“The idea of becoming Red Bull Racing got buried”: Alfa Romeo Manager recalls how driver disputes broke up Sauber and Red Bull

Alfa Romeo Sporting Director Beat Zehnder recalled the incident regarding some driver dispute that led to Red Bull withdrawing their support for Sauber.

Beat Zehnder
Beat Zehnder
FirstSportz News

Alfa Romeo sporting director Beat Zehnder revealed that Sauber might have become Red Bull Racing only if the two entities had not got into a dispute regarding driver Enrique Bernoldi. Red Bull was the title sponsor for the Sauber F1 team from 1995 up until 2001. Post 2001, the relationship between the two companies ended suddenly, because Sauber did not let Red Bull put Brazilian driver Bernoldi in their car.

Enrique Bernoldi was a brazilian racing driver who was backed by Red Bull, thus the Austrian energy drinks company pushed for their driver getting a seat with Sauber. However, the problem arose because Beat Zehnder wasn’t really impressed by the performance of Bernoldi in Formula 3000. Therefore the Brazilian didn’t get the seat, and as a result, Red Bull backed out and withdrew all their support from Sauber.

Red Bull pushed for Enrique, who had driven in Formula 3000 in 2000,” said Zehnder on the Beyond the Grid podcast. He also continued, “Peter Sauber asked me to follow him throughout the season. So I sat at the command post for every Formula 3000 race.”

In place of Bernoldi, the Sauber seat went to Kimi Raikkonen. The young Finnish driver got to drive as the teammate of Nick Heidfeld. Added to all of this, Sauber also dropped Bernoldi from his role as a test driver for the team.

Enrique Bernoldi had failed to impress Alfa Romeo sporting director Beat Zehnder

BMW Sauber
BMW Sauber


Zehnder wasn’t too impressed by Bernoldi, and it is quite evident. He stated, “Why does he want to be a Formula One driver? Is it because he wanted free entry to the biggest clubs? That was my feeling.” In fact, Zehnder says that he was quite amused that Bernoldi was even given the test driver role in the first place at all. “We still can’t explain why he did that,” Zehnder mused. “And then we went for Kimi instead of Enrique, and I think that’s when the idea of becoming Red Bull Racing was buried.”

Therefore, instead of Jaguar, it could have very well been Sauber who would have been the starting team for Red Bull Racing. As for Enrique Bernoldi, he drove for the Arrows F1 team for two seasons but failed to score a single point with them.

Sauber later linked up with BMW and raced as BMW Sauber for five seasons, and Red Bull bought the jaguar F1 team and renamed them as the Red Bull Racing F1 team. As of now, Red Bull have 84 wins and Sauber, now rechristened Alfa Romeo, have only one.

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