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Formula Never Happened

Sauber was keen to sign Verstappen in 2002

Jos Verstappen had a contract for 2002 with the Orange Arrows team. However, Tom Walkinshaw contracted Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Verstappen was left without a seat for the season. It would only take a couple of days before Verstappen would appear in the news again. This time he was linked with the Sauber Team. Would he eventually appear on the grid in 2002? Well that was not the case. Enjoy the first  article in the new series “Formula Never Happened”.

As we know Verstappen got sacked by Tom Walkinshaw, which resulted in a court and a bad taste. Eventually Orange Arrows would disappear from the grid. Though, after Jos Verstappen got kicked from the team it only took days before the first contact was laid with Sauber.

For 2002 the Sauber team had contracted Felipe Massa and Nick Heidfeld for their drivers. Though, they did not have a test/reserve driver yet. Around the 17th of February Huub Rothengatter, part of the management, had the first contact with Sauber. Sauber needed a test/reserve driver and Verstappen had no seat. So you could say deal done!

The 21st of February Jos Verstappen went to Hinwil, were the Sauber team had it’s HQ, for an introduction and to fit a seat for the C21. Verstappen his respond was that a couple of things should be changed on the C21 to make it more comfortable. The C21 was built around Massa and Heidfeld which were not as tall as Verstappen is.  

Some magazines stated that during winter sport Ferrari approached Verstappen to see if he would be interested for a role with Ferrari. Also goes the story that Jos met with Michael in Maranello after he got sacked by Arrows. Whatever the correct story is, it seems this led to the call from Sauber towards Jos his management to discuss matter.  

While Sauber was working on the C21 to see if they could adapt it to Verstappen, the first race of the season was already finished. Both Sauber drivers retired from the race. In between the Australian and Malaysian Grand Prix the Dutch press was almost sure that Verstappen would sign for Sauber. To become eventually their third driver in 2002.  Who knows he could do some races in 2002.

After the Malaysian Grand Prix, the 16th of March, Peter Sauber had a call with Huub Rothengatter to tell him that they were unable to sign Verstappen. Not because they did not want him. It was for the fact that it would mean that the team would made a T-car, back then teams had three cars in their pitbox during a Grand Prix, specially for Verstappen himself.