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Exclusive Peter Sauber Q&A: Ferrari-powered C29 on schedule 30 Nov 2009

Peter Sauber (SUI) BMW Sauber F1 Team Adviser.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monza, Italy, Friday, 12 September 2008 Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.09. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 1 November 2009 Peter Sauber (SUI) BMW Sauber F1 Team Adviser.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 31 October 2009 Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1.09 makes a pit stop.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, British Grand Prix, Race, Silverstone, England, Sunday, 21 June 2009 A BMW Sauber Team photograph with key personnel (L to R): Peter Sauber (SUI) BMW Sauber F1 Team Adviser; Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1; Dr Mario Theissen (GER) BMW Sauber F1 Team Principal; Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber; Willi Rampf (SUI) BMW Sauber Chassis Technical Director; Christian Klien (AUT) BMW Sauber Third Driver.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 3 April 2009

Ask anyone in Formula One racing and they’ll tell you Peter Sauber’s a real gentleman, even in the heat of competition. For the last four years he’s taken a back seat after BMW purchased a controlling share in the team he founded. But following the German carmaker’s withdrawal from the sport, he’s returned to the spotlight after buying it back. Though widely welcomed, the move has come as a surprise to many, not least Sauber himself. They may not yet have a confirmed grid slot for 2010, but Sauber is confident about stepping into the breach once more, with the Ferrari-powered C29 very much on schedule...

Q: Peter, what does the agreement with BMW really mean? Is it true to say that both parties wouldn’t have reached an agreement if there hadn’t been strong signals that the team had a slot on the 2010 grid…
Peter Sauber:
This agreement means that the future of the team and the location in Hinwil are secured. I am very relieved about that development. It would have been a crying shame had one of the best Formula One factories closed down. Regarding the slot on the grid I am very confident that we will be given a final confirmation very shortly.

Q: Do you expect the confirmation to come during next month’s FIA meeting in Monaco?
PS:
I am pretty confident that there will be a decision before that date.

Q: Did you feel obligated to keep the team alive?
PS:
I was strongly focused on that topic before I made the decision to acquire the team. Now the responsibility rests solely on my shoulders, but be sure that I will do everything in my power to secure a positive future for the team.

Q: How have you got the finances in place? Will Qadbak, the investment group that had planned the original deal with BMW, get involved now? Or do you envisage something similar to what happened between Honda and Brawn last year?
PS:
I have obtained the financial resources for the acquisition by myself. No other backers are involved.

Q: There was always an air of mystery surrounding Qadbak, with some suggesting the name was a composition of the initials of Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain. Can you shed a bit more light on it now?
PS:
I have not made any comments on Qadbak in the last two months and I want to keep it that way.

Q: You faced a difficult task to reduce the number of staff by around 130 to reach the agreed headcount of 250. The Hinwil workforce was a perfectly functioning unit. How have you tried to avoid slumps in quality?
PS:
That was indeed a very painful procedure. In my 40-year career as an entrepreneur I have never before had to lay off staff on financial grounds. All departments were equally affected by the cutbacks and there is a hope that no quality issues will arise. Regarding performance, we will try to compensate for the lower headcount through efficiency.

Q: You could benefit from Toyota’s withdrawal. Without it, would you have to have waited for one of the new entrants to falter?
PS:
The FIA had already promised us the 14th slot on the grid. Under that circumstance it would have been our obligation to persuade the one team that had voted against us to accept our entry.

Q: From your position as a minority stakeholder you have been propelled back into the team principal’s role…
PS:
It was truly never my desire to return to the pit wall. But once I decide for myself to get involved with something, then I am fully committed and do it with all my passion.

Q: It seems as though the development of the 2010 car has not been affected by BMW’s withdrawal. What is the state of affairs?
PS:
Our 2010 car is perfectly on schedule. The development and fabrication have been unaffected by the situation. Having been able to proceed with uninterrupted development was also possible thanks to excellent cooperation with Ferrari, who submitted all the relevant data very early. Regarding the performance of the C29 we are all very confident. Two months before the first tests, we have already reached a very good basis for further development.

Q: So after four years of racing a BMW engine, you’re back using a Ferrari engine…
PS:
That was one of the fixtures very early on. Shortly after BMW announced its withdrawal at the end of July I talked to (Ferrari chairman) Luca di Montezemolo and in a very short time - and without any bureaucracy - we received an okay. We will use a Ferrari engine and drive train.

Q: How about the driver line-up? Is the market for good drivers already swept clean?
PS:
No, definitely not. And we have two very attractive cockpits to offer.

Q: How is your schedule looking for the coming weeks?
PS:
On my personal list there are two priorities - the slot on the grid and the Concorde Agreement. Then I will look for drivers. My guess is that a lot of time will be consumed by the restructuring from 380 employees to 250.