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Sauber stick with youth policy – Kobayashi and Perez to stay for 2012
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Posted By: James Allen  |  28 Jul 2011   |  10:45 am GMT  |  53 comments

The Sauber team has announced that it will run the same drivers next season; Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez.

It’s a logical decision and one made with Sauber on the front foot, as the Mexican connection with telecoms billionaire Carlos Slim has brought financial stability to one of F1′s most efficiently run teams. But they’ve got more than a pay driver in Perez;

“Sergio has achieved more than one could expect from a rookie,” said Sauber. “From the very first race he proved that he is capable of driving not only fast but consistently as well. And after the accident in Monaco he demonstrated that he can handle difficult situations too.”

Perez was signed on a contract which took in 2012 anyway, which was a risk on a rookie, but one that Sauber felt confident in taking. Perez came to him well prepared, not just from his GP2 season in 2010, but also by Ferrari’s young driver programme, the FDA. I thought he had done some F1 testing with them, but when I asked him today he said he never got a chance because he started with Sauber soon after joining the FDA. Still, friends at Ferrari tell me his data looked very good, so he’s on their radar.

As for Kobayashi, he’s a real fans’ favourite – although not as much in Japan as overseas, I’m told – and his racecraft and boldness on a Sunday are one of the highlights of F1. He’s not the strongest qualifier in F1, which could ultimately hold him back from achieving great results, but he’s fantastic at coming through the field and working to the strategy the team gives him.

For the moment, this is the right pairing for Sauber, hence the simple decision to keep them.

The Sauber is the most gentle car on its tyres, which has really helped them to score 35 points so far this season, putting them sixth ahead of Force India, Toro Rosso and Williams. But as Pirelli start to move towards harder compound tyres which are closer together on performance to make the strategies more interesting on Sundays, this might hurt Sauber’s competitiveness. Now more teams will be able to do the long stints that have been the platform for their results. It’s up to Sauber to react to that.

Reserve driver Estaban Guttierez, also from Mexico, is retained in a similar role for 2012.

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53 Comments
  1. KK says:

    Massa can breathe easy I say. But this was on the card eventhough Ferrari has tested the young Perez because the guy is too young and too inexperienced to be given a chance in a race winning Ferrari. Ofcourse Massa last victory was in Sau Paolo 08. James, so will Massa continue? Why would Ferrari do that? Is it because Alonso is content with having Massa alongside? In my view, by keeping him, they are gonna lose out on the WCC against McLaren.

    1. Mark in Australia says:

      I think Massa will stay on for a little while yet. Especially seeing Mark Webber is set to stay at Red Bull, at least for next year…

      For sure Sergio will oneday wear the red overalls at Ferrari, but he will have to pay his dues first, just like Ricciardo at HRT and to a lesser extent Di Resta at Force India.

      1. I agree, it makes sense to learn your trade low to mid grid with the testing ban still in place.

        Although, this might change next year if Bernie has it his way with the 2012 calendar for a possible return of in season testing.

    2. I think you’re a bit harsh with Massa. He has been in a resurgent form of late and had an excellent scrap with Vettel at the Nurburgring.

      Alonso being so good is probably what puts Massa in the shade. Fernando did that with just about any of his team mates bar Hamilton (and Trulli for half a season).

      To win the WCC, Ferrari needs a car capable of challenging for the title all season long. They had the same issue last year where they were nowhere near the front in Turkey.

      Perez has some way to go before becoming a Ferrari driver. I’m sure that competing against Alonso might also be a deterrent when you look at what happened to Fisichella, Piquet Jr and Grosjean.

      As for Kamui, I would love to see him in a more competitive car. It’s great that he can scythe throught the field but we’d see more of him in one of the top three teams.

      All in all, a very savvy move for Sauber.

  2. Chris says:

    Solid choice and two good drivers.
    I have rated perez since his f3 days and despite coming in with alot of financial backing he has proven himself with talent.

    Now for Sauber to come up with a better colour scheme for their car livery. Its terrible and i miss the red bull sauber petronas days

    1. Werewolf says:

      Chris, you’ve stolen my post!!

      All I would add is that I hope Sauber get some solid results. Peter and the team have earned a break.

  3. Dave Aston says:

    Good news, they’re a great young combination. I’ve seen their video previews of each round, and they seem like nice people too. I’d like to see Kobayashi at a bigger team, but if there’s no room anywhere in 2012, another year at Sauber will do him no harm. Having two young guys pushing hard must make Peter Sauber feel rejuvenated after a few weird years. I imagine when the BMW thing happened, he figured by 2011 he’d be relaxing at home with a cigar, but he’s still racing.

    1. I think you echo the opinion of a lot of fans here by saying you’d wish Kobayashi was further up the grid.

      Let’s hope Sauber’s 2012 car under James key’s direction can be a bit of a surprise and give these two young talented drivers a chance to shine even more. KOB is well overdue a podium by now.

  4. Tom in adelaide says:

    All we need now is an eye catching livery.

    James, any chance you could suggest a “design the 2012 Sauber livery” competition to Peter Sauber? I’m sure there are some talented people reading (not me!!)

  5. Robert Lujan says:

    Great to hear about Sergio getting a 2nd year. I think he deserves it. I am very happy to hear that we will see Kobayashi next year also! He is a fun to watch and I hope he keeps up the same level of driving and excitement next year. Sauber like most of the time made a prudent decision early while the other teams ( Force India come to mind) leave it to way too late.

    1. Force India have three drivers on their books. If Paul were to move to another team, Nico would slot in nicely.

      From a business point of view it makes sense for Sauber to keep both drivers because:
      1) Kamui brings FOM money by consistently scoring points; and
      2) Sergio has a tremendous backing from the Slim conglomerate.

      Whereas FIF1 have Mallya, one of the richest man on the planet. They can probably wait longer before announcing their drivers.

  6. Ram says:

    Sergio vs paul di resta vs nico hulkenberg all hav started their careers with “decent” cars. But while Sergio seems to going the Kamui path … steady F1 career … if not a great one …have Paul and Nico may have a problem in sustaining their F1 life …despite having stellar performances in lower categories… or is it that starting out your career in Sauber is the best way to go about …:-)

  7. Bru72 says:

    Well done Sauber, what a great driver pairing

  8. The other Ian says:

    James, why is Kobayashi not as popular in Japan as he is overseas?
    I reckon he could be the best ever driver from that country, so they should be proud of him.

    1. Chris Chong says:

      I reckon because he’s spent most of his career in Europe. Also, he’s never taken part in the popular Super GT series in Japan, nor has he competed in any local series since his karting days.

      Drivers like Yuji Ide (a Super GT regular) and Sakon Yamamoto (who has made appearances in Best Motoring – a Japanese motoring show) are probably more popular there.

  9. Kristiane says:

    So Perez is on Ferrari’s most wanted list. How about Kobayashi? I think he’s bloody impressive if you ask me. Isn’t he on anyone’s shopping list?

    1. Rodrigo says:

      If he improves his qualifing he will be on a big team’s radar.

  10. Stevie P says:

    I figured Perez might move to Ferrari next season, but as these two are staying where they are – which is a great shout for Sauber – then it would appear as though Massa’s seat is safe for next season too.

    1. KinoNoNo says:

      A lot of driver contracts are going to be up next year, including Massa’s. So the real action would be for 2013 anyway.

      The 2012 silly season is going to be intense.

  11. goferet says:

    Am rather disappointed about this news, Kobayashi deserves a car worthy of his talents already, no more of this mid field running business.

    Yes, if Massa wasn’t of Italian descent, he would have lost his seat a long time ago + I think he has the sympathy vote among the Ferrari board.

    And of course, Perez would be on Ferrari’s radar for Santander are now calling the shots & last I checked Mexicans spoke Spanish so this is like a done deal.

    Say, I wonder what Kobayashi could have possibly done in his native country to make him not well liked.

    Hmm… could the Japanese be like Brits in that we aren’t crazy about someone that’s talented & have issues with someone that leaves the country for tax purposes

    1. KinoNoNo says:

      It’s probably not that KK is unpopular in Japan.

      It’s more like there the lack of Japanese corporations investing in F1.

      If Toyota was still in F1 and he was still racing for them, he would be on TV all the time endorsing everything from fried noodles too motor oil.

      In Japanese media advertisements are king too popularity.

      1. James Allen says:

        I didn’t say he was unpopular, I said that it seems he’s not as celebrated there as he is in other countries, which is odd given that he’s Japanese.

      2. Carl Craven says:

        From what I know of the Japanese, like many nations anyway I suppose, they like to look at the best talent in that genre, so for Rock they look to the states and UK while homegrown talent is less popular. Japan is not the home of F1 so they probably like the exotic nature of foreigners in the sport, however, they do have someone to be proud of in Kobayashi. He’s one of the most worthy newcomers in recent times based on his driving.

        I’m also happy he’s holding a place in F1 but disappointed it isn’t to a better team. There is time.

      3. CanadaGP says:

        Kobayashi is the very first Japanese driver on the grid purely on merit. Even though there have been Japanese drivers in F1 since the 60s, all of them prior to Kamui were there because they were Japanese and Japanese companies backed them, and would not have had F1 drives based on talent.

        So it is really ironic, that the relatively best Japanese F1 driver in history, comes at a time of the lowest point in Japanese corporate interest in F1. I am wondering why one of the big video game companies like Nintendo and Sony don’t support Koba. It seems that F1 would be a natural venue for video game companies. One of the big 4 (Mc, Fer, RBR, Merc, Ren) s/d be looking at getting him, perhaps in 2013.

      4. James Allen says:

        F1 in Japan is not followed by the young. Big problem

      5. Les says:

        My wife (who’s Japanese) says another problem is that Kamui isn’t as good looking as Takuma Sato!!! So even though Kobayashi’s one of the best drivers Japan have ever produced, he doesn’t have the ‘pin up’ factor that Sato still does and so arguably isn’t as marketable…not sure how true that is though!

        Incidentally, there are some brilliant videos floating about on YouTube of a very young Kamui beating Aguri Suzuki in a kart duel!

  12. Ferrari are grooming Perez for their Number Two seat, mark my words. He’ll take that car straight from Massa, or possibly after Button retires if McLaren don’t tie him down first.

  13. KinoNoNo says:

    Sauber must be pleased as punch about the way his drivers stepped up to the task.

    Now the team has got some stability, here’s hoping they can improve the car next year and give their young guns the opportunity to show what they can do.

  14. Mark in Australia says:

    What do we think if Liuzzi signing on fot a guest drive in Australia’s V8 Supercars? It is a very tough competition…

    Are these kinds of guest appearances in other categories common in Europe? Or are the drivers very much wrapped in cotton wool, making this some kind of coup?

  15. irish con says:

    james how good do you think kobayashi is, i think im in the minority. i dont think he is that good. he is great to watch i admit but i dont ever see him winning a championship. i think he just is a little short of vettel alonso hamilton and kubica if he is fit again to win t one day. any thoughts on this. perez cant be rated yet.

    1. James Allen says:

      I think he’s a fantastic racer, but my fear is that he may be a tenth or two too slow in qualifying and also he cannot drive around problems. I hope he can overcome this, because he’s a very exciting racing driver who adds a lot to F1.

      1. Ral says:

        That’s an interesting point. What makes you say that he can’t drive around problems? The first half of last year’s campaign? Because if that is the case, then he’s no worse at that than old hands De la Rosa and Heidfeld, surely?

        I can’t remember any races this year where they had specific reliability-related issues with the car (my failing) and it seems quite well balanced for both Kobayashi and Perez. I’d be interested to hear more about that :)

      2. James Allen says:

        What makes me say that? I spoke to him today and he agreed that this is something he needs to work on

      3. ninjaspeed11 says:

        James,
        do you mean for example the bouncing of the car that Kamui had in Monaco?

      4. Neil Jenney says:

        LOL. There’s no comeback to that is there.

      5. KinoNoNo says:

        Maybe that’s a touch of the Japanese modesty, they tend not to blow their own trumpet.

        It’s like the joke of when two Japanese businessmen greet each other,they spend 20minutes apologizing to each other.

        Kamui in the beginning of the season is quoted as saying that he wants to keep improving and become more consistent.He suceeded in becoming a regular point scorer, so this is just another weakness he’ll work on and come back stronger than ever.

      6. Ral says:

        @Neil Jenney: Nope, no comeback to that, although really I wasn’t looking to start an argument about it anyway, just always interested to hear more about how drivers tick.

        It’s cool to hear that from the man himself. Thanks for that James :)

      7. irish con says:

        i agree with this 100percent. i sort of dont want him to sort his qualifing out tho because then we lose his drives whe he starts lower down the grid and comes battling back through the field. best overtaker in f1 in my mind tho.

      8. Chris Chong says:

        Probably a good thing he’s spending another year at Sauber, then. The stable environment would be a great place to hone his skills and mature as a driver – and maybe make him hungrier for more :D

        Also, who’s to say Sauber can’t move up the grid in a year’s time. They may not have a huge budget, but their approach to developing the car this year shows that their engineers / designers think out of the box (i.e. the whole easy-on-tyres thing). And with James Key in his second full year, they may just surprise people next season.

      9. Dave Aston says:

        Even so, Kobayashi has made it through to Q3 four (?) times this year. I felt he was maybe hanging it out more in qualifying last year, when he made it into Q3 three or four times. The competition is pretty hot to get through, with the top three teams, plus Renault and Mercedes. With Force India and Williams about where Sauber are, qualifying around p12 is generally all I’d expect from him or Perez.

      10. Dave Aston says:

        Correction-he’s made Q3 three times this year.

      11. Koby Fan says:

        Agree with you – I think Koby’s quali record has actually been poor (sometimes due to bad Q1/Q2 tyre strategy; other times not putting the single lap together). I suspect Checo has more raw pace than Koby too (Monaco was telling). What we need to see is Koby in Q3 and finishing P4,P5. Whilst a lot of fans would like to see him in one of the big 4 seats in 2012, a podium or a freak win behind the wheel of a Sauber would be a much bigger achievement.

        A Japanese driver (without Japanese engine sponsorship) in one of the big teams would break with history and European commercial reality. At the moment, I think its the impossible dream. The Toyota TF110 spec car would have delivered a Koby podium in 2010.

        A Koby/Checo/Key/Slim combination in 2012 does makes a lot of sense though. Hopefully they will have earnt some extra championship points to exchange for Bernie$ and Carlos might pump some extra pesos to give them some extra downforce next season.

        BTW, Sauber’s marketing dept need to shake off some of the serious Swiss image and be more adventurous considering they have 2 of the hippest and most exciting young F1 drivers.

  16. Mario Senna says:

    Great driver pairing. Let’s hope that Sauber produces a car enabling them to unfold their speed, as by now all the positive results are due to ‘defensive’ driving imposed by unconventinal strategies, forced by underperforming cars.

  17. granada says:

    I’m just glad that drivers in F1 are not replaced as often as football team managers.

  18. F1Fan4Life says:

    Really glad for Perez, he has shown nothing but class in my opinion. I’m amazed people are so fond of Kobayashi because to me Perez has been more impressive. I’m almost dead certain he will move to Ferrari after 2012 if he can keep up the good results (which I believe he will). To me Perez is the best rookie this year, above Di Resta.

    Kobayashi is exciting but I feel he is a little like Massa, who was somewhat exciting when he started but also got into a lot of accidents. In the race Kobash can take risks often because not everyone is willing to risk a collision, but he leans more toward that. He can get away with that strategy in a mid team, but at the top he would struggle I feel. I think at best he’d be ranked with Button in terms of speed…fast when tings are perfect but otherwise not at the top.

    1. KinoNoNo says:

      Everyone has a right to their opinion, but I can’t see how Perez has been any more impressive than Koby.

      There’s hardly any difference between them in quali, but come race day it’s Koby who has been getting the lion share of the points.

      You can’t say Koby is that more experienced either, he’s only in his second full season after all.

  19. Jose Arellano says:

    Perez beating kobayashi in qualy shows pure talent. making strategies work will come with time.. im fan of both but VIVA MEXICOO!!

  20. Mario Senna says:

    I am not sure if it is good for Kamui to stay another year in such a constrained team (both on performance and budget) as Sauber unfortunately is these days. Sauber certainly has made a clever move, in my view taking advantage of drivers not being able to rely on just performance to retain their F1 seats (as seen with Nico Hulkenberg).
    Personally I think that Kamui would be an exciting fit for Alonso! It’s hard to think of any driver adding less than Massa and it would certainly, maybe not consistently, give some harder times to Ferrari’s direct rivals.

  21. Shane says:

    Love it, Sauber has two really good drivers who seem to be able to consistently elevate the points haul for a team who’s car is maybe just out of the points on it’s technical merits.

  22. Alan says:

    Perez has done a great job so far, I wish him a lot of luck.

    Interesting to see how may Latino drivers we have now, 4 in total, yet not one from North America where drivers seem to be happy to take the big bucks and drive around ovals.

  23. CanadaGP says:

    I wonder why James Allen commented in a previous blog that Kobayashi is not a ‘Ferrari type’ driver?

    Koba is the closest thing we have today in F1 to Gilles Villeneuve!

    1. James Allen says:

      I’d love to see him in a Ferrari. But I can’t see them hiring him, that’s what I meant!

  24. Darren says:

    Great to see. I like the look of both these young guys. They’ve done really well and deserve to keep their seats.

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