History & Heritage
Dive into our rich racing heritage
History & Heritage
Tales Of The Unexpected31 December 1958
Tales Of The Unexpected
Start28 February 1959
Peter Sauber had never been particularly interested in cars, and motor racing didn’t do anything for him at all. The fact that Sauber Motorsport has stayed in business more than 45 years had a lot to do with chance in the early days, but afterwards it was down to sheer perseverance and, later on, a good deal of hard graft and skill.
1960s31 December 1959
Peter Sauber’s father owned a company for electrical systems which employed around 200 staff and had premises in Zurich as well as on Wildbachstrasse in Hinwil. Peter Sauber’s career path seemed to be mapped out. He trained as an electrical fitter with the aim of gaining further qualifications and following in his father’s footsteps. But it would all turn out rather differently.
196731 December 1966
The very first steps into motorsports: In 1967 Sauber used to drive to work every day in a VW Beetle – until a friend persuaded him to have some tuning work done. For a bit of fun he then entered it in a few club races in 1967. Far more significantly, it sparked his passion for tinkering with cars. He modified his Beetle to such an extent that eventually it was no longer fit for road use.
The Sports Car Era31 December 1967
The Sports Car Era
1970/131 December 1969
In 1970 Peter Sauber decided to set himself up as an independent builder of open two-seater racing sports cars. Out of the cellar of his parents’ home in Zurich emerged the Sauber C1. He used the first name of his wife Christiane as the model designation.
1970/231 January 1970
That same year, he set up PP Sauber AG and moved into a specially built workshop on the premises of his father’s company in Wildbachstrasse. With the C1 he won the 1970 Swiss sports car championship, but soon whittled things down to the occasional appearance as a racing driver. In 1974 he donned his helmet for the last time before turning his full attention to car construction. The “C” was retained as a trademark.
197631 December 1975
It wasn’t the easiest of tasks Sauber had set himself: surviving on constructing racing sports cars in Switzerland seemed a doomed prospect. But he would not be deterred and was determined to battle on. The working day often stretched deep into the night and money was in short supply. Sauber achieved international prominence with the C5 in which Herbert Müller won the then acclaimed Interserie championship in 1976. That was followed by his first forays at Le Mans. By this time Sauber Motorsport had four employees on the payroll.
197831 December 1977
In 1978 the C5 was leading in the 2-litre class in the Le Mans 24 hours endurance classic until a defective exhaust valve in the BMW engine thwarted the attempt at victory by drivers Marc Surer, Eugen Strähl and Harry Blumer just before the end of the race.
198131 December 1980
In 1981 Hans-Joachim Stuck and Nelson Piquet won the Nürburgring 1000-kilometre race in a Sauber-built Group 5 BMW M1.
Sports Cars – The Group C Era5 January 1981
Sports Cars – The Group C Era
198231 December 1981
1982 was a decisive one for Sauber. He was commissioned by Swiss composite materials manufacturer Seger & Hoffmann to build a car for the Group C World Sports Car Championship: it was to become the Sauber C6. During this time he made contact with engineers at Mercedes who expressed an interest in motorsport – though all very much at a private level, as international motor sport had been an unmentionable subject for the Stuttgart carmaker since the tragic accident at Le Mans in 1955.
198531 December 1984
In 1985 Sauber began fitting his racing sports cars with Mercedes engines, moving a bit closer to the Stuttgart-based company as a result. Just a year later, Henri Pescarolo and Mike Thackwell won the Nürburgring 1000 Kilometres in a Sauber C8. Further triumphs were to follow, ultimately prompting Mercedes’ comeback to international motor racing.
198831 December 1987
From 1988, Sauber and his crew acted as Mercedes’ official works team.
Sports Cars – The Golden “Silver Years”5 January 1988
Sports Cars – The Golden “Silver Years”
198931 December 1988
Professor Werner Niefer, Chairman of Mercedes at the time, decided the cars should be painted silver, marking the revival of the famed ‘Silver Arrows’. The highlight of this partnership was the year 1989, which brought not only the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles in the World Sports Car Championship, but a one-two result in the legendary Le Mans 24-hour race as well.
199031 December 1989
The following year saw a repeat win of the World Championship title. Sauber Motorsport had grown to a workforce of 50. It was also during this time that the junior team was set up, based on an idea of Sauber’s business partner of the time, Jochen Neerpasch. The drivers selected were Michael Schumacher, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Karl Wendlinger. Peter Sauber paved the way for all three to enter Formula One.
Preparations for Formula One Entry5 January 1990
Preparations for Formula One Entry
199131 December 1990
With the lustre of the World Sports Car Championship beginning to fade, Mercedes now looked to Formula One. In the summer of 1991 it was declared a joint project, and preparations went into full swing. Sauber set about building a new factory on the company site in Hinwil. However, that November brought with it bad news. Due to the straitened economic climate, the Mercedes board had decided against sending a works team into Formula One.
199231 December 1991
Sauber had two options: to accept a financial settlement and withdraw, or to use the money as start-up capital for his own Formula One involvement. In January 1992 he took the plunge, and by autumn the first tests in the C12 were under way, with an Ilmor engine providing power. The company was then employing just under 70 staff.
Formula One – The Early Years5 January 1992
Formula One – The Early Years
199331 December 1992
On 14th March 1993, according to plan, two Sauber C12 cars driven by Karl Wendlinger and JJ Lehto lined up for the South African Grand Prix. With two World Championship points for fifth place claimed by the Finnish driver, this debut turned out an acclaimed success.
199531 December 1994
Contracts signed with Red Bull and Petronas in 1995 provided a solid foundation and enabled the Swiss team to establish itself as a firm fixture in Formula One. In 1995 and 1996 Sauber served as the works team for Ford. 1995 also brought the team’s first-ever F1 podium finish with Heinz-Harald Frentzen securing third place at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza.
199731 December 1996
From 1997 onwards the cars were powered by Ferrari engines bearing the name of the title sponsor Petronas. But the breakthrough was some time in coming.
200131 December 2000
Finally, in 2001, three high points in the team’s history arrived in rapid succession: the partnership with major Swiss bank Credit Suisse, fourth place in the Constructors’ World Championship secured in mid-October and, just a few days later, the ground breaking ceremony for the team’s very own wind tunnel.
200331 December 2002
Inauguration of the new wind tunnel building: Immediately adjacent to the factory building stands the state-of-the-art wind tunnel, which was officially opened in mid-December 2003 and went on stream in spring 2004.
200531 December 2004
2005 saw Peter Sauber on the lookout for a new engine partner. Now in his sixties, he was not disinclined to pass his life’s work on into capable hands. An offer from BMW seemed like a good solution. The car manufacturer, which had been involved in Formula One with Williams since 2000, was keen to set up its own works team. On 22nd June 2005, BMW announced its acquisition of a majority stake in the Swiss team.
Formula One – The BMW-Sauber Era31 December 2005
Formula One – The BMW-Sauber Era
200731 December 2006
Factory extension: Located between the first factory and office building (completed in 1992) and the wind tunnel building (opened in 2004) is the most recent extension, which was occupied at the end of 2007.
200831 December 2007
The 2008 season – the third year of the BMW Sauber F1 Team – would mark the next milestone in the history of the team. The extension at Hinwil had since been completed and the workforce had crossed the 400 threshold. The team’s target for that year was to achieve its maiden victory – which turned out to be a one-two, with Robert Kubica winning in Canada ahead of Nick Heidfeld. In all, the BMW Sauber F1 Team notched up 11 podium places in 2008. Kubica claimed the team’s first pole position in Bahrain and Heidfeld boosted the statistics with the first two fastest race laps. The team ended the World Championship in third place with 135 points.
200931 December 2008
Following a challenging start to the 2009 season, shock news broke on 29th July: at a press conference in Munich, BMW announced it was withdrawing from Formula One at the end of the season. The company bowed out with 36 points and sixth place in the World Championship. The next press conference would be held on 27th November 2009, this time in Hinwil. Peter Sauber had reached an agreement with BMW and bought back his life’s work. But the joy was tempered by disappointment as BMW had already decided to reduce the workforce. Employee numbers were whittled down from 388 to 260.
Formula One – Starting Over5 January 2009
Formula One – Starting Over
201031 December 2009
It was with this pared-down workforce, with Ferrari as engine partner and drivers Kamui Kobayashi and Pedro de la Rosa that the Hinwil team embarked on the 2010 racing season – its 40th season in motor racing.
201131 December 2010
After a good first half of the season, which saw the team occupying what looked like a safe sixth place in the Constructors’ World Championship, the team endured a drop in form. The Sauber F1 Team eventually finished seventh in the Constructors’ Championship on 44 points. Kobayashi was responsible for 30 of those, with Pérez recording 14 points. Both Kobayashi and Pérez, together with Mexican reserve driver, Esteban Gutiérrez, were confirmed for the 2012 season as early as the summer.
2012/131 December 2011
2012 was a very good year for the Sauber F1 Team, headlined by four podium finishes, 126 World Championship points and sixth place in the constructors’ standings – a position higher once again than the previous year and an achievement that earned the praise of many outside observers.
2012/210 October 2012
11th October 2012 marked a milestone in the history of the team – the day when Sauber stepped down as Team Principal and passed on the baton to Monisha Kaltenborn – making her Formula One’s first-ever female Team Principal.
201331 December 2012
The Sauber F1 Team started into the 2013 season with a new driver pairing. Nico Hülkenberg joined the Swiss squad for his third Formula One season. Esteban Gutiérrez was promoted from test and reserve driver to a race seat. The Sauber F1 Team finished the 2013 season seventh in the Constructors’ World Championship. Looking at 2012 where the team finished in sixth, this result was hardly satisfying. However there were also positive aspects: after the C32 had been barely competitive at the beginning of the season, the team was able to significantly improve during the second half of the season by scoring 50 points.
201431 December 2013
Esteban Gutiérrez went into his second year together with his new teammate Adrian Sutil, who was going to contest his seventh season. Due to different reasons, the Sauber F1 Team was not able to match its direct competitors from the beginning of the season. Insufficient performance, lack of reliability, mistakes by the pit crew or the drivers. In the course of the season the Swiss team was able to pick up on its competitors. However, the gap to the front was simply too big to be closed completely. The result was sobering: with zero points the Sauber F1 Team finished the World Championship in tenth position. It was the first time in the history of the team it finished a season without any championship points.
201531 December 2014
The Sauber F1 Team started with a new pair of drivers in its 23rd Formula One season, relying on two young, talented and highly motivated drivers — Marcus Ericsson and rookie Felipe Nasr — for the 2015 season. Regarding the Sauber C34-Ferrari, quite a bit had happened as well – not only did the design change, but also the colours from grey to yellow-blue. Furthermore, the Swiss team made progress from a technical point of view. Moreover, in 2015 the Sauber F1 Team celebrated an outstanding anniversary: the United States Grand Prix at Austin marked the squad’s 400th GP in 23 years of Formula One. By scoring 36 points and finishing eighth in the constructors’ championship, the team increasingly improved compared with the previous year.