- Founded: 1993
- Based: Hinwil, Switzerland
- World Constructors' Titles: 0
- World Drivers' Titles: 0
- Grand Prix Victories: 1
- Pole Positions: 0
Peter was one of the quietest, least ostentatious team owners of the last decade and a half. He built his team from nothing to at first succeed in sports car racing in the late 1980s and early 1990s before joining Formula 1 in 1993. Although Sauber brought Mercedes into Formula 1 as an engine supplier, the German company decided in 1995 to join McLaren, and Sauber was left looking for an engine elsewhere. The team enjoyed a long and fruitful partnership with Ferrari engines, from 1997 to 2005 - although they were badged with the Petronas name - and Peter was one of the most successful of the private team owners. In 2012 Sauber, about to turn 70, said he still had no desire to retire and stop going to races and sitting on the pit wall. He had started his own racing career in the 1960s, and the company was by then 40 years old.
A Brief History:
The Sauber team was one of the strongest of the private teams at the beginning of the manufacturers' era. Although the team never won a race or even scored pole position, it finished in sixth place in the series in 1993 and maintained roughly the same level throughout its 13 years in F1. Sauber finished as high as second in 2007, but after McLaren was kicked out of the series for the spying scandal.
The BMW Years:
After its first season, BMW's split with Williams looked like the right move. BMW finished sixth in the series with 36 points, and scored two third places, while Williams finished eighth and took no podium finishes. Sauber with BMW then showed strong progress in winter testing as it prepared for the 2007 season. It finished second that year, and then third in 2008. BMW stayed with the team again in 2009, but finally dropped out of the series at the end of that season. Nevertheless, the team kept the BMW moniker as part of the name until the end of 2010.
Analysis of the BMW Years:
Often criticized by F1 watchers both for leaving Williams and for his treatment of Jacques Villeneuve, Theissen has shown in his first season running the new team that he is capable of making good decisions that make results. If the team continues to develop with the same speed it has been doing so far, then it will soon challenge the more established teams such as McLaren, Renault and Ferrari for the title. With a solid driver in Nick Heidfeld and the hungry and fast Robert Kubica, BMW also has a strong team of drivers necessary for earning regular points and victories. But in the end, BMW didn't have the commitment.
Back to Independent Status:
After BMW pulled out, Sauber had to restructure. Fortunately, BMW gave it the support for 2010, and it had also invested heavily in the team's factory, adding another building and making it a top F1 team factory. Peter Sauber took over control of his team again, and then the team managed for find support from Mexico, with its sponsors, and eventually, the Mexican driver, Sergio Perez. The team received support from a Mexican alcohol company, from Telmex, the telecommunications company owned by Carlos Slim, and Perez's career had been supported by Telmex. The team suddenly saw a revival in its fortunes in 2012. At the Malaysian Grand Prix of 2012 with Perez driving, the team finished in second place and had Perez not made a small error near the end of the race, he could have passed Fernando Alonso and won the race. Kamui Kobayashi would later make his strongest finishes in fourth.
Financial Fortunes and Results:
With annual budgets rising into hundreds of millions of dollars, Sauber could no longer compete in the early 2000s, and sold out to BMW, with 2005 being the last season strictly under the Sauber name. Peter Sauber ceased to run the team at the end of that year. But then BMW pulled out, and the cost of running an F1 team went down, Sauber returned, and the team was able to compete again with the top teams. With an increase in sponsorship, notably from several Mexican backers, and with the improvements made to the team factory in Hinwil, by BMW, it returned to a much higher level and could finally occasionally fight for victory.