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Kaltenborn: Maturing drivers key factor in Sauber’s rise
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Sauber F1 image - Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi
Posted By: James Allen  |  04 Aug 2012   |  11:28 am GMT  |  12 comments

Sauber CEO Monisha Kaltenborn has credited the growing maturity of the team’s two young drivers as a key factor behind its transformation this season into a competitive Formula 1 force.

Aside from its heavily-funded BMW era in 2006-2009, the Swiss outfit has been the epitome of a perennial midfield runner since entering the sport in 1993, with only six podium finishes achieved either side of its manufacturer-owned period heading into this season. However this year enjoying the benefits of what Peter Sauber has already described as the best car ever made at Hinwil, Sergio Perez has added a second and third place to that total with the team having entered the summer break in a strong sixth position in the constructors’ championship.

Eyebrows were raised at the start of last season when Sauber discarded team veteran Nick Heidfeld to promote Perez from GP2 to partner Kamui Kobayashi, who then had only one full season of F1 racing under his belt himself, to give Sauber the most inexperienced driver line-up in the field, but Kalternborn feels that over the past 18 months the drivers’ rate of progression has mirrored that of the team’s.

Speaking in an exclusive interview in the August edition of the JA on F1 podcast, Kaltenborn said: “We got them at a time where the team was definitely not among the competitive ones. They have made their experiences and I think season-by-season now they have been able to contribute far more to the development of this car and I’m convinced that this car and this season is also the result of the kind of driver feedback we’ve been getting. So I think they’re learning and they’re making their experiences which is improving their own skills.”

Perez’s victory near-miss in Malaysia, and the fact he is a member of their young driver programme, has led to season-long speculation that he could be in line to replace Felipe Massa at Ferrari, while Kobayashi, fresh from a career-best fourth place in Germany after a difficult run of races, has also been linked himself. For Sauber’s part on their 2013 plans, Kaltenborn said:

“If we’re going to have them next season we’ll see because we always have announced season-by-season.But I’m quite relaxed for the future.”

Both drivers were asked to assess their own seasons so far in an interview conducted by the team itself this week and Perez echoed Kaltenborn in acknowledging he had taken a step forward this year. “Having a lot more experience now compared to my rookie season makes me much more confident in many respects. I think I am a lot better than I was when I entered Formula 1. This goes especially for when it comes to making decisions with the team,“ he said.

Yet, while Sauber’s season has been one of several notable highs, both drivers and management recognise that they have let slip further opportunities to achieve strong results through operational errors or poor qualifying performances.  “Since the beginning of the season we have been competitive on most tracks, and this means we can be confident for the remainder of the season,” Kobayashi said. “The downside so far has been we definitely missed some opportunities for some more great results. Too often we didn’t manage the weekend perfectly. If we can improve there, a lot will be possible.”

Speaking to JA on F1, Kalternborn agreed that while Sauber’s season so far had been a great achievement there were regrets and clear areas to improve on: “Of course if we are now critical with ourselves we have to say that we have a very competitive car and despite all the successes of the podiums and gaining a lot of points at some races, we could have done better had we not made certain mistakes. So I’m confident if we can improve our efficiency, and especially improve our qualifying performance, we can really still make a step ahead and make use of all the opportunities which we have already had this half.”

You can hear the full interview with Monisha Kaltenborn, along with chats with other leading F1 luminaries including Frank Williams and Jackie Stewart, in episode six of the monthly JA on F1 podcast which can be downloaded directly here or via iTunes.

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12 Comments
  1. goferet says:

    The main problem Sauber have is the fact they have got two relatively inexperienced, young drivers and worse, both of them aren’t lead drivers.

    So now Sauber have got a car that’s pretty competitive but without a lead driver, they’re unable to extract the maximum (in terms of points) from their package as their drivers do make rookie mistakes from time to time e.g. Kobayshi at Silverstone pit lane.

    So si, the sooner Senor Perez shoves off to Ferrari the better for the team and if I were the team, I would put Sutil in the other car with Kobayshi acting as his wing man because Kobayshi’s qualifying pace is the biggest handicap in his bag of tricks.

    Meanwhile, I always love fairly tale stories such as Sauber that have been lost in the midfield for years but now they’re getting plenty of airtime with their alternative strategies which always places them right in the midst of the fight upfront, who knows, maybe one of these days they may even determine who wins or loses a race.

    1. WheelOfMaldonado says:

      I always assumed that the most powerful Kamui’s weapon are overtaking skills which have become unnecessary since DRS and Pirelli era.

      1. Baktru says:

        And then Button got stuck behind Senna.

        You do still need the overtaking skills to make a race weekend work perfectly.

  2. gudien says:

    It’s not all down to the two drivers when it comes to missed opportunities. The Sauber team have relied too often on different fueling or tire strategies which haven’t always worked out, thus placing their drivers at a disadvantage.

    I’ve always appreciated the Sauber team for their independent, go it alone, philosophy. However they have more tough competition now than before with both Lotus and Williams on pace in addition to the usual suspects; McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull.

  3. verstappen says:

    There are no double spots. Not in the points, not on the podium. I keep hearing and reading about Sauber and Williams, but where would McLaren be without mistakes, or with Button doing fine? Ferrari with a performing Massa? Lotus without crashes from Grosjean and better Q from Kimi? And strategy? etc etc

    I guess in a mistake-free world, the order would be the same.

  4. KOB at Ferrari? Would be nice, delicious. I still think they’ll go for Kovalainen as a quiet N2, and he won’t be too bad for a N2 driver, cheers. Ferrari could also put Petrov in Massa’s seat just for a laugh, you know, for sure. VP already knows every F1 “truck” on the calendar, doesn’t crash too often.

    Sauber, as a team circa 2012, is looking good; I still think their pre-2006 livery was much better though. This predominantly white is a bit disturbing, maybe they got inspiration from the snow around their factory in winter or something. Yeah, you know.

  5. Andrew Kirk says:

    Sauber do not get the prize for the most improved team of the year (that is Williams) but they have been impressive. Good race pace and capable of mixing it with the big boys reminds me of Jordan back in the late 90s. Going to be tough to hang onto their two drivers but I think that Kamui has been disapointing this year. He is not a rookie anymore with this being his 3rd year so should not be treated as such. While a 4th on Germany was a great result, he seems to be one of those fast on their day drivers, average the next and there have been many that have graced Formula 1 Trulli, Ralf etc. I do not think Kamui will ever win a championship.

  6. Elie says:

    This topic is one of the Yeah But topics. When really there should be no ‘But’ . Both Perez and Kobayashi have done great jobs so far- they’ve made mistakes but who hasn’t & yes if the car warmed up it’s tyres quicker earlier on in the year they wouldn’t be fighting their way back hard through traffic ( something which both have done exceptionally well with also)-it’s catch 22 in terms of single lap pace v race with these tyres and only bigger budget teams are slowly getting there now (think Lotus)- even some like Mercedes are still struggling. Perez should be racing for Ferrari no two ways about it he would learn immensely and would be fighting with Alonso by mid way through 2013 which would be ideal for them! He has ever so slightly more upside than his team mate and Kovalienan – Massa should be at Sauber applying what he’s learned at Ferrari. Appreciate there is much more to it than this.

  7. Thompson says:

    As I’ve said before non of these drivers should be considering Ferrari its a one step to the graveyard team that offers no.2 drivers no respect in their futures.

    Kovi would be a good fit in the Sauber imo, the way he is performing these days suggest he would drag this team forward.
    Perez and Koby are similar in capability imo too – not sure who I’d replace in the team probably would keep them for another season.

    The way the competition is at this time makes driver choice hard……

    ether way Massa imo as nowhere to go.

  8. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

    Massa would do well to join Sauber. It would allow him to rebuild his confidence as lead driver and have the car tailored to him rather than perhaps Alonso. It would also allow him to be out of the spotlight that always follows Ferrari. Given that Sauber is increasingly competitive, arguably he would be in no worse a team than Ferrari.

  9. Koby Fan says:

    Sauber took up 2012 options on both drivers around the same time last year…so if there are no announcements soon, the rumors will get bigger…

    The team as a whole seem to make occasional rookie errors maybe because they don’t have the level of experience of regularly being at the front of the grid like the top teams or former top teams like Williams & Lotus/renault. Very similar to RedBull in 2007/08.

    They should try to get an experienced ex-driver to mentor Checo and Koby and old hand ex-race engineer to assist the track team for the rest of the season.

    maybe they should give robert kubica a call…

  10. Amigo says:

    Sauber has two young best drivers in F1.
    Koba can do better than Sauber allow to him to do. He is No1 driver but favorable strategy goes to Perez because of his sponsor money.
    In Germany, Koba and Perez had same two stop strategy with different tires strategy and Koba finished in 4th place. In China, Perez block Koba from over taken him and pushing Koba onto grass. If Sauber run same strategy on both cars and then my money will be on Koba.
    Kamui Kobayashi is most under rated driver in today F1.
    Pit-lane accident can be happened everyone including Michael. Koba was not first driver who has accident in pit-lane.

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