Spa masquerade nearly precipitated Sauber sale


In recent years, although discreet, Pascal Picci has been an important figure at Sauber since he played a key role in saving the team in 2016, the year in which it was acquired by Longbow Finance. As chairman of Sauber Holding, he worked closely with the Islero Investments consortium, led by Finn Rausing, while working on the deal allowing the team to be named Alfa Romeo.

However, ahead of the Mexican Grand Prix earlier this month, Pascal Picci took the team by surprise by announcing his resignation. Speaking for the first time since his departure, which made no noise in the media, he explains that he did not share the same vision as Frédéric Vasseur, director of the team. « I don’t want to be associated with the management of Fred Vasseur in the future », he reveals in an interview with the Italian edition of Motorsport.com.

Pascal Picci refuses to express himself precisely on his dissensions with the Frenchman but he recognizes that the choice of the pilots played a central role in this affair. Sauber recently announced the hiring of Guanyu Zhou to team up with Valtteri Bottas in 2022, publicly assuming the economic opportunities offered by the arrival of a Chinese pilot. This choice marks a turning point since the second seat is no longer awarded to a Ferrari driver, which had enabled Antonio Giovinazzi to race for Alfa Romeo for the past three seasons.

« The way the pilots were chosen was one of the points that broke the relationship between the current management and me », confirms Pascal Picci while ensuring that he has nothing against Gunayu Zhou. « I’m sorry Antonio isn’t here anymore and I’m glad Zhou is coming. I’ve known the young Chinese boy and his family since we wanted to bring him to the Sauber Driver Academy, as well as to have [évalué] the business opportunities he could open « .

What happened at the Belgian Grand Prix remains an open wound.

Pascal Picci

Pascal Picci says he still has full confidence in the owners of Sauber, who recently sent a strong signal about their involvement as talks for a buyout took place with Michael Andretti. However, the intention to sell was real, following the events of Spa-Francorchamps. Despite a non-existent race due to terrible weather that day, the result was confirmed with half points attribution.

« What happened at the Belgian Grand Prix remains an open wound », he reveals. “Three laps without racing behind the safety car gave Williams points that almost deprived us of any chance of reclaiming their position in the constructors’ championship. Spa was an important turning point for us: it is one of the main reasons why we decided to give up F1 and sell. « 

Negotiations with Andretti ultimately collapsed as the Sauber owners did not want to cede full control of the team. For Pascal Picci, the choices made by Finn Rausing will pay off for the future.

« He is free to choose, he represents the shareholders and he is a reliable person who devotes all his passion and energy to it », he assures. « I was on the minority side and drew the conclusions. Finn remains as trustworthy to me as the others who represent the company. Without hesitation, I sincerely wish the whole team the best possible. for the future. »

« I am confident about the future of the team because the owners are enthusiastic, they are very passionate people, for whom the number one priority is to protect the staff who make up the team. My resignation, therefore, must not be by no means become a source of concern for the staff at Sauber. I’m sure of it. « 

Interview by Franco Nugnes

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