BMW may buy Sauber

UPDATE #8 See full story on Hot News page. They did not buy the entire team, but BMW will manage the team and therefore, have full control. 06/11/05 The BMW board has agreed to buy Sauber for $270m, rumor has it. But both the Munich carmaker and Peter Sauber's independent F1 team quickly snapped into action with denials. Sauber's spokesman said: ''The story … is not true. We expect to reach an (engine supply) agreement in June.''

However, BMW's current F1 partner, Williams, admitted that a buyout looked on the cards. ''I have been assured by Dr. (Mario) Theissen,'' Sir Frank Williams revealed, ''(that) the BMW board will decide … later this month whether they wish to … purchase Sauber.''

The team owner and principal also indicated that the damage was near the point of no return. ''The relationship,'' Williams added, ''has been just too hostile for too long.''

And Sauber driver Jacques Villeneuve did little to hide the possibility of a BMW deal. The French Canadian, who won the title with Williams in 1997, said: ''It'd bring in more money and a different attitude.''

06/10/05 We are bumping this rumor up to 'strong.' Reports from BBC Live Five say that BMW has now agreed terms to purchase the Swiss-based Sauber team for a rumored $270m. Neither party will comment……yet. 06/07/05 Swiss team boss Peter Sauber wants a swift conclusion to his negotiations with BMW. "I hope to be close enough to close an agreement soon, as it would be in the interest of both parties," Sauber told Italy's Autosprint magazine. "Unfortunately we haven't reached that point yet."

Sauber also told the magazine that he could have stuck with his supply of Ferrari engines and that money was a deciding factor. "It wouldn't have been a problem to stay with Ferrari, but they made it clear that they wanted to make money out of it," said Sauber.

05/28/05 Speculation linking BMW with Peter Sauber's Hinwil based F1 outfit is at melting point. New reports say BMW motor sport director Dr Mario Theissen last week drove home from Monte Carlo to Munich — via Switzerland. ''As I always do,'' he smiled, before laughing. ''I didn't even stop to refuel, I tell you!''

If BMW do buy Sauber, Theissen – predictably – would become new team principal. ''I am very happy in my current role,'' the German insisted, ''but the team structure with which we win … is of secondary importance.''

Tuesday, the next board meeting in Munich, is being touted as 'judgment' day for a BMW, Sauber – and Williams – verdict. Theissen said: ''Sauber is very well run. At the moment we are talking about engine supply and anything else is speculation.'' GMMF1net

05/24/05 BMW have refused to comment on renewed speculation that they are on the verge of buying the Sauber F1 team. According to reports in German newspaper Handelsblatt, BMW wants to buy the Swiss-based team to boost their racing profile.

BMW are understood to be disappointed with the performance of the Williams team – who have used the manufacturer's engines since 2000 – although the team's two-three result at the Monaco Grand Prix last weekend may have alleviated some of the pressure. "The fact is that we are negotiating with Sauber about providing motors from 2006," a BMW spokesperson said. "Everything else is speculation on which we don't comment." Meanwhile a spokesperson for the Sauber team said: "We are negotiating with BMW about motors and all the possibilities that go above and beyond this are speculation on which we don't comment."

05/17/05 In an interview for the Italian Autosprint magazine Frank Williams said: "I don't think they really want to buy Peter Sauber's team, and I don't think Peter wants to sell it." But he did add "Really, I don't know what will happen."

As the likelihood that BMW will be supplying Sauber engines next season Williams said: "Let's not forget that every manufacturer publicly pledged to supply a second team. Maybe that's what they want to do with Sauber. It would be their decision, which I respect and which I can't interfere with."

05/04/05 Mario Theissen, the head of BMW Motorsport is to propose to the BMW board of directors that the Munich company increase its investment in F1 and buy control of the Sauber team. The Swiss team is owned by the banking house Credit Suisse but Peter Sauber retains all the voting shares of the team, which means that he makes the decisions.

Credit Suisse bought the shares five years ago after Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz decided to cease his involvement with the team as an owner, following a dispute over whether the team should hire Kimi Raikkonen (Sauber's choice) or Enrique Bernoldi (Mateschitz's choice). The bank has enjoyed a lot of exposure for relatively little investment and might be willing to sell its shares despite the fact that the value of the F1 teams is at a low ebb at the moment because of the political uncertainty in the sport.

In banking logic it is better to take what one can rather than risk a loss in the future. Convincing Sauber to sell control of the team may not be a huge task, particularly if the deal means that he stays on in some titular role and enjoys motor racing without the responsibilities of being the team boss. Sauber is 61 and, while not really thinking of retirement, he might like an easier role. Theissen would be the new team principal, a role he clearly relishes.

Convincing the board of BMW will be another matter. BMW is disappointed with results that have been achieved with Williams in the last five years. Both sides must take some of the blame for that. The problem for Theissen is that having direct control will not necessarily guarantee better results, even if the team is run by Bavarian supermen. Sauber has had Ferrari engines for years but has yet to come close to the performance of the Italian team. Building up the team would require sizeable investment and would take time and during that phase of development there would be no guarantees of any big results.

Theissen's logic, according to our spies, is to stay with Williams as well, until Sauber is a success. This may sound like a wonderful idea for the men in Munich but it is hardly a vote of confidence in Williams and it is logical that in such a situation Williams would be on the lookout for an alternative engine partner with a little more faith. And if that happened BMW could end up with egg on its face.

05/04/05 German engine supplier BMW could be about to buy F1 privateer Sauber. According to the rumored plan, Peter Sauber's modest Hinwil based outfit would be re-branded as BMW's works team.

Speculation already links Sir Frank Williams' team, currently powered by BMW, with independent engine maker Cosworth, who are eager to find a customer for their well advanced 2.4 liter V8 design.

Dr Mario Theissen, overlooking the Williams collaboration as BMW motor sport director – and possible future Sauber-BMW team principal – said the Munich marque had a 'careful' eye on Grove. ''We will … review the performance in the coming season,'' he told Auto Action magazine.

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