Peter Sauber has just issued a Q & A with himself about the team’s poor start to the season and the changeover in the technical department with ex Force India technical director James Key coming in to replace Willi Rampf.
Sauber was reluctantly forced to take back the reins after BMW declined to sell the team to the various interested parties, one of whom was Gerard Lopez, of Geniii Capital who went on to buy the Renault F1 team.
The team has a lot going against it at the moment; as BMW failed to sign the Concorde Agreement in the summer of 2009 the team is also classed as a new team and did not get the FOM prize and TV money it would have been entitled to. This year the car runs without sponsorship and the choice of Pedro de la Rosa and Kamui Kobayashi is looking questionable. Although the car looks a real handful, Kobayashi looks a shadow of the driver who lit up Interlagos and Abu Dhabi last season in the Toyota
In pre-season testing they tended to focus more on shorter runs than their opposition and it’s clear that the car isn’t particularly fast or reliable. They have failed to score a point in the three races so far. In both Bahrain and Australia they qualified 14th and 16th, and in Melbourne were the slowest of the established teams in qualifying. They have only got one car to the finish in one race.
After a demoralising Malaysia weekend, where the team retired both cars with a failure of the engine management system, Sauber has spoken of his disappointment that the car is not where they thought it was.
“In terms of performance we are not where we expected to be or where we should be given the means we’ve had at our disposal in the development of the C29,” says a rueful Sauber. “I’m looking for explanations myself. What is clear is that there was a lot of uncertainty around the whole team in the second half of 2009 – not surprisingly, given the circumstances. Nobody within the team knew whether we would be on the grid in Bahrain. This uncertainty was only removed when I took over the team and the guys could see a future once again. Now we have the task of making up for lost time as quickly as possible.”
Sauber says that the shift from manufacturer team to independent has brought about many changes, “We’ve cut our budget by 40 per cent and reduced the workforce by a third. That’s a massive cutback. However, this economisation process is something all the other established teams still have ahead of them as a result of the restrictions imposed by FOTA.”
He has hired James Key because Key has a track record of getting plenty of bang for the team owner’s buck at Force India, one of the most improved teams in the last 12 months, thanks to the collaboration with McLaren and Mercedes on engine and gearbox.
Sauber has very good facilities at its Hinwil base, not least a full size wind tunnel and an engine deal with Ferrari.