Team founder Peter Sauber has defended Monisha Kaltenborn after the courtroom debacle of the team’s 2015 season opener.
Ultimately, Indian-born Kaltenborn was smiling as the sun set on Sunday’s Melbourne paddock, as Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson scored more points in a single race than the Swiss team did in the whole of the 2014 season. In fact, Sauber is an astonishing third overall so far this year, ahead of Williams and Red Bull. But earlier, the now low-profile team founder Peter Sauber was moved to leave his native Switzerland and make the long trek to Australia, as the Giedo van der Garde saga threatened to pull the curtain on the team’s 22-year history.
In the end, just as he was touching down in Melbourne, Kaltenborn had managed to settle the courtroom dispute with the disgruntled Dutch driver, even though the saga is likely to now roll into Malaysia. “I can’t talk about any of that,” she said late on Sunday. But at least Sauber’s terminal lack of pace now seems solved, perhaps thanks mainly to the engine improvements brought by supplier Ferrari. Kaltenborn argues: “The whole package is better, although Ferrari has made a giant leap in the engine. But we have also managed a step forward with the chassis.” Still, Sauber’s troubles are not over, she acknowledged. “I do not believe that new sponsors will suddenly come,” said Kaltenborn, “but I would love to be surprised.”
Indeed, potential new backers will look not only at a good result for Sauber in Australia, but also the enormous criticisms aimed at Kaltenborn’s handling of the van der Garde situation. As recently as Friday, the press was asking the 43-year-old if she will step down as boss. But Peter Sauber says that is not going to happen. “Without Monisha Kaltenborn,” the 71-year-old Swiss told Blick newspaper on Sunday, “there would be no Sauber.”
Sauber also told the Neue Zercher Zeitung newspaper: “I would not have bought the team back (from BMW) six years ago if she had not declared her willingness to participate. “It was a joint decision,” he revealed, “and for me I was very, very lucky to have her in this position. “Many other teams in the paddock would also be very lucky to have this woman,” added Sauber.