2011 Season Preview – Sauber


Team Name : Sauber F1 Team

Location : Hinwil, Switzerland

Team Principal : Peter Sauber

Technical Director : James Key

Drivers : Kamui Kobayashi, Sergio Perez

Chassis : C30

Engine : Ferrari

First Season : 1993

Races Entered : 295

Pole Positions : 1

Race wins : 1

Points scored in 2010 : 44

World Championships : 0

The Swiss team that started out in 1993 as a Mercedes-backed privateer outfit has been a permanent fixture in the midfield, and has gone to the top and bottom of the midfield in the past 18 years. Peter Sauber’s resilient lot at Hinwil have weathered many a technical and financial storm in their F1 history and look set to do so in the coming years as well. Apart from Mercedes, three other manufacturers have supported Sauber – Ford, Ferrari and BMW. Although Sauber’s relationship with Ferrari remains the closest technical partnership they have ever made, the team’s most successful years were under the control of BMW.

After functioning as almost a Ferrari B-team during the Scuderia’s domination of the sport, they gradually drifted apart and came under the control of BMW in 2006. The team improved by leaps and bounds to challenge for the 2008 championship, but lost the plot after the rules went through a sea-change in 2009. After the German marque pulled out at the end of a disappointing 2009 campaign, Sauber was teetering on the blink of oblivion. Peter Sauber re-took control of his team, and though the team finished only 8th in the final standings, it was highly commendable considering they were fighting for survival at the beginning and endured catastrophic reliability in the first half of the season.

Despite a torrid start to their 2010 season, the Swiss squad endured, and after replacing Technical Director Willy Rampf with James Key, there was a notable improvement in the reliability of the car. Sauber can also take heart from the fact that they have a young and raw talent in the form of Kobayashi to spearhead their campaign. The Japanese driver was in the thick of action at every race, often embarrassing some of the big guns with his overtaking maneuvers. Sergio Perez is a highly talented young man, but it remains to be seen how he can cope with F1.

Sauber’s financial position is much stronger than what it was 12 months ago, but the team still lack the resources it enjoyed under BMW. The technical team is not to be underestimated, yet it is highly unlikely that they can challenge Williams or Force India with their severely limited budget. Unless one of the two teams mentioned drop the ball, it is difficult to conceive of anything better than 8th place again this year. Such is the ferocity of competition in Formula 1 these days. The other disadvantage they have is that both their drivers are essentially beginners, and as a result one cannot expect them to lead the car development as effectively as say, Heidfeld or even Sutil.

As things stand, Sauber is still on the road to recovery from the BMW pull-out, and it may take a few years for them to re-establish themselves as midfield regulars. However, that doesn’t rule out a good performance in this year’s championship. Kobayashi has both the pace and intelligence to maximise his tyres, and James Key will not be standing still. I only wish the team had the funds to hire drivers on merit – someone like Fisichella partnering Kobayashi would be a huge help for car development. Still, if they can have a reliable car from the start, and keep their heads in the flyaway races – they may surprise Force India and Toro Rosso.

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