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Rueful Sauber looking for answers to poor performance
Rueful Sauber looking for answers to poor performance
Posted By: James Allen  |  08 Apr 2010   |  9:33 am GMT  |  61 comments

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.

Kobayashi: Not the driver he was last season (Darren Heath)

The team has been through a lot in the last 12 months. Last season, as BMW Sauber, it failed to build on the success of the 2008 season and had a disappointing car for the 2009 campaign. In August BMW announced that it was pulling out, although it has left behind its name and a toned down version of its colour scheme for the moment.

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.

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Why do Sauber still retain BMW in their name? I think I heard that it had something to do with FIA rules and name change approval but HRT had no problems with their change.


BMW shot be metophorically shot for not signing and getting their share of F1 funds.

The gave Peter a poisoned chalice.

What a bunch of idiots they are.

I hope the Hinwil team can gain some stability and come back stronger.


It was reported that they needed to keep the BMW name so that they would be entitled to the championship money from the 2009 season, although whether or not they have received it is unknown.

Although thinking about this, there has never been another team owner as thoroughly screwed over by a manufacturer like how Peter Sauber had been by those guys on the BMW board... Maybe back in 2004 - 2005, Frank Williams saw something about the management structure there which made becoming a privateer a better option...


"This year the car runs without sponsorship and the choice of Pedro de la Rosa and Kamui Kobayashi, who looks a shadow of the driver who lit up Interlagos and Abu Dhabi last season in the Toyota, is looking questionable."


Surely, James, you know that the car makes a difference. Watching either of the Saubers, you can see the car is violent and on a knife edge.

Last year KK had a car he could be confident in, it was overall a good solid car. This year, things are different. Does that make him a 'shadow' of the former driver he was last year? Not in my book. He did well to make it to Q3 in Malaysia.

Let's give Sauber some time before stirring stuff up, eh, James? I guess it's a slow news day.


I think Kobayashi did very good in Malaysia, both in quali and race until the car died.

However across the all three races Pedro did a shade better than him.

But Mr. Sauber really shouldn't point the finger of blame for the poor results so far at his drivers, they are doing OK with what equipment they have.


I agree.

Kobayashi is doing as good (or as bad) as Pedro de La Rosa, a veteran. With the exception of that strange crash in Australia's P1 (I think it was P1), Kamui isn't the one to blame.


I second that.
I think it is somewhat unfair of James to blame Kobi for the car being rubbish
There is no way he can wring it's neck if he feels it is going to fall off the black stuff for most of the time. If he pushes harder, it will just go off quicker, or break.
Mega major updates required, but unlikely to be ready this season. Thus Kobi is unlikely to shine in the future, his career blighted like so many good talents before him by not having a car capable of being driven to show us his worth. Let us hope that his excellence at Toyota will not fade in memories next year or it would be a very great shame. This year is a write-off.

BMW have basically dumped the sport and done it in a bad way.


A agree completely with your comment that bmw have dumped the sport in a very poor way, but you have to see that a good driver, or rather an exceptional driver, will make the best of a bad car. Think of Alonso driving most of the Malaysia race with a broken clutch and still managing to post fastest laps. Or a more extreme example think of Schumacher driving most of a race with only 5th gear. There are lots of examples, but a good driver can always improve a car, and drive it well to some extent. On the otehr hand I do agree it is still early days to wrtie off KK completely, but I think James is not doing that, I think he is merely appraising the drivers performances so far. So far they have not done brilliantly. They might improve (lets hoe), but yes lets not dismiss them after a fraction of a season.


I think it'll just take time. By the middle of the season I'd expect them to be looking far better. Remember Jordan in 1998?


I feel sorry for sauber as a team. BMW really bungled their exit, and the fact that this meant that the TV money was unavailable is unforgiveable. I think BMW, and to a certain extent FOM, should have helped them more financially.

James, when a team fails to sign the agreement where does that money go?


Sauber has been in F1 for years and never made it to the lead. only one single season 2008 shed some light of success on them. and now back down at the relegation zone. Peter Sauber achieved a lot in endurance racing but somehow he never got the grip, sharpness and persistence to succeed in F1. Teams like Force India, Torro Rosso out run them. Even Renault is again strong. Where is Sauber ? No where! Peter Sauber is too Swiss for F1. And having a Swiss attitude in F1 doesn't help at all. Would not be surprised if Sauber will vanish mid season due to lack of money and results. And the same with Schumacher. He is far from his best and doubtfully will never get back to his peak.


What do you mean when you say that the Swiss attitude is wrong for F1? Quite what is the "Swiss attitude?" I love labeling nationalities it is a great way to make yourself look rather ignorant. However I feel I should point out to Laurence (above) that the Swiss do not constitute not a race.

Getting back to what is relevant, yes I agree I can see them vanishing off the grid at the end of the year if they do not receive sponsorship. A blank car, especially one lacking the FOM prize money and TV money from last year, is bound to struggle.


'Too Swiss for F1' ? Can you explain what you mean or are you just racist?


Racist? Last time i checked, nationality was completely different to Race.


Maybe the c29 will improve his performance with the implementation of the F-Duct. My question..Pedro de la Rosa could be important for the copy of the Mclaren system?? I´m also think that Pedro would be a good driver for the teem because of his experience


I hope they do well, as I have always liked the way Peter Sauber carried the team first time round.

The base components of having a ferrari engine in the back are promising.


was a condition of the handover a no sponsorship in the year? I struggle with the idea that some shrewd sponsors are not taking up the spare space on all of the new cars in a virgin like (i.e Brawn last year and Virgin this year).

The marketplace and exposure F1 gets is enormous, despite the global economy being in the mud still.


I think no one wants to be associated with a failing team; last year Brawn had a very fast car so they found it relatively easy to attract sponsors, but even with that exceptional car it still took some time to fill all of the blank space. Remember they had a considerable helping hand from Honda getting them to the grid prior to Australia, so investors knew not only that the car was fast but the team wasn't on the verge of collapse, and the addition Ross Brawn at the helm made it a very attractive, fairly secure investment. Sauber has very few of these attractive attributes.


That's an interesting comment to make, just to add on, I recall as of Feb 2009, no one would know whether if the BGP001 (nee RA109) would be any good, as the previous RA107 and RA108 were complete stinkers; during the first test session the cars ran without sponsorship and there were a lot of sceptism about whether if they were on "sponsorship runs" when they were on the pace.

The advantage Sauber has is that they have a lot of high end equipment such as Albert II and that vaunted wind tunnel, it is unfortunate that the BMW board made such a botched job of pulling out, the team may never recover from the pullout.

It would be interesting to look at how Brawn handled the Honda pullout compared to the way BMW Sauber and Toyota handled the withdrawal of their parent manufacturers...


It is a shame to see the team in such a state, one finish out of three races is a terrible start to the season; it seems they have some resources available to them, but without sponsors surely they will not make it to the end of the year?



How on earth can Kobayashi be at fault for three mechanical retirements?

He's driving fine, he got into Q3 last weekend didn't he?

Ted the Mechanic

Even though BMW have built some of my favourite cars, I can't forgive them the way they handled their withdrawal from F1. They appear to have been irresponsible, mean-spirited, petty, uncaring, and seemingly bordering on malicious.

Of course I don't know the full story but this is the impression I'm left with.

I had such great expectations of them when they entered the fray and it seems they had every opportunity to exit with dignity and yet they chose a route that was nothing short of a monumental public relations disaster!

Renault, Toyota and especially Honda handled their withdrawals so much more humanely and their stocks have subsequently risen in my eyes because of that. I'm not so sure about Toyota, but I think the problems unravelling with their production car recalls on top of the recession probably forced their hand at a too-late stage and they missed the opportunity to effect a smooth transition with a 2010 entry for their workforce. I may be wrong but I think without the mass recall issues they would still be racing in 2010, so I sympathise with that.

As to Kamui Kobayashi's disappointing 2010 performance, can it simply be put down to the car or do you think the driver has lost his edge or something?


I must say I have to agree that BMW made an extremely poor exit; I can no longer see a BMW on the road without experiencing an involuntary disgust.

It's too bad, as otherwise I might have owned one some day.

Happily, I can console myself with my DeTomaso Pantera instead. 🙂


I agree, BMW didn't handle Rover Group or Williams very well either in my opinion.


Perhaps Sauber could link up with Ferrari to a greater extent. Greater technical support with a gearbox and engine package (maybe more) and in return run some FIAT sponsorship with Fisi and Bianchi in the car!


Surely that's not the best photo of Mr Kobayashi that exists!


I never quite understood why KK was instantly the best thing since sliced bread. He's had a mediocre career so far, and had two good races in a car which had gone through a year's worth of development. Lets be honest - he is still a rookie, in a under developed car. Sauber need to secure future funding for the team before they can really start blaming drivers for under performance.


Yeah but while 'on paper' you're probably quite correct, the fact is that in those couple of races last season he wasn't merely good, he was *electric*

It's no coincidence that instantly fans and commentators the world over were going nuts for his driving style...

The question is, where's the fire today?


Electric? I think that's slightly exaggerated. He qualified 11th in Brazil, raced competitively in the midfield and finished 9th; then in Abu Dhabi qualified 12th and finished 6th after running a one-stopper. An impressive debut, but for a car that had finished on the podium in the previous two races, it's not as spectacular as some made out. Kobayashi did a good job in that he performed up to what one might expect from a rookie in a podium-contending car - I think the hype was 1) because other rookies last season did not always perform up to expectations; 2) Kobayashi's career contained nothing to suggest he would be any different; people expected him to do poorly and yet he did a good job; 3) he raced wheel-to-wheel with Jenson Button in both races, defending against him stubbornly in Brazil during his championship fight and overtaking him with a light car in Abu Dhabi after Button's pit stop.

A couple of things to consider: would Kobayashi have got so much attention if he'd gone wheel-to-wheel with Buemi or Sutil, instead of Button?

People seem to have conveniently forgotten about his chop on Nakajima. If that had been Hamilton, people would still be criticising him for it now. If it had been Alguersuari, people would have said he was too young, out of his depth etc. But because Kobayashi raced in an entertaining way, he can be forgiven?

As for 'where's the fire today', bear in mind that he had nothing to lose - he was effectively driving to save his career and F1 prospects. Otherwise he would probably have sunk back into obscurity. I'm sure he had this in mind when sizing up an overtake, or wondering how hard to defend. Now, however, his seat is secure at least for the short-term, and he cannot race in such a do-or-die manner, in the way that excited so many fans and commentators last season.


Howard, did you even read my post? I'm not denying that his performances at the end of last year livened up the GPs and excited fans, I'm just pointing out that what happened was perceived the way it was due to a certain set of circumstances which are unlikely to be replicated in the future.


Not an exaggeration at all - after he raced every F1 forum was lit up with excitement for his driving, the commentators were loving it, and the fans seemed to hold the general opinion that he was just what the sport needed.


Good point you make about the persons involved so color popular perceptions. Made me wonder how the 'weaving' of LH and Petrov would've been seen if the order was reversed. How many would have had the same opinion.


As a Sauber thread inevitably comes back to...

"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."

...then why are they still called BMW-Sauber?


I think that the BMW name persists for the same reason that "Renault" are still on the grid. It is just subterfuge to give the championship a bit more weight. I wouldn't be surprised if Bernie has channelled a few quid in Sauber's direction in exchange for not changing the name.


I think you're forgetting it's not just BMW in the team name, but Ferrari as well that makes it sound daft.


I kina feel the same about the Lada sponsorship on the Renault, to be honest...


The Concorde Agreement and the Entry List are different. The team's entry is field with the FiA and it is what defines the team name. This was filed before BMW's decision to pull out, so the team is named BMW Sauber. Subsequently, they were dropped from the list and then returned to it *as a new entry* following the Toyota pullout, but the entry *filing* was the same, hence no new name came about. As to why they have not changed the name since, there were some mutterings about it being about money, but since they were classed as a new entry and had not signed the Concorde Agreement by the deadline, I have no idea where that idea came from. They do, I understand, plan to change the name in the near future.


All true, but I find it insanely illogical that someone, anyone, in the FIA can't simply say 'hold on, this is daft. Change the damn name of that team NOW'. I mean, is common sense utterly lacking in that organisation?!


They screwd up pretty bad...slowest and unreliable. It is worse than the previous year isnt it?

I know it is really difficult with the situation as it is but I hope they could turn things around somehow.

The sight of the lack of sponsors is really worrying though.


It doesn't seem to bode well, with no TV money and no sponsorship. No doubt PS is a wealthy man but surely there's a limit to what one can put in.

Flattered to deceive in pre-season testing.

I hope they turn things around.


I think Sauber would have been better off running Fisichella rather than De La Rosa. Fisi is vastly more experienced, quicker and had experience of the Ferrari engine last season. He always punches above his weight in midfield cars. I think we should still allow Kobayashi some time to settle in. He clearly has talent and I think he will come good in a few races. I'm surprised Sauber haven't attracted any Japanese sponsors after Toyota pulled out and Koby moved teams.


Fisi wasn't going to happen because of his ties to Ferrari. If anything were to happen to Massa, everyone knew that Fisichella would abandon whatever team he was in and jump back into his red race suit. (It looks like Massa's perfectly okay, but it wasn't known for sure at the time.)


The issue of teams being bought out and run as independents, or indeed being bought and run by manufacturers, was turned on it's head last year. Now everyone want's to compare them to Brawn.

Sauber have no funds, no decent drivers, and BMW hardly put much effort into this year's car. Remember Honda started development of the car that became the Brawn very early. Not only this, but they have a Ferrari engine, which has never really performed well in a customer role.


BMW Sauber is weak as BMW's 2010 development plan was not promising well. That's why BMW withdrew ... (KERS technology a failure, aerodynamics poor, progress speed close to turtle-like, engine fuel thirsty). As Peter Sauber said he had a good feeling to take over the team and for that reason one can say he has got a good heart apparently. Wish him good luck!


it was well planned back in february... doesn't have anything to do with the car condition today...



If you remember, while testing in spain, de la rosa said that despite the times on track at that time, sauber can't have high hopes for this season...


Kobi claimed he chose Sauber over Renault in the offseason. Biggest mistake of his career. This much he can be blamed for.


We should really be comparing Sauber's current performance with it's performance before BMW bought it. In which case, before BMW came, Sauber was just a midfield team. They usually finished the season 7th or 8th place, and right now they are 9th place, so it looks about right.

You know while BMW Williams never won a championship, they were still a pretty strong combo back in the day. When BMW left, Williams had a decline in performance. I suspect the same is happening to Sauber.


Peter Sauber should do everything in his power to drop the BMW from the team name as quickly as possible, and rename the team 'Sauber-Ferrari'.

Then he should hit the sponsor trail targeting all the 2nd and 3rd-tier advertisers who can't afford the top teams' rates, but would love to be co-branded with a Ferrari label. I dunno, think "Rolex - in association with Sauber-FERRARI" etc

Then with a decent portfolio of sponsors secured by the summer, and a healthy budget for 2011, he should target someone like Michael Schumacher, and discretely sell him a portion of the team as a post-driving career project. Cos when MS finally retires for good, a Sauber-Ferrari would a) help him straddle both sides of the Ferrari / Mercedes divide better than ever (ambassador for Merc, customer of Ferrari) plus the cachet of his name (Team Schumacher-Ferrari" anyone?!) would virtually guarantee the pick of 2013 sponsors...

It'll probably never happen of course, but if I was either Sauber or Michael I'd be giving that idea some serious welly.


Kobayashi and De la Rosa is surely one of the worst driver line-ups ever and as somebody already said Sauber have only ever been a midfield team at best.KK's record in GP2 was patchy and what was Sauber thinking hiring Pedro..i mean he never cut it when he was in F1 before so why now!?

It never ceases to amaze me how many rubbish drivers still get an F1 drive....


agree. Kobayashi though must be given time to prove himself, but guys like pdr, or trulli, are just wasting a f1 seat.

They should focus on lemans like wurth, gene, etc, they are just not good enough for f1, but still very capable drivers.


No decent drivers, lack of funding, uncompetitive car, sure, Sauber is all those things.

But if I were a manufacturer quietly eyeing up F1, I know who would look extremely attractive right now, and that is Sauber.

The infrastructure is all there - including the all important wind tunnel - as is Peter Sauber's vast experience running the team and a proven design talent in Key. And all could be scooped up at an uninflated price thanks to their current situation.

Question is, after being right royally left in the lurch by Munich's not-so-finest, would Sauber want to go back in bed with a big brand?

VW Sauber anyone? Although, personally I'd love VW to bring the Bugatti name back if they are serious about F1.

All we then need is for Aston to come back in - hopefully not with a hopelessly out-dated front engined wotsit like last time - and we've gone back to F1's roots.

That would finally put a sock in Ferrari's superiority complex once and for all.


"if I were a manufacturer quietly eyeing up F1" - you'd be crazy is what you'd be!


Not at all. With the right engine formula post 2013 and the resource restrictions there has never been a better time and F1 still offers an incredible media platform


Kobayashi is a special driver, with huge potential as we've already seen. Lets not blame him for the shortcomings of a team cobbled together at short notice from what BMW has abandoned.

How about a new teammate: JP Montoya? I can't think of a more aggressive pairing, but Sauber would also have to find a way of improving the car, surely that is the key to the whole mystery?


Bar a couple of exceptions, I'm glad to see that KK seems to have garnered quite a few fans!

Like many others I'm excited by his prospects and can't wait to see him in a competitive car. Sauber have had a dodgy start (I have always been one for understatement), but we're only three races in. Even if they take a season to get up to speed, I believe they'll make it. Sauber has the experience, and I'm a believer that KK has the talent. I'm happy to be patient, and focus on the other battles in the mean time.


For those of us who sang praises for Kamui including myself must be feeling dejected with his performance this year. But he's still a good driver. I'd say give him a chance when Sauber starts to improve. F1 will always be unpredictable, so never give up, I guess.


Kamui is probably suffering the hangover from his debut. It seems going from a mature, developed car in a big team to his current situation has highlighted his inexperience. His talent will still be there, it'll be the other 90% of being an F1 driver where he's struggling.

I always thought De La Rosa was a silly idea, especially as it doesnt look like he's brought any significant budget either. There were so many more suitable candidates. If hiring him is a mistake, Sauber only have themselves to blame.

I think BMW comes out of this with a terrible reputation. If anything, it just proves what a competent job Williams have done after getting screwed over with their sponsorship agreement through BMW after a (now typical) change of mind and to hell with the consequences business style that BMW seems to enjoy.


Before the season started, I thought Sauber would be pretty decent, especially as they opted for the Ferrari engine and not the Cosworth engine. It's very surprising to see that an experienced team can't get the right balance and setup for both drivers to at least finish a race. de la Rosa is the only driver to finish a race so far coming 12th in Melbourne. Lotus and Virgin are proving my pre-season derision of their respective abilities, completely wrong!


I think De La Rosa has done a perfectly respectable job so far. I can't understand why people are criticising him, other than his relatively low reputation prior to this season, most of which is down to having been out of a race seat for such a long time. Perhaps another driver might have brought a budget with him but I don't think De La Rosa has driven particularly poorly.

Kobayashi has been a bit incident-prone, but some of those incidents weren't his fault (two wing failures in Aus, for example).


When you look at the team BMW inherited at the end of 2006 and compare it to the team Peter Sauber inherited three years later, that observation alone gives plenty of insight into the car's lack of pace.

I think, in many ways, we all expect these once hugely funded former manufacturer teams to turn around and morph themselves into Brawn Gp. It just goes to show what an achievement Ross Brawn and his boys pulled off in 2009.

That being said, overall it is an impossible task. Atleast with Honda, the 2009 car had been designed and funded for before the Japanese mark pulled out. BMW, on the other hand, appear to have pulled the rug from underneath the team's feet in everyway possible. Maybe they, seeing the former Honda team win a world championship, did not want that embarrassment to befall their own unwanted

venture. Food for thought!

Kobayashi is a young driver, like many others, struggling to show his talents in a dog of a car. De La Rosa, with years of race and test mileage behind him, is not exactly thumping Kobayashi every week, which goes someway towards proving my point.


What does it take to stop criticizing some Delarosa? from the beginning Delarosa Kobayashi has exceeded all training and classifications. It was only in the classification suoerado Malaysia where there was rain and rapidly changing conditions?

I think Delarosa is proving to be superior to kobayashi and I think it is showing that the car is not up to the pilots.

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