Monisha Kaltenborn has had a rough first year as team principal of the Sauber Formula One squad. The former lawyer, born in Dehradun, has had to keep team morale up in the face of a lack of results on track, while at the same time having to work tirelessly behind the scenes to find vital funding to secure the outfit’s financial future.
In an interview with MiD DAY recently she spoke about the high cost of competing in F1, next year’s packed 22-race calendar and of course the intricacies of being participating in the Indian GP.
What is the official. reason given to the teams for the removal of the Indian GP from the 2014 calendar?
Generally it’s the responsibility of the commercial rights holder to determine the calendar and to choose and schedule the races. So we have not been informed that much about the reasons. We understand that there are some differences between the promoter and the commercial rights holder and that’s why race is not going to be on the calendar.
There are reports that drivers have to pay a withholding tax on salaries. Do teams also have to pay an entertainment tax when they race here apart from customs duties?
The teams are also subject to taxation. We had a difficult time getting in there. I don’t think that’s the major reason but it’s definitely a factor. We don’t understand why it’s made so difficult for the sport because the platform is excellent.
There is a fan base in India and for companies it’s important too. We’re not saying we should have privileges, but why should it be made so difficult? F1 is
Sauber has in a difficult spot financial. How tough has it been considering there was even speculation that you may not finish the season?
If you talk about finances, it shows that the situation is not healthy and something should be done because it’s not only Sauber — it might have this year been more (about) Sauber — now other teams are coming into focus too. But we are also about a competition. F1 is a very good product and together with the Olympic Games and FIFA football world cup, one of the three strongest sport platforms.
Unfortunately, after Sauber, it was Lotus who got into financial trouble. Why can’t teams sit down and agree on bringing the costs down?
It is not right if we reach financial levels where, actually, more than half of the grid cannot stay. We know that there have always been richer teams and poorer teams, but it was in some way levelled. We are embedded in this overall global economic situation. It’s not good. We need to react. So, we’ve got the RRA, the Resource Restriction Agreement, and that’s the way to go.
But when RRA came in, teams have not been able to agree, or implement it. Do you need some third party intervention?
Absolutely! I think this is normal because nowhere can people coming together manage things on their own. You always need an authority on top. So, I believe it is the job of our Federation. Like they check the technical side and the sporting side, they need to look at the financial side too.
Since Monza, Sauber has had an upturn in form. Do you expect that to continue to the end of the season?
Since the Hungarian GP or even, for that matter Nurburgring, there has been an upward trend. It didn’t always reflect in results but we knew that we’re slowly getting where we want to. Then with the points coming in we also saw it as being confirmed by the results on track. It is really the direction we are going and it’s based on a solid understanding we have of the car. So, I hope it continues.
Speaking of next year’s 22-race calendar. Isn’t that a bit too much given there’s in-season testing too?
Let’s first wait and see what the actual calendar is, the final one. I think 20 races are enough. On one side, you have logistical issues which maybe you can manage, but it’s mainly the manpower issue. You cannot expect people to do the races and the testing — although it is going to be at the track where the race takes place — you still need different people. So that doesn’t avoid the problem you have with getting extra people in. Then teams also need to do some PR. So how can you manage with only the current crew? This will actually raise costs.
Finally, are you excited or concerned about the new regulations next year?
We already went back on the aerodynamic side a lot considering what was originally planned. But it will be a big challenge with the new powertrain coming in. And of course, as a customer team, on the engine side we have certain disadvantages compared to the manufacturer teams. So I expect them to have a certain advantage at the beginning but then we should be able to catch up later.