Rising to the pinnacle of Formula 1 with Swiss precision

Just like clockwork: The driver and pit crew give their best at every Formula 1 race (all images: zvg).

As soon as you enter the huge wind tunnel building on the Sauber Motorsport premises in Hinwil, you find yourself in a state of awed wonder. Even Axel Kruse, who has been working as Operations Director at Sauber Motorsport for more than 14 years, still finds it impressive. He describes his role as acting as a kind of link between the technical departments and the racetrack. This bridging role is important, since all innovations that are tested and developed in the wind tunnel ultimately have to be converted into hardware. To make sure that this is successful, Axel Kruse and his team ensure the cooperation of technology, production, safety, logistics and racing operations.

"We take care of the entire process — from the initial idea and the development of prototypes through to the production and handover of the final components to the racing team".

For this purpose, Axel Kruse today leads a team of 180 people, which will soon grow to around 280.

Putting pedal to the metal

The story of Sauber Motorsport is a prime example of the power that can grow out of passion and ambition. It was precisely these two virtues that led privateer Peter Sauber to write Formula 1 history: In 1970, he founded PP Sauber AG, an independent constructor of open two-seater racing sports cars, in Hinwil, Zürich. In 1989, while working as a partner with Mercedes-Benz, his team achieved a double victory in the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans. A year later, the development programme was launched, which has boosted the careers of drivers such as Michael Schumacher. In 1992, he entered Formula 1. In the premier class of motorsports, Sauber Motorsport today races under the name of Stake F1 Team KICK Sauber. The next milestone is already approaching: In 2026, the team will be taken over by Audi. The common goal is clear: A podium finish in the fastest racing championship in the world.

The wind tunnel facility in Hinwil leaves a lasting impression due to its enormous size.

Lateral recruitment

What kind of professionals does the company need for these extensive tasks? Amongst others, the company recruits qualified staff and then retrains them. "We recruit employees such as carpenters, boat builders and all types of mechanics, who we train for their new tasks". Kruse considers the partnership with universities such as ETH and ZHAW to be particularly important. There you can find the much-needed talents of tomorrow. Training people, for example in the field of CNC production, is also relevant in this context.

Every detail must be perfect: Nothing is left to chance in the construction of the racing cars.

Having well-trained and innovative people on board is vital, since Formula 1 is a challenging environment. Currently, they are trailing behind their own expectations. "At times like these, we have to make an honest and comprehensive assessment of the current situation", says Kruse. This is also essential with regard to the takeover by Audi planned for 2026: Together, it is necessary to clearly define which factors will be essential for success on the racetrack — and how they can be promoted within the framework of the new collaboration.

A matter of mentality

The takeover by Audi will open up completely new opportunities and resources for Sauber Motorsport. For Axel Kruse, however, success on the racetrack is attributable to more than just these factors. The employees and their mindset are equally, if not more important. A "winning mentality" is an important foundation for a successful racing team. The rest is hard work. "There is no single golden solution, just a lot of small ones", muses Kruse. "Bringing these together correctly will be our main task".

Together with Audi, Sauber Motorsport has its sights set on reaching the podium from 2026 onwards.

One further solution would be including the use of AI. This is still used relatively little in racing today compared to other industries, but change is on the horizon. Automation is also a hot topic. The Operations division is currently working actively to drive this change. This includes creating a campus-like work environment that promotes innovation and enables collaboration across departments.

Reaching new heights

The fact that they will soon be joining Audi on their way to the top of Formula 1 is a source of great anticipation in Hinwil. "The entire team is working towards this with enormous vigour", says Axel Kruse. However, even in the future, the Operations division will still have to work under high pressure as a supplier and procurer: Combining speed and economy while ensuring maximum efficiency at all times remains a core challenge. One cog in this wheel is the partnership with Brütsch/Rüegger Tools. For Kruse, the close relationship and the short distances are an enormous advantage: "We always know exactly what to expect and receive all the tools we need quickly and easily". Furthermore, there are many things that the team is dependant on for day-today operation, including wear parts of all kinds. "It is therefore good to know that Brütsch/Rüegger Tools is a partner who can provide us with complete support in this regard."

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