• The Inside Line

Sauber saved

Kate Walker
July 15, 2013
Sauber has secured a new deal with three Russian business entities © Sutton Images

There was good news from Switzerland this morning as Sauber announced a tripartite partnership agreement with three Russian business entities - the Investment Cooperation International Fund, The State Fund of Development of North-West Russian Federation and the National Institute of Aviation Technologies.

It's been a tough time for the Swiss team, which hasn't been in rude financial health since the departure of BMW what feels like a lifetime ago.

It was an open secret in the paddock that 2012 was tough on Sauber's coffers, and 2013 was proving to be harder still. Suppliers were going unpaid, driver Nico Hulkenberg was released from his second-year option, giving the German racer leeway to find a new drive for 2014, and the negative media coverage was only making it harder for Sauber to generate income.

But this new Russian deal is a covetable one indeed - and the announcement very timely. Not only do Sauber now find themselves able to return to a firmer financial footing, but they will also have access to the National Institute of Aviation Technologies as a technological partner. And (beware dramatic over-simplification…) what do you get when you turn a plane upside down? No, not a massive shunt. A Formula One car. Sort of.

Two of Sauber's three new partners have technology connections: the Investment Cooperation International Fund was developed in concert with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and invests in technology programmes, while the NIAT's technology connection is self-evident.

The other string to this new partnership bow is that of Mother Russia herself. The ICIF has government connections and invests heavily in regional efforts, the NIAT is a national institute, and the final partner is a regional development fund.

While the Russian Grand Prix has yet to make its debut, Russia does have an interest in motorsport. Most of the seats that did sell at the Turkish Grand Prix went to Russian fans, who also turn up to the Korean Grand Prix in not insignificant numbers. Vitaly Petrov struggled to continue his career when a move from Renault to Caterham meant his sponsors lost out on TV exposure and dropped out one by one, but there is definitely an appetite for Formula One in the Russian market.

And there's a lot of money in Russia, if you know the right people.

By securing this three-pronged Russian partnership, Sauber has also secured three benefits: the financial wherewithal to complete the season; a technological partnership that will help in future seasons; and pole position as the team to promote Russian involvement in Formula One. Which will be something of a thorn in Marussia's side…

With Russia on its side and in its bank account, Sauber will also be of greater interest to F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, who knows the value of having a good working relationship with a wealthy government. This Putin-approved deal (for deals of this size always are) gives Sauber extra gravitas in any future negotiations they might be having with Prince's Gate.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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