The Andretti/Sauber rumours were fun while they lasted. But if you’re disappointed Andretti will not be entering Formula 1 in some way, you shouldn’t rush to blame Sauber.
When we published our last piece on this story last week, I talked about how small bits of accurate information get rapidly mutated in the F1 paddock. And suddenly something that should be being reported as possible, or logical, or hypothetical gets reported as fact.
Representatives of Andretti and Sauber had discussions for quite a while. While many other details were subject to rampant speculations this is the part that was founded in something real. Andretti wanted to get into F1. Sauber owner Finn Rausing didn’t seem to be looking to sell but would be willing to if it was the right deal.
When the F1 paddock reconvened in the United States last week it quickly became clear that the situation was not as advanced as Andretti had made a few people believe.
Initially it was suggested that something had put Sauber owner Finn Rausing off continuing discussions. Then it seemed (and this is more likely) the real issue was Andretti couldn’t or wouldn’t meet Rausing’s actual price.
Michael Schmidt at Auto Motor und Sport is one of the best journalists (if not the best) in F1. He reckons that Rausing wanted around €350m for the team and an additional €250m that guaranteed 50m-a-year funding for five years. That’s because Alfa runs below the budget cap at present and while it intends to increase that, this guarantee would help the team if Andretti took over and didn’t find the necessary sponsorship to fill the gap.
If this is the reason then in my opinion Rausing is correct. He’s a very wealthy person who is said to be a huge fan of F1, and he is very private. That makes him an unmotivated seller – he could bankroll this team forever if he wanted to. Why would he risk jeapordising the team? He doesn’t need to sell it to make a quick buck after all.
Like 99.99999% of people in F1 I don’t know Rausing, have never met him, and can’t speak to his character. But from what I’ve heard, he doesn’t seem the type to throw Sauber under the bus just because it suits him. If he is going to sell he will sell to someone who has a serious plan for the team and will not risk its future. If that buyer is not forthcoming, he will not sell. That’s how I’ve come to see it.
It would also be reasonable for Rausing to be very annoyed if private negotiations get leaked in the United States then filter into the F1 world as a result.
But the Sauber side had a lot of opportunities to say this wasn’t true. Team boss Fred Vasseur was asked multiple questions about the subject and just said it wasn’t his business. As Sauber CEO that seemed a slightly odd interpretation. This was one of a few things that indirectly confirmed something was going on – at least on some level.
Vasseur still let something slip, admitting last weekend that the ownership of the team “could be” linked to some of its 2022 driver choices and that “you can’t imagine owning a company and not being part of the discussion”.
Then Fred seemed to realise what he’d said and added he had “no comment” to make.
I don’t blame Sauber for wanting to ignore this as much as possible given the narrative does seem to have been steered from the American side. We may never know how close it really got to a deal.
I suspect it was always further than we (and I include myself in this!) were led to believe. But now I don’t think it will happen at all. And I reckon Sauber will be quite happy with that.