Pascal Picci has stood down as Sauber chairman – citing a fall-out with Fred Vasseur over driver choices as a reason for his exit.
Picci is credited with playing an important part at Sauber, especially regarding the sale of the team to Longbow Finance in 2016 that safeguarded their future.
But he is reported to have announced his resignation towards the end of October and has alluded to a disagreement with team principal Vasseur about drivers as one of the main reasons for his departure.
“I do not want to be associated with the management of Fred Vasseur in the future,” Picci told the Italian edition of Motorsport.com, speaking for the first time publicly about his exit.
“The way in which the drivers were chosen was one of the points that broke the table between me and the current management.”
However, Picci did not specify which decision he was unhappy about, making no reference to Bottas who is taking over from his compatriot Raikkonen when he retires at the end of this season.
“I am sorry that Antonio is no longer here and I am happy that Zhou will arrive,” he added.
“I have known the Chinese youngster and also his family ever since we wanted to take him to the Sauber Driver Academy, as well as [evaluate] the commercial opportunities he can open up.”
Picci had taken over Peter Sauber’s role as chairman and president following Longbow Finance’s buyout in 2016.
Two years later, a new company, Islero Investments, a consortium of entrepreneurs headed by Finn Rausing, was formed – according to Picci “to disassociate it from a financial investment company with other clients who maybe don’t want to be associated with Formula 1”.
The decision to hire Bottas and Zhou marks a departure from Alfa Romeo’s established policy of giving a seat to a driver affiliated to Ferrari, who are the team’s engine supplier.
That has been the case with Giovinazzi, who is coming to the end of his third and final year with Alfa Romeo having been told his services are no longer required.
The 27-year-old, who will head to Formula E in the new year, recently referred to the “ruthless”, financially-driven nature of F1 in a social media post that Vasseur did not welcome.