Despite losing their technical director a few days before the first test of the 2012 season, Sauber is ready to go with its C31, which ran today in Jerez. Kamui Kobayashi covered an impressive 106 laps, the most of any of the new cars.
Like many 2012 cars, the C31 is an evolution of the 2011 car, but there is one significant difference. Like their friends and allies at Ferrari, who supply the engines, the team has switched to pullrod suspension, albeit only at the rear. Ferrari has gone for pullroad suspension front and rear, which is much more edgy.
Sauber explains it like this: “The rear suspension is now a pullrod design. It shows a long pullrod towards the front of the gearbox and wide angled wishbones. This design allows improved packaging of the rear spring and damper elements. Despite the change from pushrod to pullrod, in terms of kinematics the engineers maintained a similar direction to the one they went in for the C30.”
Last year’s Sauber was very gentle on its tyres, which allowed it to score some useful points by employing fewer pit stops and long run strategies on days when other midfield teams were struggling for tyre life. This year the Pirelli tyres are designed to be a little more durable. The Sauber is likely to retain its race performance but the engineers will have been looking to make the car less peaky on set up so that they can qualify more consistently. Last year qualifying consistently was a big problem, especially for Kamui Kobayashi.
According to Sauber chief designer Matt Morris, “Pirelli is in its second year, so is now beginning to refine its compounds and the tyre’s profile. The compounds generally tend to be heading to slightly softer solutions, slightly more biased to a stronger front tyre than last year. This, of course, changes the way you balance the car.”
You can follow all the action from Jerez and the other tests in real time with tweets from teams, drivers and journalists at the circuit at http://twitter.jamesallenonf1.com