Sauber parts ways with team principal Kaltenborn

2017 F1 season

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Monisha Kaltenborn has stood down as team principal and CEO of Sauber, the Swiss outfit’s owner has confirmed.

“Longbow Finance SA regrets to announce that, by mutual consent and due to diverging views of the future of the company, Monisha Kaltenborn will leave her positions with the Sauber Group effective immediately,” it said in a statement.

“We thank her for many years of strong leadership, great passion for the Sauber F1 team and wish her the very best for the future. Her successor will be announced shortly; in the meantime we wish the team the best of luck in Azerbaijan.”

Kaltenborn has been with Sauber for 17 years. She became CEO in 2010 and took over from founder Peter Sauber as team principal in 2012, becoming the first woman to head an F1 team.

The team has struggled on and off the track in recent seasons amid rising costs and falling sponsorship revenues. They failed to score any points in 2014 and ran into financial problems.

The team began 2015 in a messy dispute over drivers. The team were unable to participate in the first practice session of the season after Giedo van der Garde, who’d been passed over for a seat at the team, took them to court. Sauber lost the case and was ordered to pay a fine.

Their financial problems continued to mount in 2016 until investment was secured from Swiss company Longbow Finance. The team narrowly avoided finishing last in the championship to Manor, which would have cost them millions in lost prize money. They are ninth in the championship at present.

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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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71 comments on “Sauber parts ways with team principal Kaltenborn”

  1. Yup! As I always say. Never let a lawyer lead an engineering company.

    It is two conflicting ideologies.

    We will see what happens next, but under her rule Sauber sank to last place.

    1. Lawyer and accountants!

      1. Disagree with the accountant part @malleshmagdum. I think someone with a mix of financial acumen and racing know-how will be in high demand in the coming years as Liberty pursues a reduction in costs.

        A lot of sports now have salary/budget caps. Not coincidence a lot of them are run by people who cut their teeth counting beans.

        1. @bamboo, it could also be pointed out to @jureo that Peter Sauber started out in life as a salesman with no background in engineering either.

          It’s also worth pointing out that, when Sauber was operating as an independent team prior to being bought out by BMW, they were typically finishing between 6th place and 8th place in the WCC in most years – little better than they are now. They might have fallen back from where they were when they were a factory team, but that is not exactly surprising.

          1. Salesman is vastly different to Llawyer. Sales require creativity, solution oriented thinking.

        2. I agree with you…Best practice would be to team up engineers and accountants

    2. Sauber have never been last in the Constructors’ Championship while Monisha Kaltenborn has been Team Principal. Even now they are ahead of McLaren in the Constructors’ Championship.

      1. My apologies, I had overlooked that Sauber were last equal with Caterham-Renault at the end of the 2014 season. All the other seasons from 2009 through to 2016 were completed with Sauber in the points and not last.

        1. What are you talking about? 2014-2016 seasons were the worst in their 24 year history. Sauber’s ambition shouldn’t be “avoid being last”.

      2. Isn’t McLaren in F2?


    3. Neil (@neilosjames)
      21st June 2017, 23:33

      I’d lean further towards the view that under her rule, Sauber acquired a vital lifeline and survived when they could so easily have gone the way of Manor.

      The van der Garde thing aside, I think she did a great job.

      1. @neilosjames Sauber got the vital lifeline through a fortunate circumstance,* which ended up seeing Manor collapse. Her leadership put them in the position where that was necessary.

        *I’m not discrediting what was a well fought race on their part, by Nasr and the strategists, however I don’t believe she deserves credit for bringing the team to that level

      2. @neilosjames

        That’s my opinion too.

        She did a good job while others have come and gone.

        It’ll take a miracle for them to win a race, but they can be a solid mid field. It’s also possible they may be Hondas works team next year.

        Alonso to Sauber?

    4. Given her apparent lack of understanding of contract law, she isn’t even a good lawyer.

    5. I think this is the end of sauber as we know it. Sure they were on the downhill, taking a Honda deal is most definitely a business choice and surely it wasn’t Monisha’s.

      1. I doubt that, @peartree. Longbow Finance SA have put in a lot of money and the decision now to eject Frau Kaltenborn points at a strategy being in place.

        1. In my opinion, it all started going downhill when they lost James Key.

    6. I disagree. Lawyers and accountants bring a different viewpoint on solutions, and can help engineers look at problems from different perspectives. The same can be said for engineers helping lawyers and accountants look at problems from different perspectives.

      I would say that under her rule she kept Sauber afloat. Good achievement if you ask me.

      1. I’d say Lawyers think like engineers, but from the other side if that makes any sense, and so they’re their perfect complement.

        I, for one, will miss her.
        Thanks for 2012, Monisha. It was a great vintage.

    7. I was really rooting for her at the beginning, but now, unfortunately, all I have to say is good riddance.

  2. Sauber announces 3 new CEO’s in her place

    1. Brilliant !

    2. @f199player only if she is appointing her replacement

    3. More like Monisha has accepted 3 new full time roles ;)

  3. Levente (@leventebandi)
    21st June 2017, 23:16

    Joe Saward insists, that the 2015 legal dispute was about, that GvdG’s management tried to do a hostile takeover behind the scenes. Maybe after this, Monisha will talk about it, as they did not really said anything about that, only Giedo…

    1. BS. Just a race seat deal, but they were open to other ways of solving the dispute.
      (I personally know the people Involved)

  4. Andre Furtado
    21st June 2017, 23:33

    Better late than never. Claire should go next.

  5. I feel that a lot of the hate that Kaltenborn is getting from fans is due to the sexism that is sadly still endemic to F1. The fact that unlike male team principals, people always refer to her by her first name, is just one example of that. And if Peter Sauber (or another man) had made the decision with regard to Giedo van der Garde back then, he would have been applauded for being ruthless for the good of the team.

    The rumors that Kaltenborn was fired because she didn’t want to favor Ericsson (i.e. the guy who got outqualified by one second by Andre Lotterer in his first and only F1 race ever) over Wehrlein, as demanded by the sponsors, is another decision of hers that I (and probably everyone else) cannot fault.

    And to make matters worse, Colin Kolles, (who tends to join teams just before they go belly up) is rumored to be her successor…

    There really couldn’t be any worse news for Sauber.

    1. A lot of assumptions there @aesto, purely for convenience of argument.

      Prominent females figures in F1 over recent years:

      – Monisha Kalterborn
      – Claire Williams
      – Suzie Wolff
      – Carmen Jorda
      – Maria de Villota

      Of the above, who would of made it to where they were if they were males? On merit alone, the majority would not. Although I have no issue with Monisha at all, its the other ones who haven’t really helped the cause of women in motorsport.

      Let us not confuse equality as a free meal ticket for some based on gender. While gender should always be of relevance, it should never be a factor in a decision making process. If it is, whether it be in the favor of male or female, it is sexism.

      1. I would never say that Carmen Jorda and Maria de Villota were ever what you would call prominent in F1 and I am sorry but Claire Williams is doing a pretty good job at Williams.

      2. Those are just the famous ones. Isn’t there a lady in senior management over at Mercedes?

      3. come on @bamboo.
        I can just as easily give you a list of male managers and drivers, each of them less talented than your list above.

    2. @aesto I cannot speak for other people, but I am completely certain that Kaltenborn’s gender never entered my mind when making judgements. I, as I would with any other team principal, have been looking at her record and seeing that it is very poor.

      How many times did Domenicali and di Montezemolo get criticised for their decisions, or how many times has Horner been criticised over his disagreements with Renault? You and I both know a lot.

      Peter Sauber, much like his rival, Frank Williams, was / is a popular and well respected person, given his history with the team and with F1, and saving it from disappearing when BMW departed, so it is not unexpected that people would be less critical of a decision like that, but putting it down to sexism is quite an assumption.

      Further to that, I have heard plenty of people referring to Guenther Steiner simply as Guenther, Gene Haas as Gene, and Ron Dennis as Ron, just to name a few off the top of my head. And I’ve heard plenty of people refer to Monisha Kaltenborn as Kaltenborn before. It can sometimes be easy to have a biased perception about these things.

    3. Sauber the plucky little engine that could.

      Why is everything about sexism? Kaltenborn(never recall her first name) is the equivalent of a captain of a WWI dreadnought trying to fight against nuclear submarine’s. She hasn’t got the resources to take it to the big guys. But she kept the ship going.

      So was she fired or did she leave what is a fruitless endeavour. Most men would have left long ago. Personally I would have left after the second budget statement.

      1. “Effective immediately” means fired.

        1. “Longbow Finance SA regrets to announce that, by mutual consent and due to diverging views of the future of the company, Monisha Kaltenborn will leave her positions with the Sauber Group effective immediately,” it said in a statement.

          There is also Mutual Consent. It is usually used when a high ranking employee leaves due to conflict with the owners. “Steps down” is usually used when the owners kick out high ranking employees due to conflict.

          Effectively immediately means there is a conflict between the owners and the employee.

    4. It is possible to be a woman and suck and your job….that’s not sexism. I do however think that the suggestion that women should be sheltered from criticism because of they’re gender is someone sexist. They can take it just as well as any man.

    5. I’m not saying that everyone who criticizes her is a sexist. She’s definitely made some controversial decisions in her time, and it’s certainly not surprising that some people might object to them. But in many cases, rather than well-reasoned criticism, it just seems to come down to gender. And for some reason, those arguments tend to coincide with calling her by her first name. The post above mine is just a case in point, which by the way, I hadn’t even seen yet when I wrote it.

      1. So let me get this straight. Calling a female by her first name you’re interpreting as sexism? Its a distinctive name, to the point people know to an absolute degree who you are talking about, unlike Christian, Zak, Eric, Martin etc

        Heard of Toto, what about Geido, Vijay, Heikki, Kimi, Jenson? Just a few examples. Whats your take on the “Salut Gilles” message on the Montreal grid?

        I’m sure you’re a good guy, but what a ridiculous statement.

        1. No, the causation is reversed. People who are sexists tend to refer to women (especially to those in positions of power, whereas men in the same position tend to be treated more deferentially) by their first name, presumably because they don’t take them seriously.

          Calling a women by her first name certainly does not make one a sexist. But if someone does do that, then I’m definitely less reluctant to interpret their other words in that light, if they merit it.

          1. What tosh.

            You’re even stating yourself you’re operating on a presumption. I’ve got an idea – large corporates contain positions of power. Go and call a male senior exec by his surname, and call the female senior exec by her first name. I know which one you’ll get an earful from.

            I don’t think your Claire Williams point is a good one either. If an article tomorrow was released titled “Williams to depart” most people would assume it was Frank. Nothing to do with gender, just a bit of age and common sense.

            I think you’re overthinking this one way way too much. Its simply a means of identification.

    6. China Racing Ltd

    7. @aesto

      The fact that unlike male team principals, people always refer to her by her first name, is just one example of that.

      I don’t agree.

      My own rule writing is to always refer to people by their surnames. I’m quite sensitive to noticing when other people don’t. If there’s any pattern to it, I’d say some people reach for the name which is easier to pronounce: “Bernie” instead of “Ecclestone”; “Kimi” instead of “Raikkonen”, etc…

      I wouldn’t argue against the claim there is sexism in F1 (or anywhere else in society), but I’m not convinced the name thing is an indicator of it.

    8. You would have a point if women were involved in F1 due to merit. Your willingness to patronise women in this way is sexism by low expectations. I would much rather have zero women involved in F1 and then truly appreciate and celebrate female involvement on merit when it does happen rather than this toxic male-feminism that seems to infest some parts of the internet.

  6. I’m happy I wasn’t in her shoes. She was able to keep the team going despite the atrocious conditions. BMW Abandoned this team at the worst possible moment, and it is a surprise they have survived this long, even if only limping a times. Anyone who thinks otherwise don’t have the faintest idea how life in F1 works.

    1. Despite BMW abandoning them at the end of 2009, the 2011 and 2012 campaigns I seem to recall they were very successful. There were obviously hard times since, but it seems to me like the team going in this direction had little to do with BMW (or the absence thereof).

      1. 2011 and 12 benefited from the technical team that BMW had gotten together. A bit like Brawn GP, I think. They were probably confident in their product and instead of unemployment they waited for offers whilst employed with reduced pay.

        James Key’s the example of the lot, I’d say.

  7. That pretty much confirms that Nasr was treated as second driver last season.

  8. There goes what is easily, in my opinion, the worst team principal in modern F1.

    She took over the team while it was fighting for podiums, and it somehow ended up worse than Manor (don’t forget they only beat them by a stroke of fortune in Brazil). I know there is a lot to be said (and a lot we don’t know) about their circumstances, but her management decisions were always very questionable, and indeed were questioned by basically everyone, so it isn’t difficult to say that, in this case, the blame comes at the top.

    I just don’t know why they didn’t do it sooner to be honest.

    1. +1 and there is nothing about sexism. Team principal got the team with great drivers (KOB+PER) and personnel fighting for podiums and ended up with signing 3 pay drivers for 2 race seats. I’ll call him/her incompetent regardless the gender.

    2. It wasn’t just fortune. Nasr overtake many cars and would had finished 10th or above even if most of the cars that had abandoned had finished the race.

    3. There are enormous legal ramifications that scares companies (not just F1 teams) from firing women.

  9. Too bad, she was kinda cute

  10. It is a shame to see Monisha depart F1 as she did a reasonably good job in a male dominated world, but she is going at the right time, if it is true that Sauber will use Honda engines in 2018 then I don’t expect to see them competing in 2019.

  11. @strontium completely agree!

    Whenever she opened her mouth it was complaining about distribution of funds in F1, or why her team was underperforming etc. And then there was the whole van der Garde incident.

  12. They should have a chat with Ronny D. He knows how to run a team + what it takes to work with honda.

  13. Finally. Poor performance can only go on for so long…

  14. I don’t understand this hatred. There are a lot of comments about ‘poor performance’, ‘worst performing team principal’ but the only supporting evidence of this is the Van Der Garde incident and that Sauber has gone backward. Only the Van Der Garde incident can be considered as her full fault. Not enough to say that she was ‘performing poorly’.

    I think she did well. Losing Perez in 2012 obviously hurt their funding and resulted in the slide down the order. Nothing she could have done about that.

    1. “There are a lot of comments about ‘poor performance’, ‘worst performing team principal’ but the only supporting evidence of this is the Van Der Garde incident and that Sauber has gone backward.”

      Er, isn’t this enough ? Isn”t management performance judged by results? Don’t tell me she couldn’t have done anything on the team’s fortunes. She did terrible management decision in sports terms: Kobayashi Out Gutierrez/ Erikkson in, Nasr out . The balance between pay and competent/talented driver was always an attribute and characteristic of Sauber. Recent years not only the engineering but the drivers quality went down the drain. Lucky for Sauber they have Werhlein on their books this year with a fortunate deal with Mercedes, or for sure the car would be driven by Haryanto or other similar level driver.

      Defending Kalternborn on her management virtues is like defending a Wall Street Banker when his bank went down and giving him praise and saying it was not his fault.

      1. Don’t tell me she couldn’t have done anything on the team’s fortunes. She did terrible management decision in sports terms: Kobayashi Out Gutierrez/ Erikkson in, Nasr out

        She had to get pay drivers because Sauber wasn’t doing financially well. Sauber’s bad finances had nothing to do with Monisha. Every team on the grid is struggling with finances and few of them folded during Monisha’s tenure as team principal. When Perez left, Sauber was genuinely in a cash crunch. Her hand was forced.

        Defending Kalternborn on her management virtues is like defending a Wall Street Banker when his bank went down and giving him praise and saying it was not his fault.

        Her team went down, but that had nothing to do with her. She has kept the team going for longer than most thought possible. I think someone has already mentioned above, this sounds eerily similar to what happened with Manor where the existing team bosses left after a takeover of the team. By the end of the year, Manor was off the grid.

  15. Sincerely, I don’t understand these comments.
    Monisha is well respected amongst her peers and at the paddock and normally is very insightful in her interviews and opinions. The sudden dismissal points to something completely different.
    German media are reporting that she had a dispute with the owners, who have a direct connection to driver Marcus Ericsson. It seems that she was fighting for equal treatment of the drivers, since Pascal Wehrlein, in her view the better driver, was constantly be given worse material (or at least not the best possible, due to cost issues). She figured it was quite a waste to not support Pascal instead of Marcus, which most likely led her to loose the job. It has also been reported that Pascal himself will be less than pleased with this and might think about his future, attempting to leave the team as soon as a possibility emerges.
    The paddock seems to know this and will view Wehrlein’s performances under that light, which might turn out to be good for him.

    1. Well there you have it. Fans tend to have favourites and many fans will never believe that the guy at the other side of the garage is his equal or, perish the thought, possibly better. When their favourite does not outperform the other guy, quite a few of these fans immediately scream favouritism or even sabotage. They also deliberately misinterpret and ignore facts as when a certain Brazilian smashed his new chassis by riding the kerbs too aggressively and then had no choice but use the old in a cash-strapped team. This of course became “proof of favouring Ericsson” to those fans. To set things straight, Monaco last year was where Nasr lost his Sauber drive: Ericsson was quicker, the team demanded Nasr let him past but instead Nasr deliberately put both cars out at Rascasse, a point at which there had been several almost identical but successful overtakes during the GP3 (?GP2?) support race. Yes, Ericsson got the penalty because according to the rules he initiated an overtaking manoeuvre that resulted in a crash but Nasr caused that crash by deliberately blocking – do look at the relevant footages and see for yourselves!

      This year both Sauber drivers are very close in qualifying (0.105 seconds average in favour of Wehrlein), much closer than Räikkönen is to Vettel or Bottas to Hamilton, but in the races the official F1 data reveals that Ericsson is consistently faster, especially so towards the end of the races. He is also more adept at overtaking. Where fans of Wehrlein see conspiracy against Wehrlein, Kaltenborn saw two very closely matched drivers and Longbow, who bankroll Sauber, see which driver is consistently faster in the race and overtakes more i.e. is more likely to finish higher, feature more often in the broadcast and thus give Sauber’s sponsors a better return on their investments. To me, it is very sad to see Kaltenborn go but F1 is first and foremost a business venture.

      1. Henrik, if I am not mistaken though, Marcus and his father Thomas also have financial holdings in a series of investment companies which are also jointly owned by the Rausing family, the same family which is one of the major investors in Longbow Finance.

        Given that there is not just a financial incentive, but also a personal connection between Ericsson’s family and the major investors in the team, it certainly raises the question over whether they can truly act as independent investors or are inevitably biased due to those personal and financial ties to Ericsson.

  16. Reportedly, she ended up leaving because she wanted equal treatment for Ericsson and Wehrlein, while the owner wanted Ericsson to be given priority every time. I understand why the owner would want it, but I won’t lie that it doesn’t disgust me, especially since Ericsson hasn’t done much to deserve it.

    1. Well that is galant of her.

      I wonder how much special treatment goes to Williams vested driver?

  17. Wasn’t there a deal that Kaltenborn gets 1/3 of a team ownership? Doesn anyone have information about Sauber ownership?

    1. She gave up of her 1/3 ownership.

  18. Running an F1 team, esp. an underfunded one, is unbelievably complex and difficult job. I think Kaltenborn deserves massive credit for the job she did at Sauber.

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