Today Sauber F1 announced that the team has entered into a partnership with “the Investment Cooperation International Fund, the State Fund of Development of North-West Russian Federation and the National Institute of Aviation Technologies” in Russia. Looking to solve apparently serious money woes that rumor indicated had separated Nico Hulkenberg from his paycheck this season, the Swiss team has gone the route of Edward Snowden and looked for help from Russia.

The injection of cash and apparently design help seems to have started immediately, with their new Russian partners adding young Sergey Sirotkin to the driver line-up for 2014. According to the announcement on Sauber’s team website,

“The partnership includes further activities for the promotion of the inaugural Formula 1 Grand Prix in Sochi in 2014 and attracting the talented young Russian generation towards motorsport. In particular, a development programme will be set up for the Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin to prepare him as a racing driver for the team in 2014.”

In addition, Sauber has filled the gap left by former chief designer Matt Morris with National Institute of Aviation Technologies, “one of the leading scientific research institutions in Russia.” Today’s announcement added, “Sauber F1 team will benefit from the advanced know-how of the front-end Russian scientists and engineers,” and concluded tellingly,

“This extensive co-operation will showcase Russian innovation at the pinnacle of motorsport. At the same time, the Sauber F1 Team will have a solid foundation to increase its competitiveness on a long-term basis.”

Sirotkin currently races Formula Renault 3.5, and is, according to Autosport, the son of the head of the Russian National Institute of Aviation Technologies, Oleg Sirotkin. Further information reveals that he might well participate in some Friday practice sessions this season, but will not be in the driver’s seat for the Young Driver’s Test this week at Silverstone.

Out of eight races completed so far this season, the seventeen year old Russian has qualified in the top six five times and currently sits eighth in the championship standings, racing alongside a Swiss teammate for Czech team ISR. He is one of eight Russian drivers currently competing in the seventeen race 2013 season, and can be found on Twitter, though his current number of 619 followers is likely to increase dramatically very soon.

With this injection of Russian cash and design brainpower, Sauber seems to be ready to replace one of its two drivers for next season. Hulkenberg would likely be most easily welcomed at another team, but young Sirotkin would greatly benefit from the German’s steadying presence as he is hurried along the road to F1. In addition, Sauber may no longer need Carlos Slim’s money via Esteban Gutierrez’s with this stabilizing monetary influence. The silly season continues on its merry way.

  • The Imperative Voice

    If they have money problems with Slim Money then it’s more likely they will have two pay drivers. Hulkenberg will leave for a paying job and they will retain the pay drivers to fund the team. To drop Gutierrez for Sirotkin would just be changing the name on the checks resulting in the shortfall.

    With their pedigree it’s almost pointless. You can show up for the race, be lucky to make Q2, and then finish out of the points. You become a backmarker who has the funds for a period to survive, but not compete. The beauty of Sauber was, particularly last year, they had excellent drivers, not just a spot on the grid and some sponsorship.

    Just look at Williams eroding. Same exact idea of replacing talent with paydrives, right down to dropping Hulkenberg in the process. Net result: not even as good as Sauber this year.

  • raithrover


  • peterriva

    National Institute of Aviation Technologies = designers of the Buran, co-designes of the Su-27s and the Russian SST. Interesting. They do have VAST aeronautical experience. And i mean huge – their wind tunnel may be old but it is amongst the worlds largest and most capable ( variable air density/humidity/speed/shear – all capable).

  • robfiction

    I’m all for youth, the next big thing, etc etc. But 17?
    Is this going a bit far now?
    What if the lad has a growth spurt to say, Alex Wurzs height mid season? That won’t help the team much.

    • MIE

      It does seem a bit young. Even if he spends next year as a reserve driver with the intention of a race seat in 2015, he could still be the youngest driver to start in F1. I don’t think his results to date indicate he is quite ready for that step. He would possibly have a longer F1 career if he gained more experience (very few get a second chance in this sport).
      Sponsor pressure to try too much too soon isn’t helpful.

  • charlie w

    While I’m glad someone has given a life line to Sauber, one of the last of the privateer teams, I think it’s only temporary. Other teams in the past had ties with Russian money or sponsors only to falter out of sight later. I hate to think Sauber as the “21st Century Minardi” but I don’t foresee the team progressing forward. That’s a shame because I do like Sauber.

  • F1_Knight

    This all stinks of desperation to me. Sauber has had pay drivers in their car because of daddy’s money before, look at Pedro Diniz. But this…I don’t know seems like this National Research something-or-other just grabbed my team by the Cojones and gave them no choice.

    People say the Economy is turning around, but from where i’m sitting, it’s worse than ever.

  • Brett

    Another pay driver..

  • Mark Gauding

    Saubet’s KERS device for next year will be one huge “Vacuum Tube”.

    • F1derbar

      ‘It’s big but it’s light!’

  • This is both good and bad news for Sauber. While it’s great the team was “saved” by the Russian cash, success is not on the horizon with a driver lineup that young (I’m assuming Hulkenberg is gone). Gutierrez is going to be 22 next season and paired with an 18 year old teammate with no F1 experience? Unless the team have something up their sleeve for a Gutierrez replacement, 2014 will be a LONG year for the team.

  • MaxCO2

    What an obscenity that an F1 team accepts Russian bribe money and agrees to put some Russian drone in the car just to keep racing. They should be ashamed. Peter Sauber should be able to do better than this and he should start by finding a better business partner than Monisha Kaltenborn.

  • gowras

    Cash strapped Sauber hope they have not made a wrong business decision both in terms of technically and financially by partnering Russians. Am sure there are business houses in Europe who could have come to rescue. Time will tell whats in store for the 2014 season when you have a rookie in the car this is the only Achilles heal for Sauber now.

  • MIE

    Was this deal a result of their earlier tie in with Chelsea?

    Russian money features for the football club as well. I’ve not seen anything linking the two, I just wondered if the partnership was beginning to bear fruit.

  • Philip Pegler

    This is nothing short of tragic. Talk about from the penthouse to the dog house. Young talent, yes; 17 years old in a F1 car, no. This can surely end in tears, if not for the driver but for Peter Sauber.

    I’ve always thought of Sauber as a very classy outfit. They came close to disaster when BMW backed out but managed to rally back to respectability. In the mid-90s they were indeed a front of mid-field outfit with Frentzen and Wendlinger and even Andrea de Cesaris drove for the outfit following Carl’s career-ending Monaco shunt. But now, I can’t see this going very far at all.

    Perhaps it would have been better to put Jules Bianci in the Sauber and the Russian kid in the Marussia. This may be painful to watch, but in the ever revolving world of F1, Sauber may be about the change places with Williams, and this team does not have the legacy, the past success or the staff to vault it back to the front of the field.

  • I have to say, aged 17 in an F1 car, is somewhat distasteful in my opinion! Quite shocking actually…

  • JasonI

    Russian money is not exactly confidence inspiring. I miss BMW.

  • nofahz

    The oligarchs sure are jumping on the professional sport franchise ownership bandwagon. It does afford an astonishing array of legit, and not so legit activities one can have with the piles of reserve cash they might have laying around. Owning a company based in a tax haven probably makes the available options even more interesting