BMW vs Alfa Romeo: The Battle of the Bottle

Flashback. Canada 2008. Robert Kubica and BMW Sauber have just won their first ever Grand Prix in the baking heat of Montreal. It’s a 1-2, with Nick Heidfeld following Robert home.

The team crowd under the podium as the Polish anthem rings in the air. Some are shedding tears. Up there, Robert punches the air. He’s got his trophy. He smiles. There’s only one thing left to do – the champagne. Emotion is a funny thing, though. In the excitement of the moment of his first win, Robert forgets to uncork his bottle.

No spray from him – and that’s why his winner’s bottle remains, to this day, the only one of our 27 podium bottle with the cork still on, proudly displayed in our team base in Hinwil.

It’s a great Sauber story, one that shows the human side of Formula One. It’s a story new starters are told on their first days in the factory.
It’s also not true.

A Canada 2008 winner’s bottle, that is true, is still corked. And it’s in Hinwil. But here is actually an even more fascinating story about that bottle – one that involves politics, passions and jealousies. In the aftermath of that win, a benign row, but a row nonetheless, emerged over the ownership of those spoils of victory.

Sauber and BMW both wanted to keep the memento, the vessel of the sweetest champagne we had ever tasted. We pleaded and begged but alas, on the occasion, it was the German giant that won “The Battle of the Bottle”: the original is proudly displayed in their Munich museum to this day. Formula 1 produced a replica and that went to Switzerland.

On the day, we chose to relinquish this precious memory to our partners. That’s what we did, with magnanimity and style. To go on building more great memories in the future.

The trophy, that one we kept. From then on, we called it “the one we didn’t even give them a sniff of.”

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