its colours on the car, but it is likely to be a long time before the team can recruit substantial support from business at home.

By Jonas Hughes

The 2000 Formula One Season

12 March - Melbourne, Australia
26 March - Sao Paulo, Brazil
9 April - Imola, San Marino
23 April - Silverstone, United Kingdom
7 May - Barcelona, Spain
21 May - Nürburgring, Germany
4 June - Monte Carlo, Monaco
18 June - Montreal, Canada
2 July - Magny-Cours, France
16 July - Spielberg, Austria
30 July - Hockenheim, Germany
13 August - Budapest, Hungary
27 August - Spa Francorchamps, Belgium
10 September - Monza, Italy
24 September - Indianapolis, United States
8 October - Suzuka, Japan
22 October - Sepang, Malaysia

Qualifying practice will take place on Saturdays before the race between 13.00 and 14.00 local time.

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