Sauber has been sold quite a few times. The first time was back in 1995 when Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz purchased a majority shareholding in the team, although Peter Sauber retained the voting rights and so remained in control. In 2001 the two parties fell out over drivers (Mateschitz wanted Enrique Bernoldi and Sauber wanted Kimi Raikkonen) and the shares were passed on to Credit Suisse. At the end of 2005 BMW acquired the shares owned by Credit Suisse, while Peter Sauber retained a 20 percent stake but gave up his voting rights, although the team continued to be known as BMW Sauber. Four years later BMW gave the team back to Peter. The one strand throughout the process was that the Sauber name remained and this, it seems, is a primary consideration. Peter Sauber likes being the most famous team owner in Switzerland and is not overly keen on becoming the most famous ex-team owner, unless that is absolutely necessary. This year Sauber has been in need of money. There is a deal in place for the Russian government-controlled technology firm Rostec to become the team’s primary sponsor, but a sponsorship contract is worth nothing if the cash does not arrive and all the indications are that the Russians have been talking a good game, but not delivering. Yes, there may be problems relating to Ukraine and sanctions but the bottom line is that the time has come for them to sh*t or get off the pot.
With the Russians dithering, Sauber was hoping for other options, but the Simona de Silvestro option seems to have evaporated because the team needs her to bring money, rather than waiting for money that may or may not come if she was an F1 driver. Simona has not been seen at a race since the early summer and a decision is needed soon because sitting out two seasons without racing is not wise. No-one in F1 is likely to take her because of the risk factors involved and the only option would appear to be to return to the US and give up on the F1 dream. That is a bad idea given that a moderately-successful female F1 driver would be a huge bonus for the sport, but if no-one will give her the chance and she cannot pay for it then perhaps that is the wisest course of action. In a normal business, the promoter might size up the potential value of a woman F1 driver and invest to make it happen… but, of course, this is not a normal business.
An intriguing new element emerged in the days before Monza, with the suggestion that Canadian businessman Lawrence Stroll was taking an interest in investing in the team. Stroll has made inordinate amounts of money by buying the rights to fashion designers (he started out rich) and building up the brands. He did it with Tommy Hilfiger in the 1990s and more recently did the same thing with Michael Kors. He has also been involved with Pepe Jeans. Stroll has just sold about $1 billion worth of Michael Kors shares and is on the prowl for a new business. He is now reckoned to be worth around $2.3 billion and he is not afraid to spend his money. Having said that Stroll was involved with Team Lotus back in 1994 but did not come in as the white knight that was hoped for. He let the team die. There is a difference today because he now has a teenage son who may be quite a useful prospect. Lance Stroll is a Ferrari Young Driver and rumours suggest that his father has already bought control of the Prema Racing Formula 3 team in order to ensure that everything goes well for his son. The suggestion was that Stroll Sr would buy Sauber to make sure that his son gets into F1. It remains to be seen if Stroll delivers this time. In the interim the Dutch believe that Giedo Van der Garde has already signed a from contract to race for Sauber in 2015. The team is saying nothing at the moment the Dutchman cannot afford to stay out of racing for a second season and so needs to nail down a deal as quickly as possible. His backing comes from the Dutch fashion brand McGregor.