When it was announced that Sauber had found themselves a financial saviour in the form of Longbow Finance, there was widespread celebration in the paddock. The Swiss racers are the sport's fourth-oldest team, and there is a lot of affection for the team that keeps rising from the ashes, no matter how hot the fires.
Once the relief that Sauber had secured their future had subsided, the question on everyone's lips was who or what is Longbow? In the Budapest paddock on Thursday, rumours were circulating that Marcus Ericsson's backers were behind the deal, although the Swedish driver denied any knowledge when asked in the official FIA press conference.
"I think it's great news for the team," Ericsson said on Thursday. "It's no secret it's been a difficult year for us in Sauber, financially mainly. We haven't been able to update the car the way we wanted and been fighting in the back. I think for the team it's been very, very important that this happened and it's great news. What it means for the future, I don't know, we have to wait and see. But for sure it's very, very good news for everyone in Sauber."
Asked about the stories linking his backers with the Sauber takeover, Ericsson replied: "I've seen that [story] as well. It's not something I know about. I'm not involved in these kind of things anyway, so yeah I really don't know to be honest. And my future, like anyone else without a contract for next year so looking at Sauber because I really like the way it's working in Sauber. Hopefully now with a new owner we can improve as a team but also looking at other alternatives, so let's see."
The Swedish driver then had to deflect a further question on the link, saying "Of course I care about [the future of my team] and I think it's important that the team has got a new owner, but who they are and what they are is not something that I'm involved with. I'm contracted as a racing driver and my job is to drive the car as fast as possible on the race track, to work with my engineers, to work with the guys on the aero, stuff like that. Who owns the teams and who is putting money in the team and all these kinds of stuff - I think that is not my job so it's as simple as that."
A little digging through company records available online does show some links between the mysterious Longbow Finance (first incorporated as Tepar Investment Management in 1963) and single-seater motorsport, irrespective of any possible links with Ericsson or his backers: Raymond J. Baer, president of the Longbow Finance board of directors, has a CV dominated by years spent with Swiss private bank Julius Bär, one of Formula E's key sponsors.
Longbow is but one of many boards that Baer sits on - the Swiss financier is also president of the board of directors at Swiss investment firm Alpine Select, a position he has held since 2013; honorary chairman of both the Julius Baer Group Ltd. and Bank Julius Baer & Co. Ltd. (since 2012); president of the board of trustees for the Pension Fund of the Julius Baer Group (since 2004), and many more besides.
Baer is incredibly well connected in the Swiss business and finance worlds. Away from Julius Bär the 57-year-old is a member of the advisory board of the Lorange Institute of Business Zurich and since 2001 has served as president of the Swiss American Chamber of Commerce -- Financial Services Chapter Board. But Baer also has an interest in the automotive sector, and in 2014 he was made a member of the board of AMAG Automobil- und Motoren AG, a major Swiss car dealer and importer founded in 1945 to bring luxury marques to Swiss clients.
Bloomberg's profile of Longbow is limited in scope, but their background on Baer paints a very clear picture of a man who is socially and professionally connected to everyone -- and every business -- worth knowing in Switzerland. This person "is connected to 14 board members in three different organizations across four different industries," Bloomberg noted in a thumbnail sketch.
Where things get really interesting is with the list of previous names Longbow has been known by, one of which is Tetral Investment Management SA -- a company that is currently listed as being based at 70 Avenue du General-Guisan, in Pully, Switzerland. That is also the current contact address for Tetra Laval International SA, the parent company of Tetra Pak and owned by a certain Hans Rausing, backer of the only Swedish driver on the grid.
Given those circumstances, it is hard to believe that Longbow's decision to invest in Sauber is entirely coincidental.