June 5th, 2019

#MtrGP: The Battle of the Bottle

Flashback. Canada 2008. Robert Kubica and BMW Sauber have just won their first ever Grand Prix in the baking heat of Montreal. It’s a 1-2, with Nick Heidfeld following Robert home.

The team crowd under the podium as the Polish anthem rings in the air. Some are shedding tears. Up there, Robert punches the air. He’s got his trophy. He smiles. There’s only one thing left to do – the champagne. Emotion is a funny thing, though. In the excitement of the moment of his first win, Robert forgets to uncork his bottle. No spray from him – and that’s why his winner’s bottle remains, to this day, the only one of our 27 podium bottle with the cork still on, proudly displayed in our team base in Hinwil.

It’s a great Sauber story, one that shows the human side of Formula One. It’s a story new starters are told on their first days in the factory.
It’s also not true.

A Canada 2008 winner’s bottle, that is true, is still corked. And it’s in Hinwil. But here is actually an even more fascinating story about that bottle – one that involves politics, passions and jealousies. In the aftermath of that win, a benign row, but a row nonetheless, emerged over the ownership of those spoils of victory. Sauber and BMW both wanted to keep the memento, the vessel of the sweetest champagne we had ever tasted. We pleaded and begged but alas, on the occasion, it was the German giant that won “The Battle of the Bottle”: the original is proudly displayed in their Munich museum to this day. Formula One produced a replica and that went to Switzerland.

On the day, we chose to relinquish this precious memory to our partners. That’s what we did, with magnanimity and style. To go on building more great memories in the future.

The trophy, that one we kept. From then on, we called it “the one we didn’t even give them a sniff of”.

Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal Alfa Romeo Racing and CEO Sauber Motorsport AG:
“We are looking ahead to Montreal with confidence. The track layout should suit us and it is one that allows overtaking, which is something we struggled on previous tracks despite good race pace. With every race weekend, we gain understanding of our car and we learn how to unlock its pace, but executing a spotless race weekend is still the key. The midfield is so close, with only five points dividing fifth and ninth in the championship, so every mistake has a big price, but we know we can score points in Canada and move up in the standings.”

Kimi Räikkönen (car number 7):
“The track in Montreal should suit us but to be honest so far this season not a lot went according to plan. I hope we’ll get the tyres working and then we should be able to get the full potential out of the car. 9th in the Constructor’s Championship is definitely not where we should be.”

Antonio Giovinazzi (car number 99):
“I can’t wait to race in Montreal for the first time in my career. I’ve had two good weeks to charge my batteries, going to the Giro d’Italia and to the MotoGP in Mugello, and now I am pumped to get back in the cockpit. The circuit in Canada delivered plenty of interesting races in the past and it’s a place with good overtaking opportunities, so I am looking forward to a fun day on Sunday. Hopefully we can score the results we deserve.”