Sauber's identity crisis


Formerly Alfa Romeo, Sauber's latest incarnation, Stake, is facing a legal challenge as the team seeks to change its name according to host nations gambling laws.

A year which is already providing shock after shock gave notice of what was to come as early as 1 January when Sauber announced that Stake, a betting, entertainment and lifestyle brand, was to be the team's exclusive title partner for the next two seasons.

However, as seen last year, when the Stake sponsored Alfa Romeo raced in certain countries, including Australia, Spain, Qatar and Belgium which have strict rules on gambling, it sported the logos of Kick, its 'sister' company.

Speaking at the launch of the C44 on Monday, team representative, Alessandro Alunni Bravi admitted that the increasingly strict rules on gambling mean that the entire team would need to change its identity on a possible race by race basis, either as Stake F1 Team or Kick F1 Team.

"As you know, last year we alternated two different names according to the different countries where we go racing," he said. "We will be fully complying with all the local applicable laws and where Stake is prohibited, so gambling advertising is prohibited, we will use a different name.

"As last year, we have Kick as one of our most important partners , our chassis name is Kick Sauber, so where we are not going to race as Stake F1 Team, we will use a second team name."

According to Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen, Switzerland's Federal Casino Commission is deeply unhappy with the move, and while there are no F1 races in Switzerland the team is based in the country and by incorporating Stake in its name is seen as a deliberate means of attempting to circumvent the law.

"In the present case, the brands Stake and Sauber are so linked together, or the term Stake is so strongly imprinted in the minds of viewers, that we have probably crossed the red line into unauthorised advertising," said Patrick Kraeuskopf, a professor of competition law at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences, according to the Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen report.

"Of course, we took all measures to comply," insisted Alunni Bravi. "The team's adaptability will be tested, and fans might have to adjust to seeing their favourite car sport different names depending on the race location.

With Alfa Romeo having ended its partnership with Sauber, the way was cleared for the Swiss team to take up such partnerships - rumoured to be worth around $50m - ahead of Audi's entry in 2026.

"This year, of course, for us it's easier: we have a new and clear identity," he said. "We start with an event (the launch) that I think is a testament of what we want to do with a new motto for the team, 'unleashed', that for us means really the way we want to communicate, the way we want to be perceived.

"Of course, this also needs to be supported by the results on track. We are all working together to deliver a better job and more performance. It is important that we have everything. However, an F1 team is not just a racing team, it's a large operation. And we need to work on all the areas, on track, off track, on the technical side, also on the commercial side.

"With Stake I think we will achieve important targets that will bring an added value also to F1."

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Published: 10/02/2024
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