Shadow of departed BMW hangs over new-look Sauber

Updated: Feb 01, 2010, 09:15 AM IST

London: Swiss-based Sauber presented their 2010 Formula One car on Sunday with the shadow of departed former owners BMW hanging heavily over a team bereft of major sponsors.

The new C29`s predominantly white livery bore more than a passing resemblance to last year`s BMW-Sauber F1.09 while the team`s official name remained BMW-Sauber, at least for the present for regulatory reasons, despite using Ferrari engines.

Founder Peter Sauber, a reluctant team principal after re-taking the helm at the age of 66 following BMW`s decision to withdraw at the end of last season, said money was not an immediate concern however.

"This season is financially secure but of course we have to look very strongly for new sponsors, not just for 2010 but for 2011 and more," said the Swiss, who started the team in 1993 with a budget of just USD 30 million.

"I am sure we will see more (sponsors) when we start in Bahrain (for the season-opener on March 14) or later at the start of the European season.”

"We have not had a lot of time to look for sponsors. We started close to Christmas and it was a very difficult time to find sponsors, especially big ones," he added at a presentation at Valencia`s Ricardo Tormo circuit.

BMW had originally intended to sell the team to the mysterious Swiss-based Qadbak Investment who said they were representing unnamed Middle Eastern interests.

That planned takeover was cancelled in November, with Sauber re-taking control of the 80 percent of the team he had sold to BMW in 2005.

Quick Exit

Sauber, who finished last season sixth overall, said the aim for the season was to perform as well but on a significantly reduced budget -- 40 percent less than last year on the chassis side -- and with the staff reduced to 260 employees from 388.

The Swiss said he would attend all the races and had no plans to seek a quick exit, even though forced out of retirement by the battle to secure the team`s survival.

"It`s not planned that I will stay for another five years," he said. "But at the moment it`s not the idea to sell the team. After these four years with BMW it has a brilliant infrastructure."

Sauber will have Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa, returning to racing at the age of 38 and three seasons since he last raced for McLaren, and 23-year-old Japanese Kamui Kobayashi.

The team boss, asked why De la Rosa had got the nod ahead of younger drivers with more recent racing experience such as Germany`s Nick Heidfeld, denied that there were financial considerations.

"Today we have no sponsorship from Pedro," he said. "I hope we can have it from the Spanish market in the future of course.”

"It was important to make a change," he added. "Nick drove for us for more than seven years. It is good for the team to have a new start, fresh air."

De la Rosa said he was looking forward to what amounted to his third comeback.

"I don`t know how much time I will need to sort the rust out," he told reporters. "Hopefully just a few laps. Personally, I would be very disappointed if we don`t finish in the points consistently."

Bureau Report