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Sauber: This is the best F1 car we’ve ever produced
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Darren Heath
Posted By: James Allen  |  13 Jun 2012   |  4:04 pm GMT  |  51 comments

After scoring a second podium in seven races, Peter Sauber has hailed the C31 as the best car to have been produced by the technicians at his Hinwil factory. Given that in its BMW days the team won a race and finished 2nd in the constructors’ championship of 2007 (after McLaren’s disqualification) that is some claim.

Sauber now lie sixth in the championship with 58 points, just 11 behind Mercedes.

“For me, this result is more valuable than the second place in Malaysia,” he said after the third place finish in Montreal. “Canada was a completely normal race – no rain, no safety car, and the only retirement (affecting Perez result) was Schumacher. Hinwil has built the best car we have had since entering formula one in 1993. 75 per cent of the success is solely in the area of aerodynamics, and we are now the envy of most of our opponents.”

Another area where Sauber feels his rivals envy him is in Perez himself. The young Mexican caught the eye with his debut performance in Australia last year where he managed to get to the finish with only one stop, getting a points result (although the car was later thrown out for a wing irregularity).

Perez did a supeb job in Malaysia to finish second in the rain and could have won the race with bolder strategy work from the team. In Canada he started 15th and finished third. He was helped by strategy mistakes from Ferrari and Red Bull, but his pace on a long run on the supersoft tyre impressed everyone in F1. It is clearly something he has brought into F1 with him, rather than learned in his 18 months in the sport.

With Felipe Massa hanging on by a thread at Ferrari, speculation has again arisen about the Scuderia drafting in Perez next year. But Sauber told Roger Benoit of the Swiss paper Blick that Perez will find it “difficult” to leave Sauber, without giving any details as to why.

Sauber’s anointed successor CEO Monisha Kaltenborn had said that improving the car’s qualifying performance would be the key to more successes. Like Lotus, Sauber has found a way to maintain strong performance whilst preserving the tyres in race conditions, but it clearly has something to do with the set up being gentle on the tyres and this holds them back when it comes to one lap pace,

“It is our clear target to improve on the qualifying because if we can manage to get the car further in front on the grid, we can be far quicker and show even more the potential of this car, so this is really going to be our target to get further in front,” Kaltenborn said.

However, she made it clear that the team must find a solution that does not compromise its strong race form.

“That is a difficult one,” she said. “I think that has also a lot to do with how we ourselves prepare ourselves in qualifying, and there are enough areas that we have to improve as a team and if we can manage to get the qualifying session better together then we can really show these better kind of results.”

Like Lotus, Sauber will feel they have a chance of getting another great result in Valencia next week. Their ability to run one less pit stop than the opposition on a track where it’s hard to overtake means that there is scope to one-stop in that race and get ahead of rivals forced to do two. With overtaking so difficult, unlike Canada, track position in the final stint will be everything.

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51 Comments
  1. Joe Szpara says:

    Ummm, what about the 2008 car? Or does that not count as well?

    The 2008 was 3rd best car sometimes 2nd best, the Sauber this year isn’t as good as that in normal conditions

    1. Raymond YZJ says:

      Maybe Peter Sauber considered that a BMW car rather than a Sauber car per se. It was Sauber only in name really – there was nothing “Sauber” about it in management.

    2. Franko says:

      Agreed. Don’t quite understand Sauber’s comment. It’s either wrong or not really a comment. Either he means that the car is the best they have produced in relation to the rest of the field, which one would have to say is not true given the 2007/2008 cars. Or, he means it is the best literally in performance compared to those before it.. which is obvious and (hopefully) always the case (as long as the regs are the same) as the technology improves every year. Don’t quite understand what he means.

      1. Raymond YZJ says:

        Maybe Peter Sauber considered that a BMW car rather than a Sauber car per se. It was Sauber only in name really – there was nothing “Sauber” about it in management.

  2. Alex` says:

    The best and the ugliest ;-)

  3. Gudien says:

    It’s great to see a small team compete effectively with the big four. Perez and Kobayashi have done very good work this year and it will be difficult for Peter Sauber to keep both of them if Merc or Ferrari come calling.

  4. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    About Perez:
    Except Hamilton and Kimi, every other driver in the grid will say YES to a Ferrari seat in 2013 if it is offered, so why someone can say Perez will say no?

    Valencia:
    Ay, what will the 3 frontrunners do, 1 stop?
    If they bild a gap in the first stint maybe 2 stop will be better… tough decision during the race.

    Finally, agressive drive pay off for Hamilton with 2 stops in Canada, and very “smooth operators” drivers like Perez and Grosjean are doing a great job.
    But something in between -like Kobashashi, Kimi, Button- it seems to not be good enough nowadays…

    1. Raymond YZJ says:

      I think the frontrunners will 3 stop, and the Lotus/Sauber kind-on-tyres type will do 2 stop.

    2. Sebastian says:

      Grosjean seems to be able to switch from aggresive to smooth. Hard to judge kimis one lap pace because of a number of small mistakes in qualifying both from him and the team. Without the hydraulic problem in Canada and steering issue in Monaco it could have been a different story.

      Kobayashi seems to have the same one-lap pace problem that Kimi has experienced.

      Button is just down the drain right now. Maybe the McLaren is too nice on the tires compared to say last year.

  5. Alexis says:

    I quite like the needle nose, although the step is obviously ugly.

  6. verstappen says:

    Either this is not their best car, or he means racecar, instead of ‘overall best’.

  7. kowalsky is back says:

    i will go to valencia, the first victory for a comming star would be nice to watch go perez go

  8. Richard B. says:

    i’m still not convinced perez is worthy of a ferrari seat yet, i think the superb car is helping look good. i could be wrong but he doesn’t have a CV of a future champion either. i know just looking at a CV doesn’t tell you everything about a driver, but it still makes me think about his true capability

    1. tom in adelaide says:

      Many would question the ‘worthiness’ of a seat at Ferrari these days.

      History and pedigree doesn’t win you races. See RedBull.

    2. Raymond YZJ says:

      Agreed. His inability to beat Maldonado to the GP2 title was the final nail in the coffin for me. Maldonado himself had, the previous year, been whalloped by Hulkenberg…

      1. Chris_NZ says:

        Just because you are good in one formula, does not mean you are going to be any good in the next one. Look at how Sebatian Bourdais dominated in Champ Cars and was no-where in F1.
        Plus GP2 are just spec cars like most single seaters. But Hulkenberg has done well in almost every race series he has competed in. He doesnt look so hot up against Paul Di Resta however.

        Or more telling, Martin Brundle put it Ayrton Senna in F3, but when it came to Formula One…..

      2. Raymond YZJ says:

        Look at the years of the Bourdais domination of Champ Car, and you’ll see that the field wasn’t really talented.

        And of course Hulkenberg isn’t going to be hot against Di Resta yet. Hulkenberg has a high-energy driving style, in the same vein as a Webber or a Hamilton. It took them practically the whole of 2011 to get to grips with the tyres, so why begrudge Hulkenberg? Give him time. He needs to acquaint himself with the grip feedback of the Pirellis, and to tweak his driving style in order to get the most out of them in terms of grip and life.

        Not to mention he had a year of minimal running.

      3. Elie says:

        No point in talking about GP2 now ! They are Performing in F 1 now. Don’t forget some people get better with age. By your definition Kimi should not be in F 1 cause he didn’t even race in GP2 but arguably one of the best drivers ever.
        Sergio is much better than Felipe and already more consistent! But I also agree a seat at Ferrari is like a seat at any other lower team but worse cause of the politics !
        As for this C31 make no mistake its a great car and I would argue that Peter Sauber meant it is the best car the team has built – it is very consistent and looks after its tyres better than almost every car. No other team has achieved this and realistically they should have won 2 races already this season.

      4. Raymond YZJ says:

        Ummm… to the point about Kimi – no. Kimi impressed with spec cars, Perez hasn’t really (IMO). That was my point.

      5. Andreas Myrberg says:

        One should not forget that drivers coming into F1, are noway complete or finished racedrivers. There is a hugh step in personal development and to really take that next step which is not possible to make, until one actually drives F1. There are just so many more things to get working in F1 to make success compared to any other lower racing class.
        That said, in my opinion, Perez is looking bait more overall mature then Hulkenberg even if the pure pace one a perfect day Hulkenberg might be faster.
        Same as Weber might be faster then Vettel on a perfect day, doesn’t make a champion though.

      6. Armchair Expert says:

        Yeah, like this was his fault:

        -very bad stop in Race 1 in Spain – from P1 to P4
        -engine failure in Race 2 in Spain
        -disqualified from Race 1 in Turkey for some technical infringement (Race 2 – from P23 to P7)
        -Race 1 in Valencia destroyed by Maldonado after starting from P1 – Maldonado damaged his exhausts, Checo had no speed on straights, was spun by Valsecchi (who had DT penalty for that), P11 in the end
        -Race 2 in Valencia – he had mega start from P11 (IIRC 4-5 places gained to first corner), only to be taken out in first corner by some moron

        Do the math and see what he could achieve without issues mentioned above.

  9. Bring Back Murray says:

    Do we need a couple more races to see if these teams really have made the jump, and they haven’t just made a couple of lucky tyre calls?

  10. Andrew Carter says:

    Eveb if you count the BMW years, I think this is probably their second best car, it’s certainly closer to the front than the 2007 car was, but the competition has closed up a lot since then making it harder to tell on pure results.

  11. Les says:

    James – apologies if this has been asked and answered already on another article, but I’d be interested to hear how those ‘in the know’ (team owners, former drivers etc) rate Perez. He clearly has phenomenal talent at sustaining a rapid pace on old tyres, but also went through a barren points run between his two podiums (not all his fault I admit!) that included nearly forcing his teammate off the road in China and causing Raikkonen to take evasive action in Monaco. How do you think he measures up against someone like di Resta, who hasn’t had the spectacular podiums but has been consistently getting strong results in a seemingly inferior car and beating his teammate regularly?

    For what it’s worth I think Checo is potential multiple-WDC material, but would like to know what the ‘experts’ think!

    1. tom in adelaide says:

      I know the experts rate DiResta very highly, but I just don’t see it. Obviously I’m missing something. To me he looks handy, but not massively quick.

      1. Wade Parmino says:

        Yes. Touring cars are his strength.

      2. Andreas Myrberg says:

        I agree….I don’t see it with DiResta.
        I will try to look more specific on him for the next races maybe my opinion changes. So far I only see an overrated driver without not to much to it.
        Reminds me of Heidfeld a bit. Fast, consistent, but doesn’t have the edge.
        Again, I will take a closer look the next races maybe I will see something I did not before

    2. Trent says:

      I wonder if he’d even have been noticed in the Bridgestone era?

      1. Les says:

        Funnily enough, that’s exactly what set me thinking about Checo and his tyre management in the first place! Who knows…

      2. Armchair Expert says:

        Yes. I would even say more than he’s now.

      3. Raymond YZJ says:

        how?

    3. Sebastian says:

      Interesting point!

    4. Armchair Expert says:

      Kobayashi panicked in China in the same way Vettel panicked in Belgium 2010 after Kubica made his defensive move. Both of them had enough space not to put wheels even on white line, not to mention grass.

      In Monaco he had no other choice. Due to incompetence on Sauber pitwall he was left on track on destroyed tyres, lapping 4 seconds slower than Kimi. On his inlap in first 2 sectors alone Checo was 4 seconds slower than Lotus. He had no traction whatsoever, that’s why Kimi was alongside him in Rascasse. The only people to blame for his DT penalty are Sauber strategists.

  12. Ez Pez says:

    You never hear about any demand for kamui, surely some top teams have got their eye on him, he’s got as much potential as Sergio without out doubt.

    1. tom in adelaide says:

      I guess it’s because he’s older and doesn’t bring ridiculous sponsorship dollars with him.

    2. Justin Bieber says:

      Kamui as shown flashes of greatness but he is not consistant.

    3. Raymond YZJ says:

      I disagree. Kamui’s shown he can overtake. But I don’t think he’s shown much else.

  13. Daniel MA says:

    James do you think Carlos Slim’s sponsorship has helped with Sauber’s progress? I read somewhere that it was around 20 mill dollars but I don’t know if that is enough to make such a big jump, I mean last year they scored 44 points and so far this season they have 58!

    1. James Allen says:

      Slim is involved and there are a few Mexican sponsors, but I’m not sure that they’ve got as many sponsors from Mexico as they’d hoped.

      I’m not sure whether Slim has a shareholding in the team at this stage. I got the impression a few months ago that he did not, but it may have evolved since then at the time Sauber gave shares to Monisha Kaltenborn

      1. Sebastian says:

        Could that be the reason why Sauber doesn’t believe Perez will be moving for next year?

  14. Gridlock says:

    I’ll help Herr Sauber out… “Carlos Slim”

  15. Koby Fan says:

    After reading your post, a couple of points:

    (1) Sauber have clearly got their eyes on at least P6 in the constructors championship and even higher depending on whether they can keep pace with Lotus and Mercedes for the rest of the season. Banning exotic blown exhaust technology was a good move – its leveled the pack.

    (2) Whilst I wish the team would drop their usual hedging race day by using split tyre strategies with the drivers (1 driver does well and the other driver is hung out to dry); I can see why Checo’s ability to run fast and longer on the Pirellis will always give him preference with team strategy.

    (3) I don’t think the car is to blame for quali…more down to the inexperience of the drivers and strategy during quali. The C30 looks like its been a Q3 car since the first race.

    (4) It becoming clear that this season is more like GP2 and its the successful ex-GP2 drivers (Lewis, ROsberg, Maldonado, Grosjean, Checo) who seem to be thriving. Kamui always seems to be locked in battle with Schumi, Kimi and Jenson (maybe its a generational thing…). I do worry for Kamui – no major Japanese sponsors and driving in a racecar covered in latin american sponsors- I hope he can get one good result this year via his style of on-track overtaking.

  16. Andrew Kirk says:

    I think the 2008 from the BMW era was their best but after Robert’s win in Canada they simply didn’t develop the car. James what is your view on Kamui? Is Perez putting him in the shade lately?

  17. Kris says:

    I guess there’s probably a fair bit of statement making going on here… as in we did this without the help of a big car manufacturer.

    James, what do you know of Sauber’s current position in terms of investment? Do you think they are still looking to be bought. Also, do you think there are any car makers eyeing up an entry/return to the sport. If so, who is most likely and which teams seem most likely to enter into partnerships?

    1. James Allen says:

      Sauber has always wanted to exit knowing that the team employees jobs are secure. He’s got Carlos Slim floating around at the moment, Roman Abramovitch too; Slim may invest and who knows with Abramovitch? He’s looked at F1 before but not done it. He met with Slim in Monaco.

      1. Johmnyboy says:

        James. What about Kris query about other manufacturers considering entry into F1? VW / Audi maybe? Will the turbo engines trigger any entries?

      2. Raymond YZJ says:

        Chelsea Sauber F1 team perhaps?

        With Torres as chief pitstop mechanic :P

  18. aditya-now says:

    “Sauber’s anointed successor CEO Monisha Kaltenborn”

    it becomes more than mythological here, and sorry for the pun – what was Monisha anointed with? Frankincense, myrrh, hyssop?

    Peter Sauber has taken great steps to ensure that his team will succeed, using “technologies” that far transcend the ordinary means other teams use…. ;-)

  19. robert keti says:

    To me its kind of hard not to like Sauber ,they have turned up for many seasons with some pretty blank cars ( except the Red Bull years ) , never complained about finances ( eg jordan or stoddard), never did the cigarette thing would have paid a fortune to Ferrari over the years for engines ,got back into it after the BMW thing and even now at his age setting the company up for the future and are still punching above their weight

  20. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

    James – its a shame that in a good article where you delve into one of the successes of the season, that you don’t focus more on the guys/girls behind the scenes who are making this happen. It would be great to get another follow up piece on WHY Sauber is outperforming their larger competitors. Ie who in the garages is making the difference. These are the forgotten men/women of F1 (unless your name is Newey of course!).

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