Frederic Vasseur Cancelled Sauber Honda Deal on First Day as Boss
At around the halfway point of last year’s Formula One championship, the Sauber F1 team and Honda had been in talks for an engine deal. Sauber was no longer happy with Ferrari, which was only supplying it with 2016-spec engines rather than the latest 2017 versions—but when team principal Monisha Kaltenborn left the team and was replaced by Frederic Vasseur, the deal with Honda was immediately cancelled. In fact, it turns out it was one of the first things he did.
“I joined on July 17 at 9 AM, and the meeting was at 10 AM,” he told Motorsport in an interview while reflecting his return to the sport. “For me it was important. It is never easy to change the engine supplier first, but Honda was not in a very good shape. Plus, and probably most important for me, was that we were linked to McLaren for the gearbox with absolutely no internal resources to do our own one.”
Crucially, it seems the decision to stick with Ferrari had more to do with factors unrelated to the Honda engine itself, which ended up going to Toro Rosso. Vasseur revealed he had contacts at McLaren who were certain the team would split with Honda, which would have caused all sorts of difficulties in 2018 for Sauber. “Imagine today if I had to request the Honda gearbox from McLaren. It would be an absolute nightmare,” he said. “Being in the process of working on our 2018 car, we were not able to postpone the decision.”
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Additionally, Sauber may have been swayed by a new Ferrari deal. The team is now getting Maranello’s latest-spec engine, a new Alfa Romeo sponsorship, and a promising young driver to (hopefully) score some points alongside Marcus Ericsson. Vasseur, however, insists that Sauber will not become Ferrari’s B team despite their closer relationship, and believes the team capable of independently building a great car.
“What people call us doesn’t matter—nobody is taking care of whether we are a junior, or a customer,” he said. “We just have to build up something with them, based on a common approach and mutual agreement. We need to have a close relationship but I don’t want to buy the car of Ferrari because I want to keep the know-how. If we don’t do that, I will be in exactly the same position as we could be in today with the gearbox, and I want to avoid this kind of decision.”
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News Source: Motorsport