Q&A with Andreas Seidl, Sauber Group CEO
Andreas Seidl has been the CEO of the Sauber Group since the 9th of January. As the Group as a whole gears up for 2023 and the Formula One season starts with testing in Bahrain, the man at the top sits down to explain his vision for the whole of the Sauber Group.
You’ve been CEO of the Sauber Group for six weeks; what are your first impressions?
After my previous experience at Hinwil, coming here felt very natural straight away and it’s great to be back. There are a lot of familiar faces, as well as many new ones, and I’ve been given a warm welcome. I have found a very motivated and ambitious team, full of talent; a team with a great foundation, ready to tackle the challenges and opportunities ahead of us.
What is your main focus at the moment?
I’m taking my time right now to get to know as many people as possible, to build relationships and to understand how the team works. In all of my conversations I want to understand where the strengths and weaknesses in the organisation are, and where the gaps to teams currently running in front of us are located.
You’ve introduced a new management structure at Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake. Why have you done that?
The structure we’ve put in place plays to the strengths of the individuals involved and it allows me, as CEO, to focus on the strategic future of the Sauber Group and the team. The strong leadership team, trackside and at HQ, is designed for efficiency and to divide the tasks at hand among different individuals with clear responsibilities.
The most significant evolution from last year is the expanded role of Alessandro Alunni Bravi. He’ll continue to oversee the team’s commercial and legal activities as managing director, as he did in the past, and in addition he’ll now be the public face of the team in the role of Team Representative. Together with Head of Track Engineering & Operations, Xevi Pujolar, and Sporting Director, Beat Zehnder, he will form a strong leadership team trackside.
How much will you be involved in the trackside operation of the team in 2023?
Formula One is the Sauber Group’s core focus, so of course I will be involved and want to contribute with my experience. But I want my leadership team to run things on a daily basis. They are a strong group of people, whom I trust, and I will empower them and give them everything they need.
I will attend a few races, but the foundations of success in F1 are laid at the factory and that’s where my immediate focus will be.
What goals have you set the team for this year?
We have seen in 2022, at the start of a new regulations cycle, that this team can deliver a strong car and make progress up the grid. The key for us is to continue in this direction in the coming months and years. What I want to see is progress in every area of the team, be that at the factory or trackside. Having seen and recently experienced how the team has prepared for this coming season under the leadership of our Technical Director, Jan Monchaux, and Operations Director, Axel Kruse, I am very optimistic we will achieve this as a team.
What is your vision for the Sauber Group?
Every area of the Group is growing, and we want to continue that trajectory in the short, medium and long term. The team has shown its capabilities through continuous growth and sporting success over the years, both on-track and off-track. Our vision in Hinwil for the future is clear: we want to keep moving forward and ultimately become a team which is able to fight for podiums and race wins. We want to become a desirable team, where people want to be – employees, drivers and partners. We want to become a team which fans want to follow. My focus, together with the team, is to work out, implement and execute a clear plan of how we get there.
2023 will be the sixth year of the title partnership with Alfa Romeo. How important has been and is this partnership for the team?
Sauber Motorsport’s title partnership with Alfa Romeo has been a success on and off the track: it has evolved into a model of technical and commercial partnership and has by far exceed expectations over the past five years. The relationship has allowed us to grow a global promotional platform that has contributed to increasing our standing and credibility with partners and sponsors. Our aim for this year is, together with Alfa Romeo, to continue improving the team’s on-track results and see Alfa Romeo`s fantastic activation programme coming to life during 2023, a plan we`re excited to share in the coming weeks and months.
Commercially, the team has had a successful winter. How significant are the new partner deals?
All of our partners are important, and our increasing commercial success reflects the increasing popularity of Formula One and the attractiveness of Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake as a strategic partner for iconic, global brands.
The key for us is to be the most innovative, attractive options for partners: our commercial team has developed a strong proposition for existing and prospective partners, and we’ve placed openness and access at the heart of our work: we don’t want sponsors, we want partners who can become part of our family.
Audi has selected the Sauber Group as their strategic partner for entering F1 in 2026. How significant is that for the team?
It’s very significant because it provides everyone at Sauber with stability and a clear direction of travel. As a Group we know that we have a great future ahead of us, at the same time all our focus is on the here and now, on performing short term in the coming season with Alfa Romeo and on continuing our successful partnership with Ferrari for the next three years.
How excited are you by the recent growth of F1?
The sport is enjoying a surge in popularity, which is fantastic news. Liberty Media and the FIA have done a great job in modernising F1, both from a regulatory standpoint and in the way it’s consumed by fans. The FIA’s new technical and financial rules have achieved positive change and the sport is now much more open and accessible to the fans, which is in line with our team’s fan-centric approach. Everything we do is meant to bring our fans closer to the team. We value openness, showing our true spirit and bringing our “home team” to the fore.
I think it’s great to see a sport populated by healthy teams, with crowded venues and worldwide interest. We’re all playing an important part in making sure our sport is exciting and remains relevant in the future.
You’re working with Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu for the first time. What are their greatest strengths?
Most importantly, they are both fast! That’s the biggest thing for a driver. But they are also impressive people and I’ve had some very interesting chats with them about the team.
Valtteri’s experience and race-winning knowledge are great assets for us which, combined with his focus and commitment, will help us to further develop as a team. But he’s also a fun guy to be around.
Zhou complements Valtteri well. I like a mix of youth and experience in a driver line-up, and Zhou proved last year that he deserves his place in Formula 1. He showed continuous improvement. F1 is such a big step up from anything that drivers have experienced in the junior formulas and Zhou is used to this environment now. I am looking forward to seeing the next step from his side going into his second F1 season with us.
What are your plans for the Sauber Academy?
The Academy is an important tool for developing young talent and we’re fully committed to it. Sauber has a proud history of nurturing talent and giving them a chance – think of names like Schumacher, Räikkönen, Vettel, Kubica, Leclerc, to name just a few. This is an investment for the future, for ourselves and for the sport.
In 2023 we’re supporting four drivers: Théo Pourchaire in F2, Lena Bühler in F1 Academy, Marcus Amand in European Formula Renault and Taym Saleh in CIK Karting. I’m excited to see what each of them can achieve.
Théo is also our third and reserve driver in F1, so he’ll have a busy programme alongside his F2 season. He’s going to be heavily involved with the F1 simulator and later in the year he’ll get some track time in the C43.
F1 will be net zero carbon by 2030. What are Sauber’s sustainability goals?
The Sauber Group is fully committed to sustainability. These are not just empty words; these are backed by action. The company became carbon neutral in 2011 and it has achieved the highest Three-Star level within the FIA’s Environmental Accreditation Framework.
We power our Hinwil headquarters with renewable energy generated on-site and we fully offset the team’s CO2 emissions, including employees’ flights, through reforestation and forest protection projects.
We are also taking more of a proactive approach in this regard: we are working with agencies to actively reduce our carbon footprint and to work with our suppliers and partners to make sure the overall emissions of our operations are reduced.
Diversity and Inclusion are central pillars in the Sauber Group’s employment criteria. Tell us more about what the team is doing in this area.
Our workforce is diverse and multinational. More than 40 nationalities are represented on the payroll, of every ethnicity and creed, and we take our social responsibilities very seriously. We provide equal opportunities and we’re certified under the “We pay Fair” scheme. Sauber is a workplace open to everyone.
We are also taking real, concrete steps to make our community more open, fair and accessible. We’ve extended our partnership with Save the Children to benefit disadvantaged children and implemented tools to reduce dramatically the risk of harassment and abuse on our online channels.
Esports is a huge growth area for the sport; how committed is Sauber to the virtual racing world?
Esports provides huge opportunities for the group, both commercially and in how we engage with our fans. Our investment is growing; in 2022 we opened the Sauber Esports Arena and we’re keen to continue playing a leading role across Esports, having won races across multiple seasons and with Jarno Opmeer lifting the drivers’ trophy in 2020.
We have big plans for this season and we’re looking forward to revealing them in the coming months.
As CEO you’re also in charge of Sauber Technologies. Do you see opportunities for expansion in this area?
Sauber Technologies already has more than 50 clients across a wide variety of industries. That number is set to grow as more businesses seek F1 know-how in their efforts to solve complex engineering problems. It’s a fascinating area of the company and one that has had sporting success in other fields. STE designed and built the wheelchair of six-time Paralympic champion Marcel Hug, who joined us at our launch in Zurich earlier in the month, and every day we explore new projects in a wider range of fields.
It’s a great way to put 30 years of F1 technology to the service of the wider world and it’s an avenue for new partnerships for the whole of the group as well.