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.