Sauber technical director Smith stands down

2016 F1 season

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Sauber’s technical director Mark Smith has stood down from the team less than a week before the first race of the year.

“The technical director of the Sauber F1 Team, Mark Smith, has decided to go back to the UK for family reasons,” said the team in a statement on Monday. “He has already left the company.”

“We would like to thank Mark for his efforts and we wish him all the best for his future,” it added.

Sauber appointed the former Caterham designer in July last year. Smith also previously worked for Force India, Red Bull, Jordan and Renault. The 55-year-old is married with two children.

The team’s new C35 chassis was the only car which did not appear in time for the first test of the new season. Smith described the car as “very much an evolution” of the team’s 2015 car

Smith’s departure leaves Sauber’s technical team headed by chief designer Eric Gandelin.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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23 comments on “Sauber technical director Smith stands down”

  1. Wow, not a good sign at all (for Sauber). On the other hand, he might show up at Enstone towards the end of the season (6months from now)

    1. What about Willem Toet? I hoped he was en route to Enstone as well.

      1. Boomerang, after leaving Sauber, Willem Toet has taken up a role as a freelance consultant and providing guest lectures in the academic world.

        Whilst they might have enquired, at the moment it looks as if Toet might be moving towards scaling back his involvement in motorsport – he is 63 after all, and given he’s been working in the world of motorsport since the early 1980’s, I imagine he is looking towards retiring from motorsport altogether sooner rather than later.

  2. So sad for Sauber.
    I really hope this isn’t the start of the end of Sauber Motorsport.

  3. I hope he’s okay. The “for family reasons” line is never a good sign.

    1. Actually, whenever I read “for family reasons” it usually means, “better opportunity elsewhere”.

      1. knoxploration
        14th March 2016, 19:25

        I read it as either “Saw the future in the tea leaves” or perhaps even “Got fed up with being among those not being paid on time”, personally.


      2. He’s a successful 55 year old who probably has realized that going home and looking after an ailing parent (or whomever) is more important than his job, which is True. Good luck to him.

      3. Family reasons equals not received my full pay last month and may receive less this month so cannot afford to work at Sauber.

  4. I wish if Monisha could also step down from Sauber.

    1. We all do.

  5. Still too soon to know if the “family reasons” is a valid excuse or just a cover for something else.
    I stand with @bascb assuming he might join Renault as then he will be based in the UK…

  6. I wonder if Sauber will make it to the end of the season, and if they do, how they will make it next year. They already took advanced payment from FOM. They rely heavily on their drivers to come up with sponsorship, and now it looks like they will lose further championship position (no TD, below average drivers, increased competition) and thereby FOM money.

    1. @me4me, I wouldn’t necessarily consider Nasr below average.

  7. Looks like Renault could be putting the band back together.

    1. Renault family reasons?

  8. This paints such a vivid picture about the prospects of Sauber for this year and forward…

    Sad to say this, but that outfit is an irrepairable mess, and I’m afraid it’s become such a mess through bad management and bad management only. Judging by how Haas and Manor look like so far, I’d be surprised if we don’t have a new clear backmarker in Sauber’s livery by summer break.

  9. Second year in a row that Sauber starts the season in turmoil. Monisha, obviously is not a strong leader for the team. She should resign.

  10. Wonder if Sauber would go up for sale by the end of 2016.

  11. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    15th March 2016, 8:40

    Unfortunately Sauber is increasingly looking like a team on the hunt for a buyer.

    I think it would be highly likely that if this team does feel the need for some more long-term backing that Ferrari, or rather the Fiat-Chrysler group, would be interested in rebadging the team either ‘Alfa Romeo’ or ‘Maserati’. Yes, it would be another nail in the coffin of the privateers and another layer to Ferrari and Mercedes domination of the sport, but I think, like we are with the Enstone squad, we would just be happy to see the Hinwil team remain in the sport.

    1. @william-brierty

      Yeah, but here’s the thing: who would buy Sauber?
      The Ferrari scenario doesn’t seem practical to me. I believe Haas’s arrival now means that Ferrari just cut whatever cords it still had with Sauber, which in turn just lost the unofficial main-customer privilege it had and with it, most of Ferrari’s remaining interest. Also, I don’t see Ferrari looking to run an official B-team for the time being. Not unless they start beating Mercedes soon and not unless their partnership with Haas goes sour all of a sudden.

      Otherwise, think about it. If you’re a manufacturer/investor looking to buy your way into F1, you’re serious about it and you’re in your right mind, wouldn’t you look into buying Force India first? Or even to strike a deal with Red Bull for Torro Rosso? Sauber’s at best your third option. Unless some Stephen Fitzpatrick with a passion or some Qatari investment group walk in all of a sudden, Sauber is going to have a hard time even trying to come up with a buyer for that team.

      1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
        15th March 2016, 11:41

        @tony031r I completely disagree. Ferrari has a long and close history with Sauber. Sauber has supported Ferrari juniors such as Massa, Perez and even Bianchi was looking odds-on for a Sauber seat before his tragic accident. Probably no less than twenty Ferrari personnel are permanently posted at Hinwil. In return Ferrari have provided technical and commercial assistance throughout the fragile post-BMW years.

        With BMW the team proved the enormous potential of its infrastructure, and even without BMW, the team produced the tremendous, four-time podium-scoring C31. With manufacturer backing I don’t see why it wouldn’t be an attractive prospect for prominent technical personnel.

        Why would Ferrari want to buy it? Because Marchionne has very directly proclaimed an ambition to see the Alfa Romeo brand return to F1 to reaffirm the brand’s sporting credentials:

        Haas are a self-styled stateside marque, Toro Rosso and Force India are not looking for buyers (the proposed 2017 Aston Martin deal would exchange a small stake in the team for AMR licensed branding and marketing), and Manor don’t have Sauber’s technical infrastructure. I would be very surprised if we don’t see Ferrari buy a stake in Sauber and rebrand it Alfa Romeo for 2017.

        1. @william-brierty, whilst it is true that Sauber did produce a fairly decent car in the shape of the C31 (the C32 wasn’t that shabby either, at least in Hulkenberg’s hands), quite a few things have changed at the team since then.

          The loss of James Key in 2012, the Technical Director responsible for the C31, was a big blow to the team, whilst his successor (Matt Morris), who was responsible for the C32, moved to McLaren the following year. There have been a reasonable number of upheavals amongst the technical team recently as some of Sauber’s more experienced higher level staff have gone to other teams, and it has proven difficult for Sauber to attract staff to move to Hinwil – it is somewhat remote from the larger motorsport industrial centres (such as around Cologne due to the Toyota Motorsport Group facilities), and the increasingly punitive laws on foreign workers in Switzerland make it less attractive to move there.

          Equally, although its production facilities are reasonably decent thanks to BMW’s investment, a lack of investment since then has begun to have an impact – whilst Ferrari have traditionally outsourced some windtunnel testing work to Sauber, Ferrari have been starting to shift more of their work to Toyota’s facilities instead.

          Besides, Marchionne might want to see Alfa Romeo back in F1, but at the moment he has mainly looked to secure engine deals. The deal that Marchionne tried to strike with Toro Rosso – where the team would use Ferrari engines rebadged as Alfa Romeo engines – sounds like an attempt to tie together an F1 program and Alfa Romeo’s new saloon car, as the high performance version is advertised as using a “Ferrari tuned” V6 engine.

          In all probability, whilst Marchionne may want the Alfa Romeo marque back in F1, he is probably only looking for a short term profile boost to tie into the launch of Alfa’s new models in the next couple of years. Rebadging a Ferrari engine as an Alfa Romeo unit would be a fairly quick way and inexpensive way of attracting attention to the marque, whilst at the same time the engine would probably be competitive enough to ensure that it had a positive impact on the brand (as Alfa’s forays into F1 in the 1970’s and 1980’s weren’t quite so successful). From his point of view, though, I can’t see a full manufacturer team being worth the investment and therefore suspect that it is less likely to occur.

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