Peter Sauber returns

"This is like walking my daughter down the aisle"


31 January 2010 - 15:20
Peter Sauber returns

Peter Sauber is making a new start. At 66 years of age, he is back in the saddle as boss and owner of his F1 team. After four years in a relatively low-key advisory role, his life became a whole lot more demanding in the second half of 2009. When BMW pulled out of Formula One, Sauber set to work with Monisha Kaltenborn and the powers-that-be at BMW to launch a rescue plan for his life’s work. “I wanted to keep the people and the technological expertise of the team together,” he explains.

Sauber’s position within the team now has a different profile from days gone by. While he remains President of the Board of Directors and will lead the Hinwil-based team as Team Principal at trackside, he will no longer take an active role in operations in Hinwil. That will be left to the management team under the leadership of Managing Director Monisha Kaltenborn. “I’ll continue to keep myself informed on all important developments,” says Sauber, “but will leave operational matters to the management in Hinwil.”

This division of responsibilities not only freshens things up within the company, but also leaves Sauber some room to breathe. He splits his time between an apartment in Wilen on Lake Zurich and his second home in Laax. Brief windows in his schedule give him the chance to go for a ride on his motorbike or head for the ski slopes.

“For me, this is like walking my daughter down the aisle,” Sauber had beamed when BMW took over the team in 2005. Four years on, he is rolling up his sleeves once again. The battle to survive as an independent team in Formula One has brought with it one or two difficult periods in the past, but he has always overcome the hurdles with an air of understatement rarely associated with Formula One.

Sauber has never been one for the glamour or political wrangling of the sport, and has yet to be visited by scandal in all his time in racing. Married for over four decades now, he has fronted the designation of each of his racing cars with the letter “C” – for Christiane, his wife of all these years. The couple have two grown-up sons – Philipp and Alex. The younger of the two, Alex (born in 1973), took over as Head of Marketing at his father’s company at the beginning of 2010.

In January 2006 Peter Sauber was voted ’Swiss of the Year’ for 2005 by the TV-watching public across the Swiss regions. The accolade from his fellow countrymen recognised his exploits in the worlds of both sport and business.

In his own estimation at least, Sauber – a qualified electrician – would not have made it very far as a racing driver. Yet he was still crowned Swiss champion in 1970 in the C1, the first racing sports car he built himself. However, his passion for the construction side of racing proved stronger, and this was matched by the courage to go it alone. His ability to convince others to follow his vision has paved the way for considerable achievements.

Look within the team and the evidence of his success is clear. Formula One can quickly exert a draining effect on those involved in the sport, but some Sauber employees have been on board for over 20 years now. Sauber has also demonstrated his powers of persuasion in negotiations with the bosses of big companies. It was he who brought Mercedes back into competitive racing in the 1980s and it was his team with which BMW went on to plan a future in Formula One.


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