#MotorsportTribune: Sauber... Who will it be in 2018?
Unless you have been living under a rock, two weeks ago three major stories occur around the world of Formula One. The first one was the announcement for new engine plans for the 2021 season, in which engine will be cheaper and noisier as the FIA said. So rejoice everyone, no more of that vacuum cleaner sounds of the V6 Turbo Hybrids in 4 years time.
Another major one was that Audi (or more like Volkswagen Group) brought up two of their representatives to the 2021 engine’s meeting in Paris. With one of the representative from VAG is none other than Stefano Domenicali. Domenicali was the former Scuderia Ferrari’s team principal from 2008 to 2014, he is now the CEO of Lamborghini S.p.A. Thus signalling intentions from VAG to now actually considering plans to enter Formula One either an engine supplier or a full blown factory outfit. Hey, we can dream of having the McLaren-Lamborghini reunion again right?
Lastly, the ever quiet Sauber is in talks with Honda and Mercedes about a deal to supply them engines from the 2018 and onward.
Now, this might be make or break for the struggling Swiss outfit as they desperately trying to find an engine that is competitive enough for them rather than running a year old engine from Ferrari. During a recent interview, team principal Monisha Kaltenborn did hinted at a change of engine supplier for next season quoted:
"... we are open on our engine situation" - Monisha Kaltenborn
But let’s not forget, not only Mercedes and Honda are the only one involved. There might even be a possibility for Renault or the Hinwill outfit will remain again with Ferrari. So, let’s look at their possible options.
Mercedes seems to be the best options to take for Sauber. One major factors following the demise of their back markers rival Manor Racing is that the last remaining slot of the Mercedes’s customers engine program is now open.
It might be interesting to see the two reuniting again since 1994 when Mercedes ditched Sauber and moving to McLaren for 20 fruitful season with the Woking squad. Sauber and Mercedes are most well known for their successful ventures during the Group C era. Starting from 1985 and two years later Sauber received factory backing from Mercedes. Taking a total of 22 victories from 1985 to 1991, one of it was the overall victory of the 1989 24 Hours of Le Mans. During the demise of Group C in 1993, Sauber and Mercedes joined force and venturing into Formula One.
One of the reason supporting Sauber switch to Mercedes is Pascal Wehrlein. Pascal is currently driving for Sauber following the demise of Manor Racing with Mercedes and Sauber reaching a deal to put a young German in. Mercedes still keen to keep Pascal moving up before putting him in a seat at the main team. It all depends on who will replace Felipe Massa at Williams after this season. If Wehrlein stays with Sauber, the chances are high that both Sauber and Mercedes will be reuniting again.
The only problem is, McLaren is also contacting Mercedes to also securing an engine deal before next season and might be finding a way out of its toxic relationship with Honda. Which we are moving on right now.
Honda right now is on the verge of losing their McLaren partnership for next year after this year’s engine still failed to deliver results to the Woking squad. With McLaren now wanting to find a way out of the Anglo-Japanese relationship. With the team wanting to have results in order to secure a title sponsor for next season and beyond, Zak Brown and Eric Boullier has to take drastic measures to stop the non-stopping slump of performance for the team.
Well, it’s not entirely Honda’s fault of the “failing marriage”. McLaren has been chasing the “Size Zero” concept and that was on of their reason to change their partnership from Mercedes to Honda. Some technical aspects of the Honda engine was from McLaren themselves in order to make the concept work. Unfortunately, it failed spectacularly. Sauber on the other hand might not forced Honda into such concept, each team has their own philosophy for their car so Honda might work for Sauber.
It’s a win-win situation for both Honda and Sauber, with the Swiss team now has more backings and might also locked in one of their future driver - Honda’s development driver Nobuharu Matsushita who is now in his third season in GP2/Formula 2 with ART Grand Prix. And Honda will have a new start and less pressure to deliver results than McLaren.
Sauber is now in their second stint with their counterpart from Maranello and it has been a long partnership between them. The first partnership was from 1997 to 2005 before the BMW takeover from 2006 to 2009. During that stint, Sauber was using re-badge Petronas engine supplied from Ferrari themselves. When Peter Sauber bought the team back in 2010 from BMW, they reunited again until now. But due to financial problems, they have elected to run the year old Ferrari power unit this year to cut cost, which proves to be slow but still reliable.
With Haas now being Ferrari’s “Golden Child”, it is reasonable for them to part ways with the Italian giants. But that might change because of one driver. Antonio Giovinazzi.
Antonio was called up to replace the un-well Pascal Wehrlein for the first test at Barcelona and also called in the last minute to replace the German for the Australian Grand Prix and next week’s Chinese Grand Prix. With the Italian performing well and on par with Marcus Ericsson, Sauber is showing strong interests for him if Wehrlein may end up moving to Williams to replace ex-Sauber driver Felipe Massa.
Ferrari and Sauber might work out a deal involving Giovinazzi as he is the Scuderia’s test driver and the Swiss outfit might be the place for him to drive full time next year with the new spec engine from Maranello to support Sauber. Finnancial support from Maranello, a talented talent and new engine; that’s the thing the Swiss team is looking for.
Although no news have been reported about Renault and Sauber, we can’t rule them out of the equation yet.
Well to be fair, Renault might be the least likely scenario to happen out of the four engine suppliers. Renault has their hands full with the main team Renault Sport F1, Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso. Looks like Renault also is having no intention of supplying engines to any other teams.
Well, still the most likely scenario would be this. If Jolyon Palmer still stays with Renault for next year. Renault and Sauber can work out a deal to put their engine and their reserve driver Sergey Sirotkin with large backings from SMP Racing. Or one other possible options if Toro Rosso still wants to retain both Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat. Red Bull could also work out a deal to put Pierre Gasly in the seat as well (although no guarantees of supplying them with Renault engine).
So it’s now on Sauber’s shoulders to decide who they should partner for next year. They will have until May 6 to confirm their plans to the FIA is time is ticking for them. Their decision might have a colossal affects for next year so we will have one month left to see how it will plays out.