Sweet Dreams Are Made of These
It can never be easy being a fan of a sporting team. Be it football, Formula 1 or rugby. There is always drama and tension surrounding that team. There is always a good question to be asked, why support a team in the first place? It is not an easy job by any means, even if you are passionate for them.
Take Harlequins F.C, a rugby union team, things seemed to be going sweetly for them. A good showing in the Guiness Premiership and an impressive outing in the Heineken Cup as well. Then, out of the blue it seems, “bloodgate” happened. The Summer was spent with the name on the back page, grabbing the headlines. The hot topic, replacing even Formula 1 as having big controversies. Fines, bans and warnings followed for Harlequins. But looking at it from the point of view of a fan of the team, it can only be of a nightmare. Worrying the team might be banned from a prestigious European cup competition. It would only have been a nightmare, a whole summer ruined out of worry.
Not without the worry, there is always that additional rollercoaster you don’t want to take. It is compulsory to suffer this as a fan and it has happened to anyone and everyone who supports a team. Newcastle United for example have had to suffer managerial changes, awful ownership, relegation and combated all three with protests. Honda F1 fans, saw the team pull out, saw months of speculation before Ross Brawn went on and saved the day. We all know what happened from there.
But there is a personal rollercoaster I have suffered lately and I start the tale of sadness, illness, mystery and joy at a relatively mild July day.
I’m lying in bed, ill, down with the flu. Already a bad start to the day, I’ve been out of the loop for about a week thanks to this. So when the news echoed out on Sky Sports News that BMW Sauber were pulling out, it came as a shock. I hadn’t heard of press conferences, or any rumours about this. Stuck in bed, braced with the news, I just about began to get the positive thoughts, there is still time for a buyer. Things might improve and BMW will reverse the decision. It didn’t seem to be too bad.
The disaster was soon overshadowed by the sudden reappearance of a Mr. Michael Schumacher. The news hogged his image, ignoring the plight of BMW Sauber. The ‘seven time world champion’ was returning to the sport. The sudden disappearance of him lowered the attention, a white sheet had been covered in front of BMW with Schumacher standing in front. The sheet had done its job, headlines returned to football. The laughing at Liverpool and cheering at the cricket.
Time meandered on, nothing happened. Words were spoken, Mario Theissen confident of a buyer, as was Peter Sauber. But nothing was going on, races were completed. Better results came in Valencia, Spa and Monza. Still nothing.
14th September 2009 was a bad day. Imagine if the initial entry on the rollercoaster was skimming the grass on the surface, this managed to make the rollercoaster go underground. The Malaysian backed Lotus team were confirmed as the new 13th team, replacing the outgoing BMW Sauber team as they became the 14th team. This was awful, needing the requirement of the misfortune of others just to get a slot. The team hadn’t even been bought out yet. It was dark times, optimism at an all time low.
Five minutes later, BMW were bought out by the QADBAK group. Nobody knew who they are, the only connection people could figure was with the football team of Notts County. Mystery. Question marks now surrounded the team, even the thought of anger heading towards BMW for seemingly selling the team for the first company that brought them money. From that day it never looked like the team would make the grid. It was bleak.
The end of the season came and went, Jenson Button crowned World Champion. Brawn became heroes in Brazil where Robert Kubica would score BMW’s last podium in Formula 1. The team quietly exited the sport during the dull Abu Dhabi race. Nick Heidfeld finished in 5th, marking the end of the four year BMW Sauber team. It was a sad moment. Looking increasingly likely that there would be nobody to support the following season.
BMW Sauber scored 308 points in just 70 races, including 1 pole position and of course, 1 win at the never forgotten 2008 Canadian Grand Prix. The team had only ever used four drivers, Nick Heidfeld and Jaques Villeneuve starting in 2006. Villeneuve was out by Hungary to be replaced by the first ever Pole in the sport, Robert Kubica. Kubica was replaced by Sebastian Vettel for one race at the 2007 US Grand Prix, a week after Kubica’s horrific accident in Canada.
It made me reflect on all the good times as a fan of BMW Sauber. The pole position lap at Bahrain in 2008, where everyone expected Felipe Massa to walk it. Out of a blue a little white car stormed across the line with a big red ‘1’ next to the time.
And there is that special grand prix that I will always remember, the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix. Forget the stupid pitlane antics by Lewis Hamilton, it was awesome to see Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld come home in a one-two finish to win the race. It was a fantastic feeling. Brilliant. Unforgettable.
Times like that never seemed to not ever happen again. But suddenly, the rollercoaster decided to come back from the underground. Days after the Abu Dhabi GP, Toyota pulled out. 12 teams remained. It seemed almost certain QADBAK-Sauber would be in the sport the following season.
But, things are never that simple. Toyota had signed the Concorde Agreement, BMW didn’t. It was looking a costly mistake as it looked possible that Toyota would sell their entry off to someone, that someone looking like Zoran Stefanovic and his Serbian based Stefan GP outfit. The ride had suddenly become a little bumpy.
Peter Sauber emerged in the frame, with the QADBAK deal looking less and less likely to go through. He bought the remaining 80% from BMW subject to if the team got on the grid.
A week later, that happened. A mix of thrill and joy and happiness is going on right now as I write this post. It is great to have my team, the team that got me in all of this back in F1. Sauber. Ran by Peter Sauber, the legend that he is. Ferrari powered engines, I can not wait for 2010 now!
I’m being asked who will drive for the team, I do think it will be Christian Klien and Vitaly Petrov, with Nick Heidfeld making the move to Mercedes. Though saying that, I have been wrong about many things in the past. Brawn GP just one of them.
And that concludes the rollercoaster of being a BMW Sauber fan, or at least, a fan. It is never easy, not always fun. But there is a passion that keeps you supporting them from Day 1 to the end. I could have easily given up when the team were struggling for points at the British Grand Prix, but why would I want to do that? There is nothing for me if I did that. I’d lose a team. I nearly lost them, but look, Sauber came out of the woodwork. And it is the best news ever.