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Sauber - where did all the money go?
Even above the usual curiosity about what the shape of the car would look like, the overwhelming thought when the new BMW Sauber was launched at Valencia in early February was how lacking in logos the car was. The car is almost entirely devoid of sponsorship, a legacy of BMW’s withdrawal from the sport and the uncertainty over the team’s entry – BMW’s decision not to sign the Concorde Agreement before it pulled out of the sport left it without its most valuable selling point, an entry for 2010. Fortunately Toyota’s withdrawal opened up an opportunity just as Peter Sauber was setting about saving his old team.

But BMW will have a presence in Formula One this year, even if not in an official capacity. In much the same way as Honda effectively bankrolled the first year of the Brawn GP team in 2009 – as a result of having funded the design and build of the car – so BMW has done the same. That funding will dwindle away as the season goes on, pressing home the need for Sauber to find new sources of external sponsorship.

“We did not have much time to look for sponsors because we only just started before Christmas,” was Sauber’s verdict at the understated launch. “It is also a very difficult time to find them, especially major ones. I hope there will be more – I’m quite sure there will be more on the car in Bahrain, or no later than the beginning of the European season.”

Whilst looking for sponsors, Sauber has also been downsizing the team, bringing staff levels at Hinwil down from around 250 to 130 by the time the season starts. “That was indeed a very painful procedure. In my 40-year career as an entrepreneur I have never before had to lay off staff on financial grounds. All departments were equally affected by the cutbacks and there is a hope that no quality issues will arise. Regarding performance, we will try to compensate for the lower headcount through efficiency.”

It is clear that the long-term future of the team will rely on sponsorship funds being found as the season progresses. As it stands the team is thought to have a budget – swelled by the inclusion of BMW’s resources that spilt over from last year – of around US$150 million. Long-term, however, Sauber has made no secret of the fact that the team is effectively up for sale. He is not regarding his second stint in charge as anything more than a temporary one. SportsPro Media
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