BMW has abandoned its plans to sell its F1 operation to the dubious Qadbak investment consortium in favour of concluding a deal with former team founder and owner Peter Sauber – provided
the Swiss outfit is granted a place on the 2010 grand prix starting grid.
The Bavarian manufacturer has announced that an agreement was reached yesterday (Thursday) between BMW and Sauber, meaning the team will reprise its former eponymous guise under the leadership of the man who brought it into F1 in the first place back in 1993. BMW took over in 2006, but during the summer revealed its intention to withdraw at the close of the 2009 campaign.
“We are very happy with this solution,” stated Dr. Klaus Draeger, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG with responsibility for Development. “This fulfils the most important requirement for a successful future for the team. Our relationship with Peter Sauber has always been excellent and marked by absolute respect. We would like to express our thanks to Peter Sauber and the whole team for the excellent co-operation during the recent four years.”
The sale does mean that the current workforce level of 388 employees will likely be reduced to 250 as part of the restructuring of the Hinwil-based concern, with further redundancies unable to be ruled out – but Sauber insisted that the deal is the best possible outcome to secure the squad's future in the top flight.
“I am very relieved that we have found this solution,” underlined the 66-year-old. “It means we can keep the Hinwil location and the majority of workplaces. I am convinced that the new team has a very good future in Formula 1, whose current transformation with new framework conditions will benefit the private teams.
“Our staff here are highly competent and motivated, and I look forward to taking on this new challenge together with them. I would like to thank BMW for four shared years, that have in the main been very successful.”
Qadbak – with whom BMW had originally planned to do business – began to unravel when it emerged that behind the bid was convicted fraudster Russell King, who was ostensibly relying on the Formula One Management (FOM) commercial television and prize money that the team is due to receive for having finished sixth in the 2009 constructors' world championship to partially fund its 2010 effort [see separate story – click here
It is understood that not only did FOM chief executive Bernie Ecclestone get cold feet about this idea, but the 79-year-old is indeed also considering withholding the money as punishment for BMW's departure.
It has been reported by German magazine Auto Motor und Sport
that a far more reputable American investor could be backing the sale to Sauber – which now hopes to convince Ecclestone to allocate it the slot vacated by Toyota in next year's field.