Though still operated by Sauber, the team who have been in the sport since 1993 become Alfa Romeo Racing for 2019. With Kimi Raikkonen joining alongside Italian hotshot Antionio Govinazzi, will the team build on their 2018 midfield successes?
|Championships||2 (Alfa Romeo)
|First F1 Appearance||1950 British Grand Prix (Alfa Romeo)
1993 South African Grand Prix (Sauber)
|Wins||10 (Alfa Romeo)
|Poles||12 (Alfa Romeo)
|Team Principal||Frédéric Vasseur|
The Sauber team was founded in the 1970s by Peter Sauber, with the team progressing through hillclimbing and the World Sportscar Championship to eventually reach Formula One in 1993. In its sportscars days, the team fielded a number of future F1 stars, including Michael Schumacher in 1990 and 1991, who took two wins. Sauber has been somewhat of a proving ground for young F1 drivers, with Heinz Harald Frentzen, Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa, Nick Heidfeld and Giancarlo Fisichella passing through the team’s doors.
The team scored points on their Grand Prix début, where JJ Lehto finished fifth in the 1993 South African Grand Prix. Dietrich Mateschitz purchased a majority share in the team in 1995, and the Sauber team took Red Bull sponsorship from 1995 onwards, with their cars painted in a navy blue. In 2000, the team was forced to withdraw from the Brazilian Grand Prix due to rear wing failures. After a run of seventh and eighth finishes in the nineties, 2001 became the team’s best season to date, finishing fourth in the Constructors’ Championship. In 2005, Peter Sauber announced that he would be leaving his position as Team Principal, as the team were to be taken over by BMW, renaming themselves BMW Sauber.
The BMW Sauber era was a successful one, with Robert Kubica replacing Jacques Villeneuve mid-season in 2006 and scoring the team a podium on only his third outing. 2007 saw a terrifying crash for Kubica in Montreal, which, due to the Polish driver’s injuries, gave Sebastian Vettel his race début with the team at the U.S. Grand Prix. 2008 was the team’s most competitive season, and the team took their first and only win to date, scoring a 1-2 led by Kubica at the Canadian Grand Prix, one year on from his crash. The team finished third in the Constructors’ Championship.
After dropping to sixth the following season, BMW withdrew from Formula 1 at the end of 2009. Sauber slipped down the field for the next seasons before a resurgence in 2012, which saw Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi take four podiums between them, and Perez almost took the win in the 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix after a race-long battle with Fernando Alonso. Also during 2012, long-term team co-owner Monisha Kaltenborn stepped up to the position of Team Principal, becoming the sport’s first female Team Principal. Kaltenborn left her role in 2017.
The team slid back down the grid again with a new driver line-up in 2013, then had a point-less season for the first and only time in their history in 2014. In 2015, the team enjoyed a more mid-field position, with a new line up of Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr bringing the team regular points. The opening weekend of the 2015 season also saw the team embroiled in a legal battle with Geido van der Garde, who had been signed as a 2015 race driver but had not had the contract fulfilled. Lack of funding saw the team struggle in 2016, though Nasr’s two points scored at the penultimate round of the championship secured Sauber’s vital ninth place in the standings, ahead of Manor.
In 2017, as they celebrated 25 years of being in the sport, Sauber hoped to move up the grid and be challenging in the midfield. Monisha Kaltenborn left her role as Team Principal and was replaced by Frédéric Vasseur during the season. It was always set to be a difficult task with year-old Ferrari engines, and at the start of the season, when they were theoretically more competitive, they were without their only points scorer – Pascal Wehrlein – due to injury. Wehrlein amassed five points for the team from two rounds, while Marcus Ericsson failed to score.
Sauber were set to become Honda’s partners in 2018, until Vasseur essentially ripped up the contract on his first day at the team. With the benefit of current-specification Ferrari engines, and with new backing from Alfa Romeo as a title sponsor, the team moved up the grid with rookie Charles Leclerc scoring the majority of the team’s points. The team scored more points in 2018 than they had in the past four seasons combined.
For 2019, the Sauber name disappears from F1 with the team being re-branded as Alfa Romeo Racing. Alfa Romeo have an illustrious history with the sport, including winning the first ever F1 Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1950. They have taken ten victories, twelve pole positions and 26 podium finishes, and also provided Farina and Fangio with machinery capable of winning the first two F1 Drivers’ Championships.
As well as a new name, Alfa Romeo has an all-new driver line-up for 2019. Kimi Raikkonen becomes the fourth World Champion to driver under the Alfa Romeo name, after Giuseppe Farina, Juan Manuel Fangio and Mario Andretti. Meanwhile, Alfa Romeo continues its tradition of having an Italian driver in the team in every year in which they’ve competed, with Antonio Giovinazzi – who previously stood in at the team for the injured Wehrlein in 2017 – joining for his first full season. With a new identity, and with a World Champion on board, can the team continue its charge up the grid?
SAUBER’S RECENT F1 HISTORY
|2010||8th (44 points)||0||0||Pedro de la Rosa, Nick Heidfeld, Kamui Kobayashi|
|2011||7th (44 points)||0||0||Kamui Kobayashi, Sergio Perez, Pedro de la Rosa|
|2012||6th (126 points)||0||0||Kamui Kobayashi, Sergio Perez|
|2013||7th (57 points)||0||0||Nico Hulkenberg, Esteban Gutiérrez|
|2014||10th (0 points)||0||0||Esteban Gutiérrez, Adrian Sutil|
|2015||8th (36 points)||0||0||Marcus Ericsson, Felipe Nasr|
|2016||10th (2 points)||0||0||Marcus Ericsson, Felipe Nasr|
|2017||10th (5 points)||0||0||Marcus Ericsson, Antonio Giovinazzi, Pascal Wehrlein|
|2018||8th (48 points)||0||0||Marcus Ericsson, Charles Leclerc|