Sauber and Formula One go hand-in-hand. The plucky Swiss outfit have been producing midfield chargers since the early 90s and despite various ups and downs, still managed to survive when many others around them failed and disappeared.
Formed by Peter Sauber and originally running sports cars, the cigar-smoking Swiss took his company to pastures new when he decided to give Formula One a go back in 1993. Over the years the team waxed and waned in the top midfield, always being close, but rarely close enough.
BMW ownership in 2006 bought new hope at a time when budgets were sky rocketing. And by-and-large, the Bavarian injection helped with performance. BMW-Sauber reached new levels and even a race victory with Robert Kubica in Canada ‘08. Global economy squeezes would soon take their toll though, and BMW walked away at the end of 2009, handing the keys to the factory back to Sauber.
And so we come to the present day and a new sign above Hinwil’s doors, Alfa Romeo. Having sold their engines to Sauber for the past nine years, Ferrari were looking for a B-team, much in the guise of Red Bull and Toro Rosso. Last year they gave the Swiss some help, slapped some Alfa logos on the car (Alfa Romeo being owned by Ferrari/Fiat), and stuck one of their young drivers in the cockpit.
This year, having seen some promising results and their young driver, Charles LeClerc, being promoted to the the big league, Ferrari have taken the Sauber project a little further and announced a change in the team’s name. Sauber is no more.
It was this morning that the 2019 car was officially presented to the world, but it was the car’s designation that made me look twice. The Alfa Romeo C38.
You see, every Formula One car has a designation. Ferrari’s tend to stick in my mind for some reason. Michael Schumacher’s first in 1996 was the F310 (and later that year after a dramatic redesign, the F310B). When the formula was adjusted in 2014, the car was named the F14T: the Ferrari 2014 Turbo, or FIAT. Eddie Jordan used his own initials, the EJxx, similarly, Williams’ are FWs after founder Frank Williams. McLaren’s MP4 designation always leaves people scratching their heads, but it came from the original backers of the reformation of the McLaren project, Marlboro Project 4. Nowadays, the team use MCLxx.
So what has C got to do with Alfa Romeo? Well, nothing as it happens. But with Sauber, C is a very important letter. So important in fact, Peter Sauber felt obliged to use it for all of his cars. Even before Formula One, his original sports car in 1970 was named the C1. And in 2010 when he retook control of his Formula One team, Sauber pretended the previous four cars were named Cxx and continued on, despite BMW being overly imaginative and naming their four F1.xx.
The answer to this conundrum… Peter Sauber’s wife is called Christine, and she has had many racing cars named after her. I just hope Alfa Romeo continue this legacy. May her name still echo down the corridors of Hinwil and adorn Formula One machines for years to come.