• Monisha Kaltenborn Q&A

'I'm here and I plan to stay'

ESPN Staff
August 7, 2013

Following the announcement of significant investment from Russian backers, Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn spoke to the press about the deal

Monisha Kaltenborn insists she won't be replaced as team principal at Sauber © Sutton Images

With the announcement of the new funds, what will you do first? Maybe pay the drivers?
Well the first thing that has already taken place since we have our contract in place is that we were very happy and relieved. We are now focusing on starting the implementation of this co-operation because it's a very complex and comprehensive deal. The major part of it is focusing on technology and we know that from our previous experience which we had with Petronas in the past is that you have to really go into a lot of detail and you have to set out long-term plans because this is something which is a long-term co-operation and that's what we're doing right now.

There were a lot of dramatic headlines in the last few weeks, was this deal essential for Sauber's survival?
We focused on getting our deal done. We've been working with these partners now for a while and because of the extent and the scope of this deal we knew that it would take a while. It's something new for both sides so we didn't really get too much impressed or disturbed by what was being written.

But was it essential for the team to survive, to finish the season and beyond?
It wouldn't be right for us to think in the way that 'If we don't get this deal done we cannot survive or not'. We're in here, we've gone through tough times before and we know that we can survive. It's just a question of do you want to survive or do you really want to stably stay here and hopefully again at some point in time - the sooner the better - make the step ahead. So that was our focus and we knew that if this deal comes through in this way, we have that basis for the long term to really make our way up again. That's what is going to happen now, step-by-step.

Can you tell us what exactly are the goals of these Russian investors? They will invest a lot of money but with no return, so what is their own goal?
Well the target of this co-operation has three pillars to it. One is the focus on the technological co-operation. So we are focusing on both sides bringing their technology know-how in to this co-operation and see what further know-how we can develop because a lot of people I think will not be so aware of what technology and know-how is in Russia at the moment. It's not always marketed, it's not always commercialised, but they have a tremendous amount of knowledge there which we can apply as well. So it's bringing that together, creating more out of it through a joint development centre which we are now working on and setting up there. That's one part of it; the major part.

As part of the deal, Sergey Sirotkin will be prepared for a race seat in 2014 © Renault

The second part that we announced was preparing the driver Sergey Sirotkin to come in to Formula One, so we are at this stage we are focusing on setting up a preparation programme. You all know he doesn't have a superlicence so far so we really have to get him to that level and the speed that he can even get that, so that's where we are right now.

And the third aspect of it is certainly to assist where we can as a team to establish Formula One there because we all know that next year the race is coming up. So we also will be playing a part in getting the sport closer to the people there with the partnership with a team like ours and hopefully the drivers. So these are the basic three elements of the partnership.

Monisha, simple question: Have you received any money?
You know that we never talk about money and I'm not going to change that.

When will this partnership become visible on the car; this year or next year? And how exactly do you intend to get Sergey kilometres in a Formula One car?
To your first question: You will find out very soon and that's what we also said in our communique. And the second question: We have to see what kind of possibilities we have. I know it was mentioned about Fridays and that's not going to be an option particularly because he doesn't have the superlicence as well. So we will find other ways - both ourselves and them - to get him that mileage so that he's ready next year to race for us.

But is the team truly comfortable bringing in a driver who is 17 at the moment - he's going to be 18 next month - whose single-seater record at present is barely good enough to get him a GP3 seat, never mind Formula One to be fair to him…
I think the key to this is what you said at the end: to be fair to him. We know what responsibilities we have, we have been in similar situations before; maybe not with such a young driver but with drivers which have also come from the series he is in now. So knowing that responsibility I think we have also shown in the past that we take that responsibility very seriously and we will definitely do our best to prepare him. Now, he of course has to fulfil certain criteria and we will do our best so that he can do that but I think the most important thing is that we are not out here to harm him in any way. So we will see how things go and we know on the other side that the people are equally aware of the risks and the responsibilities so I think we really have to take it step-by-step and nobody needs to fear that we are going to harm anybody involved.

Following on from that, if you put Sirotkin through your development program and you decide he's not ready to step up next year, how does the deal work out? Because the other side of the deal is where they invest and then you put the driver in the seat isn't it?
Well as I said before the most important thing is that we do our job in the most responsible way. At this point where we are just starting with the preparation, to start already thinking what's going to happen if things don't work out are just speculations which we are not going to engage in now.

Can you confirm if your position as team principal is safe in the longer term? And also about Nico Hulkenberg - can you confirm if he will finish the season with Sauber?
Well to start with me now, I'm here and I plan to stay here. Actually, it's never been an issue in our talks so we don't know where this is coming from. On Nico, we have announced him as our driver for this year and that's how it's going to stay. What we do next year we will announce at the right time.

How many people from Russia will be involved as team members at Sauber next year?
How many people generally who will be involved in the team's activities is exactly the kind of thing we are now working on. We will be now discussing all the details with them; we have a common vision and we are now sitting together and looking at the exact details.

Sauber hopes the deal will help it become more competitive in future seasons © Sutton Images

What will be the name of the team next year?
We have no plans of changing that.

In the press release it says there are three different agencies who are going to put investment in to the team, but is it essentially a project funded by the Russian government?
In our release we have mentioned three parties and all of them - particularly the two funds - are very close to the Russian government. Now what their exact connection is there you'll have to ask them, not us, but clearly they are close to the government.

We've seen Venezuelan companies putting money in Formula One, and with Esteban there's Mexican funding; what do you think countries benefit from programs with F1?
I think in a case like Russia it's clear a part of their strategy they must be having with the race that they're going to have there next year to be able to establish the sport there you have to look at it from different angles. One of them is the race, which is obviously more on the promotion side and the event side, but we also know from history that Russia has also had in the past this high-tech image as well … so I think it is a part of them that they have these funds for which are now backed of course - if you look at their website, big, bright Russian companies - and they want to bring their know-how in to the sport. Since we are the pinnacle of motorsport we've got high-end technology involved here. So actually it's a whole package that makes sense with a race, with a driver and with getting their high-tech application in to the sport.

You said it's a close relationship with the Russians; do they intend to have shares in the team or are you prepared to give them shares?
The structure of the ownership of the team is not going to change.

Now you are with Russians will you end your relationship with your Mexican partners next year?
One thing has got nothing to do with the other and I'm not aware of any cross-border instances there.

You said it's a long-term relationship, but how much of this deal was done thinking of the long-term and how much on the need to get the investment in now?
You don't differentiate there; if you look at the history of the team we have had most of our big partners on a long-term basis. You look back at Petronas, Credit Suisse or Red Bull they have been very long-term partnerships, so when we entered into these talks we could see on both sides what potential there is to it and that's what we look for.

When this deal was announced it looked too good to be true. Some people in Formula One think it is too good to be true; how do you answer those cynics who think it may never actually happen?
I certainly have no reasons to believe that. I don't know why they believe that, maybe you need to ask them more why they have that opinion. We know what we are talking about and we have good reasons to believe in it.