Kaltenborn leaves Sauber, amidst rumours of differences with new owners

Monisha Kaltenborn is rumoured to have walked away from the Sauber F1 Team. Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

It has today been rumoured that Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn has parted company with the Sauber F1 Team.

Kaltenborn became the first female Team Principal in F1, when she took on the role with the Swiss squad back in 2012, and acquired a 33.3% shareholding in the team at that time.

The 46-year-old has a fairly long history in the sport, having originally worked for law firm Fritz Kaiser Group in 1998, dealing with the legal and corporate affairs of the then Red Bull Sauber F1 Team.

Two years later she was appointed head of Sauber’s legal department, before joining its Board of Members a year later. Her hard work and dedication to all things F1, earned her recognition within the wider company and she was appointed CEO of Sauber Motorsport AG in 2010, when owner Peter Sauber rebuilt the squad following the departure of BMW from the sport.

Her progress through the ranks certainly caught the attention of owner Sauber, who gave her control of the day-to-day running of the squad as he spent less and less time on the frontline, before making her the official Team Principal in 2012, and the rest as they say is history.

After struggling financially for a number of the last few seasons, just managing to stay afloat before they were bought out in July 2016 by Longbow Finance SA, a deal believed to have been overseen by Kaltenborn, public perception was that Sauber had managed to get themselves back on track and in a position to make progress once again.

However, they have struggled to put in anywhere near a consistent performance since that time, no doubt not helped by the decision to run year old Scuderia Ferrari engines in 2017, and are currently languishing towards the bottom end of the grid having scored just four points so far this season.

Only the engine reliability plagued McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team sit below them in the constructor’s standings, owing to the Japanese manufacturers poorly performing power unit, which Sauber have somewhat surprisingly opted to use in 2018.

A major update to the C36 is believed to be on its way in time for this year’s British Grand Prix, and Kaltenborn had been optimistic about the potential that would bring going forward. However, it seems the 46-year-old and the Hinwil based squad’s new owners could not agree on how the team should be operated, and Kaltenborn has walked away.

It was speculated that the new owners had been pushing for driver Marcus Ericsson, who brings in substantial financial backing, to be given priority over their other driver Pascal Wehrlein, who is still backed by Mercedes but offers no other sponsorship appeal. However, Sauber have rubbished these rumours in a statement sent out by Chairman of the Board Pascal Picci, on Wednesday evening.

“The owners and board of Sauber Motorsport AG take strong exception to speculative and widespread media reports today that our race drivers have not been, and are not being, treated equally. This is not only patently untrue, it would be contrary to the team’s absolute and longstanding commitment to fair competition.

“These reports, attributed to anonymous “sources”, are highly detrimental to both Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein as well as to the management and all staff of the Sauber F1 Team.”

Having quashed the favouritism rumours, Picci also released an official statement from Sauber Holding AG on Kaltenborn’s resignation.

“Longbow Finance SA regrets to announce that, by mutual consent and due to diverging views of the future of the company, Monisha Kaltenborn will leave her positions with the Sauber Group effective immediately.

“We thank her for many years of strong leadership, great passion for the Sauber F1 Team and wish her the very best for the future.

“Her successor will be announced shortly; in the meantime we wish the team the best of luck in Azerbaijan.”

Motorsport.com have suggested that former HRT Team Principal Colin Kolles could be a potential candidate to take over from Kaltenborn, but in the meantime thoughts are that Beat Zehnder and Technical Director Jorg Zander will most likely take control of the team’s operations in Baku this weekend.

  • legrant

    The decision to use the Honda engine is very sensible for Sauber. At the moment they pay through the nose for bad Ferrari engines. If they use Honda, they could have a poor engine ‘for free’ – which sounds bonkers

    However, it will double the amount of data that Honda can gather which is attractive to the engine manufacturer and Sauber will save a large fortune which it can throw at other areas. When the Honda improves (and it will) then Sauber will be in a stonger position than if it continues to pay for other engines.

    It could also be argued that as Honda is not a manufacturer, Sauber wouldn’t have to continue as 2nd team – they should get the same engine as McLaren.

    A switch to Honda may cost them slightly in performance, but this will improve, but it will save them a huge amount of money which could keep the team alive.