Marc Surer gets to the point. «Swiss motorsport owes a lot to him. He has kept the flag high all the years, »says the former racing driver about Peter Sauber. PP Sauber AG is celebrating its 50th anniversary these days. SonntagsBlick talked to former companions about the people and team boss Peter Sauber.
The result: everyone raves about Peter Sauber (76) and appreciated his loyalty, humility and humanity. Or as ex-Sauber pilot Jean Alesi puts it: “He never wanted to knock my fuss out of my head.”
Ruedi Siegfried: «Everyone just laughed»
«I can still remember this moment very well: When Peter Sauber and I said in 1969 that we were building a racing car, everyone was just laughing. Nobody expected us to do that. The C1 was finished a few months later. The first sketch of the vehicle comes from me. I have kept it to this day.
I had built my own car before. The most expensive thing was the tires, because I had hardly any money because I already had a family at that time. We then designed and built the C1 in the basement of Peter’s parents’ house. To have enough parts, we bought two old Brabham Formula 3s. I only helped in the evening and at the weekend because I still had to work and earn money.
The C1 was a very nice car at the time. A racing car with no frills. I still like it very much today, in contrast to today’s Formula 1 vehicles.
After that we lived apart. That’s why I never drove the C1. When Peter Sauber was working in Formula One decades later, I was allowed to work for him again. At that time I constructed a new pit stand for the company. »
Ruedi Siegfried (82) is a trained machine designer. He still lives in Hinwil ZH, the seat of the Sauber racing team.
Karl Wendlinger: “I’ll never forget that”
«At the end of 1989, Peter Sauber invited me to test drives in Le Castellet. Back then everything was top secret. I was only told that I should be at Kloten Airport at a certain time. I didn’t know that Michael Schumacher and Heinz-Harald Frentzen would also be there.
The test drives with the Group C cars had a pleasant climate. Peter Sauber has always been very supportive and has put little pressure on us young drivers. In 1990 I was allowed to compete in the first race alongside Jochen Mass in the World Sports Car Championship. We finished second. That was my step into professional motorsport.
In 1993 I was a regular driver at Sauber’s entry into Formula One. Everything went well until my serious accident in Monte Carlo in 1994. Peter Sauber gave me and my family a lot of support during this difficult time. I didn’t get much of it because I was in a coma. But he visited me in Nice in the hospital and was also present when I was transferred to Innsbruck. I’ll never forget that. »
Karl Wendlinger (51) competed in 25 Formula 1 races for Sauber between 1993 and 95. Today he is an AMG Mercedes brand ambassador. His son Jonas is a goalie for the U21 team at 1. FC Nürnberg.
Bernie Ecclestone: «The right man in the wrong place!»
«I still admire Peter Sauber today. If this real racer had done the same job in England, he would have been a correct and as enthusiastic team boss as he had been in the home of Formula 1. Unfortunately, Sauber has always suffered from his location and also from his rather poor English skills.
The very ingenious engineers simply didn’t want to come to Switzerland. And the good people who came anyway soon had problems in all possible areas in Switzerland. I think Sauber always paid the most money to build Formula 1 racing cars. That would have been half cheaper in England with wages. Since I live in Gstaad myself, I can assess that … So, congratulations to Peter on 50 years of motorsport in Switzerland. Actually incredible! »
Bernie Ecclestone (89) is Mister Formula 1. Until 2017, he was Managing Director of Formula 1 Holding SLEC.
Roger Benoit: «Only the forest knows the answer …»
When Peter Sauber founded his PP Sauber AG on May 15, 1970 in Zurich’s Seefeld district, where the Ringier press house is now located, I was just leaving my first traces in the Formula 1 paddock. In addition to Jo Siffert and shortly afterwards also next to Clay Regazzoni.
We didn’t know each other – and it wasn’t until 20 years later that the first meeting took place. With two people, Peter Sauber showed up in the middle of his successful long-distance time with Mercedes on our editorial team and asked: “Mr. Benoit, we may be planning to start Formula 1. What do you think?” My rather negative answer seemed to irritate him only briefly: “Well good luck in the shark tank!”
But anyone who knows Peter Sauber a little better knows that he pursues most goals in life against all odds – and that reason often lies by the wayside with his ambition and the necessary stubbornness.
In the beginning, the trained electrician only wanted to climb Zurich’s local mountain, the 869-meter-high Uetliberg. Then he undertook the Matterhorn expedition with Sauber Motorsport (under whose flag the Alfa team is still registered with the FIA). The Hinwil-based adventurers also made the 4,478 meters with great effort.
But in March 1993, they climbed the 8848-meter wall of Mount Everest at the South African GP premiere. This is where they want everyone who invests their millions in Formula 1 between life and death on the brutal mountain. And often plunge into space.
Until the summit storm on June 8, 2008 with the double victory in Canada under the servitude of BMW, the dogged fighters from the Zurich Oberland lived through all ups and downs.
Only one man was the focus almost unafraid later. Peter Sauber believed in the good, even if bad had long since put him back on his feet. Sporty, financial and human.
The Zurich-based company was always concerned with its employees. He fought for them through madness until a few years ago. He mostly put his health in the background.
Now his life’s work is in the billions of heavy hands of the Rausing family. This reassures the man who often walks through the woods high up in Laax, where he lives. The strength lies in the silence – and often you can find the answer between the trees. «In the forest you have the best opportunity to analyze certain problems. Even in good phases of life. »
Peter Sauber and I have gathered over the many years at the racetrack, argued, laughed, cried, smoked, eaten apple pie and made headlines for BLICK! Two difficult guys see their biggest weapon especially in respect for the other. Lunch together in the Zurich Kronenhalle now keep this men alive. The gentleman and the BLICK reporter.
In 2020, Peter Sauber wanted to be there in Monza: it would have been the 500th Grand Prix of the Sauber team. Now Corona has probably postponed this unique anniversary to the next year.
With the pioneer and Swiss of the year 2005 as guest of honor of a company that once belonged to him and is still receiving worldwide applause. Racing in Switzerland – Switzerland also says thank you. »
Roger Benoit (71) has been working for BLICK / SonntagsBlick since 1967. He was already on site at 752 GP.
Jochen Mass: “Jochen, did that have to be?”
«Peter was never like Ron Dennis who just kicked the coal out. At Sauber we always had to pay attention to money. I can still remember test drives in Silverstone when I wanted to drive out with the C9. Then Peter said: «You have to wait until our other car is back in the boxes. We don’t have that many people to take care of both cars at the same time. »
Or Brands Hatch 1988. I was shot down at the time and landed hard in the tire stack. When I got back to the boxes, Peter said acidly: “Jochen, did that have to be?” I then explained to him that I was innocent. Or fun: Peter told me back then: “Jochen, you have a reputation for consuming too much fuel.” I replied: “Either you accept me for who I am, or I’ll go home now.” He then apologized to me in both cases. That’s how it was, we were always good at clearing up problems. It was therefore four very good years.
The highlight was of course in Le Mans in 1989 when we won the 24-hour race. I was allowed to cross the finish line there. There was no big celebration, however, and Peter Sauber only invited the team to dinner at the end of the year. Typical for him: He told us to come without our women, otherwise there would be too many people.
An episode was also special a year later. I had bought a ship and wanted to sail from the USA to Europe. When I arrived in Bermuda, Peter called me. He reminded me of a celebration the next day. I would have promised to be there. So I got on the next plane, flew to Switzerland, celebrated and traveled back to Bermuda the next day.
What always fascinated me about Peter: Many team bosses always looked at the others and wanted to grow quickly. Peter, on the other hand, rose step by step. As a result, the team grew in a healthy way. It was impressive. Hats off, Peter! »
Jochen Mass (73) is a German racing legend. He drove in Formula 1 for 10 years and won a GP. Today he lives in France.
Willy Rampf: «Peter was always right»
“When I think of Peter, what comes to mind is a typical dialogue between us. There was a phase in Formula 1 when you weren’t allowed to refuel in the race between qualifying and the race. The crux of the matter: you always had to consider whether you wanted to go further in qualifying with little fuel and thus accepted an earlier pit stop in the race.
The following dialogue took place between us several times: Peter before qualifying: “Willy, how much fuel do we have on board?” Me: «65 kilograms.» Peter: «You already know that a heavy car is not so good for driving. That is too much fuel for qualifying. »
A day later before the race. Peter: “How much fuel do we have on board?” Me: “After qualifying, it’s now 50 kilograms.” Peter: “You already know that that’s not enough?”
In summary, you can say with a smile: Peter was always right. »
Willy Rampf (66) worked twice for Sauber. Between 1993 and 97 as a racing engineer. And between 2000 and 2010 as Technical Director.
Urs Kuratle: “Peter missed an enema for the police officer”
“The Sauber team once used a Pilatus aircraft, with which Peter and some engineers each traveled to the European races. After a race in Spa, Peter and Co. drove to the airport with a bus to fly home. Usually they put the key on a wheel and someone from the team picked up the Büsli again.
Then I suddenly got a call from the catering women who couldn’t find the key. So I called Peter. But he didn’t pick up the phone because he was already on the plane. At some point I got the order to leave the Büsli and go home.
Back in Hinwil, Peter apparently gave the Büsli key to the logistics company and told him that someone should fly up one way, then take the Büsli back and give him the bill. Apparently Peter had accidentally put the key in because they were close to Spa.
When I found out about it, I was happy. I was finally able to squeeze my boss together. So I went to the office and wanted to scold him. But Peter got ahead of me and said: «You don’t have to say anything. You’re right.”
A story in Zurich was also funny. He drove us to the Crown Hall for dinner in his Jaguar. Because of a construction site, you were only allowed to drive on one street from one side. He drove in from the other side anyway. A policeman came. I thought to myself: Now I’m curious how he will solve this situation. And what was Peter doing? He missed the police officer an enema because of the temporary one-way street …
Only he could do such things. That was typical Peter. He was a real patriarch. One who did a lot for his employees. What he built up is insanity. I have the greatest respect for him. »
Urs Kuratle (51) from Graubünden worked for Sauber for 24 years, including as a chief mechanic. He has been with Porsche since 2013.
Beat Zehnder: «I couldn’t leave Peter alone»
«It is said that other teams have tried to poach me again and again. But it only really became concrete twice. When it was clear in 2005 that BMW was joining Sauber, Red Bull Racing wanted me. Didi Mateschitz contacted me and said that he would never have asked me as long as Peter Sauber owned the team.
We got pretty far in the negotiations. Nevertheless, I canceled for two reasons. My wife is anchored in Switzerland with her company. And Red Bull is at home in Milton Keynes, England – this is probably the last city in the world where I would like to live.
Peter also stood up for me at BMW and asked me to accompany the complicated change from the private team to the factory team of a global company. I owed him that because he made my whole career possible.
Later, when Peter was leading the team himself, offers came. But in the difficult situation at the time, I couldn’t leave him alone. I’ve been on the team for 33 years now. I’ve never regretted staying. Sure, I could have earned a lot better elsewhere. But my wife and I lead a beautiful life in Küsnacht, we lack nothing.
Will I stay with Sauber until I retire or even beyond? Who knows. I’m in this sport to get podiums and victories. »
Beat Zehnder (54) is a trained ship engine mechanic. The Illnauer joined the Sauber team in 1988 as a screwdriver. From mid-1994 the Zurich Formula 1 team manager became – and still is, what is an F1 world record.
Peter Bernhard: «Big disappointment because of two screws»
«1977 was the first time a Sauber was started at Le Mans. The Francy Racing team used a C5 for Geni Strähl and me. Peter Sauber had built the car, Rico Steinemann was the race director. It was a huge thing for me. It was my only time in the 24-hour race.
The team belonged to an industrialist from Basel. Thanks to him, we could drive for free and didn’t have to make any expenses. We only had to travel privately. It went smoothly until 4 a.m. in the morning, we were third in our class.
But on the long Hunaudières straight I noticed that I am losing performance. At that time there were no chicanes on this straight as today, we reached 320 km / h with the 2 liter BMW engine. I had to stop and found that the oil hose leading into the engine was loose. The oil had leaked out.
On the marshals’ radio I told the mechanics to bring me a bottle of oil. But then it turned out that it was forbidden. We were out. Because I parked the car in time, a major engine damage was prevented.
In the pits, Sauber was very disappointed because it was a minor problem with the engine that was delivered to him in its original condition. Two small screws on the flange had loosened. The car was otherwise completely intact.
We took part in other long-distance races this season with the C5. Otherwise I have always driven a Porsche in my career, so my contact with Sauber is lost. »
Winterthur racing driver and garage owner Peter Bernhard (77) was Swiss Vice Champion in 1975.
Michael Stäuble: “Fortunately Peter didn’t notice it”
«Of all the Sauber drivers, Johnny Herbert was one of the people who caused the most emotions at Peter Sauber. If the visor was down on him, anything could happen. In 1998 at Silverstone, he was on a different strategy than teammate Jean Alesi. So Herbert should have Alesi overtaken.
But he didn’t – Johnny fought Alesi and ended up in the gravel bed. Afterwards, Sauber had to calm the upset Alesi, who Herbert no longer wanted to have as a teammate. But the Brit was also a brilliant driver. In 1997 he single-handedly supplied Sauber with WM points.
Besides the track, it was never boring with Herbert anyway. Fortunately, Peter didn’t get everything … In 1997 I took part in a test in Fiorano. Herbert and Nicola Larini were the regular drivers at the time. Larini arrived with an ultralight aircraft, he just landed on the start-finish straight. Johnny made one on air traffic controllers when he landed, stood on the racetrack and pretended to instruct Larini. He then jumped away at the last moment when the plane came up to him.
Then Larini turned off his plane. Shortly afterwards I saw Johnny climbing into the cockpit. He even got the engine running, the plane leapt forward. Larini didn’t find it that funny anymore! »
TV journalist Michael Stäuble (61) has worked for the SRF since 1989. From 1992 he commented on Formula 1 races. The Schaffhauser is co-author of the book “Die Sauber-Formel”.
Felipe Massa: “I hope Sauber enjoyed it with me too”
«I like to think back to my time at Sauber, it was a fantastic time. At home I have a small museum with all kinds of things from my career. Cups, pictures, helmets, cars. There is also a C24 from 2005.
From my points premiere in Malaysia in 2002 in my second Grand Prix, I have a framed picture that shows me after the race with Peter. I finished sixth. We were pretty happy …
I am very grateful to Peter for giving me the opportunity to gain a foothold in Formula 1 when I was only 20. I was allowed to test for the first time in October 2001, followed by my first season in Formula 1 in 2002. Also fourth in 2005 in Canada in an amazing race is unforgettable. I also missed the podium a few times in the Sauber.
For my three seasons, I can only thank everyone on the team and of course Peter Sauber myself. I hope you enjoyed your time with me as much as I did! »
Felipe Massa (39) played the seasons 2002, 2004 and 2005 for Sauber. This was followed by 11 GP victories and a Vice World Championship title for Ferrari and three years with Williams. Today the Brazilian drives in Formula E.
Robert Kubica: “I didn’t tell the exact truth”
«Peter Sauber was never actually my boss since I was employed at BMW times and now at Alfa Romeo times. But whoever talks about Sauber and Hinwil first thinks of Peter Sauber. The team is his baby, so there is a lifelong connection. I have huge respect for his unique achievement in building a team in a country like Switzerland and leading it for so long.
When I came to Hinwil for contract negotiations at the end of 2005, Sauber was still heavily involved alongside Mario Theissen from BMW. I was nervous at the first meeting for one reason. At that time the cars were very narrow and compact and the team had a small driver under contract with Heidfeld. So they asked me: How tall are you? I knew it was about every inch. So I did not tell the exact truth … (Kubica measures 1.84 m, red.)
At the second meeting in Hinwil it was clear that they wanted to hire me. When everything was practically under lock and key, we got up from the table to shake hands. Then Peter shouted: You look taller than 1.80! He insisted that I get into the car in the workshop.
Fortunately, I fit in. It wasn’t the most comfortable car in my career. But of course you will accept that if you can get into Formula 1. That was a milestone for my whole life.
When I met Peter again personally a few years later in my career, it was emotional because I am very grateful for the opportunity. And by the way: When I talk to friends about my job, I always talk about the Sauber team. »
Robert Kubica (35) made team history in Canada in 2008 with Sauber’s only GP victory. Since this season, the 97-time GP participant has been a test and simulator driver at Alfa-Sauber.
Jo Leberer: “Sauber believed in Schumi early”
«I remember well a training camp in January 1991 that Peter Sauber and Jochen Neerpasch from Mercedes organized at Willi Dungl and myself. The team was very successful in Group C, but Sauber certainly already had the vision of Formula 1 in mind.
More than ten drivers came to the camp. Among them Jean-Louis Schlesser, Jochen Maas and the juniors like Karl Wendlinger – Frentzen was still in Japan – and Michael Schumacher.
When it comes to performance diagnostics, Schumacher has compared himself to drivers like Prost and wanted to know what their approach is and so on (Leberer
worked with Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, d. Red.).
From my side it was clear that he was already ready for Formula 1 in terms of physique and determination. Michael said it was a dream, but not really feasible.
Today we know that he drove his first GP just a few months later. Peter Sauber in particular believed in Schumi’s abilities early on.
Now 30 years have passed and I am still working for the team. A friendly and professional relationship has developed with Peter Sauber, other veterans like Zehnder and Bruno Rohr and the whole team. We brought some young drivers to the top. I really enjoy supporting and accompanying them. I wish the team another 50 or 100 years! »
Josef «Jo» Leberer (61) has been working in Formula 1 since 1988. From 1997 the Austrian was permanently at Sauber as a physiotherapist and driver supervisor.
May 15, 1970: Peter Sauber founds his company.
May 20, 1970: The company PP Sauber AG is officially registered. The second P stands for Paul.
September 27, 1970: Peter Sauber becomes Swiss sports car champion with his C1.
October 31, 1976: Sauber has long since retired as a racing driver. Herbert Müller wins the renowned Interserie with the C5.
June 12, 1977: The Sauber team starts for the first time at the Le Mans 24 Hours. With a long tail version of the C5-BMW.
August 24, 1986: The Duo Pescarolo / Thackwell wins the 1000 km race at the Nürburgring with the C8. During this time, Sauber managed to convince Mercedes to return to motorsport.
June 11, 1989: Sauber Mercedes celebrates a one-two victory with the C9 at Le Mans. Jochen Mass, Manuel Reuter and Stanley Dickens won ahead of Mauro Baldi, Kenny Acheson and Gianfranco Brancatelli. In 1989 and 90, Sauber also became world sports car champion.
May 20, 1990: A 21-year-old German starts for Sauber in the World Sports Car Championship. His name: Michael Schumacher. Together with Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Karl Wendlinger he belongs to the junior team.
March 14, 1993: In the first F1 GP in the history of Sauber, JJ Lehto finished fifth in the points.
May 12, 1994: In free practice at the Monaco GP, Sauber driver Karl Wendlinger had a serious accident. He fights for survival for days. Only after three weeks does he wake up from a coma.
September 10, 1995: A Sauber is on the podium for the first time: Heinz-Harald Frentzen finishes third in Monza.
October 14, 2001: Enjoy at Sauber! After the last race it is clear: the team with drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Nick Heidfeld finished fourth in the constructors’ championship. As good as never.
June 22, 2005: BMW buys Sauber! This ends Peter Sauber’s Formula 1 career. At least for now …
June 8, 2008: BMW Sauber driver Robert Kubica wins the Canadian GP. Peter Sauber experiences this historic triumph from home.
July 29, 2009: BMW gets out again! The racing team faces nothing. Until Peter Sauber buys back the team.
July 20, 2016: The Longbow investment company takes over the Sauber racing team. Peter Sauber is leaving Formula 1 for the second time.
November 28, 2017: Now it’s official: Alfa Romeo joins Sauber.
September 6, 2020: The Sauber team should have celebrated its 500th GP in Monza. But because of the corona virus, this anniversary will not take place until next year.