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Russian interest in Sauber?

7 July 2013

Monisha Kaltenborn hinted, at Silverstone, that a new sponsor could soon be announced as the saviour of the beleaguered Sauber team, but rumours at the Nurburgring suggest that interest in the Swiss outfit may run a little deeper.

According to Germany's Speedweek website, Sauber's future could be secured by the involvement of Russian millionaire – and Ferrari gentleman racer - Boris Rotenberg, who has been linked to a potential buy-out of the Hinwil squad before next season.

Together with older brother Arkady, Rotenberg set up SMP Bank, which has grown to be a major player in the Russian financial sector and is already heavily involved in the World Series by Renault thanks to the sponsorship of three cars across two teams for Daniil Move, Lucas Foresti (both Comtec) and series veteran Mikhail Aleshin (Tech 1).

Rotenberg, himself, competes in the Ferrari Challenge, having made his fortune in construction, building gas pipelines and chemical plants as Russia boomed. He is understood to have close ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin and businessman, millionaire and Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich, although it is not clear whether either is involved with his interest in Sauber despite the obvious 'sporting' relationship between the F1 team and Chelsea and rumours suggesting that it is Abramovich that will bail Sauber out in the short term.

Speculation that the Russians could become so heavily involved in F1 has naturally set the 'silly season' rumour mill into overdrive, with suggestions that the investment – on whatever scale – could provide Vitaly Petrov with his desired route back into the top flight.

While that suggestion remains unproven - particularly given Petrov's lack of success in bringing Russian backing to his rides with Renault, Lotus and Caterham – other moves are being hinted at, ranging from Speedweek's suggestion that Ferrari's links to Sauber could provide a convenient exit strategy for Felipe Massa, who could be paired with Jules Bianchi as the Scuderia prepares the Frenchman for an ultimate arrival at Maranello.

Whatever happens, the current line-up of Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez looks unlikely to remain intact, with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim not having chosen to invest more heavily in Sauber – and, by association, Gutierrez's place in the team – and suggestions that Hulkenberg, who confirmed that he has not been paid for recent races, is eyeing a move to Lotus should Kimi Raikkonen succumb to Red Bull's advances.


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