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Monaco misery deepens the gloom at slumping Sauber
Posted By: Justin Hynes  |  30 May 2014   |  7:55 pm GMT  |  108 comments

When Esteban Gutierrez clipped the barrier on the inside of Rascasse and spun out of last weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix, no one would been surprised if the entire garage at the Swiss team let out a long howl of frustration.

The Mexican was in eighth place and heading for his team’s first poinst of 2014. He had started 17th, driven solidly, profited from errors and failures around him and had steadily dragged his C33 to the cusp of what, currently, would seem like a major result.

Instead, he ended up facing the wrong way at the pit lane entrance, from where he had a perfect view of Jules Bianchi rounding Rascasse to slot into a position that would eventually net the points that have moved the improving Marussia ahead of the Swiss team, which slid back into the forbidding territory occupied by similarly troubled Caterham. If the start of 2014 has been a dispiriting ride for the team, this was the moment the wheels came off.

The wider issues surrounding Sauber’s slump (from podium finishers in 2012 to pointless midway through 2014) are obviously deeply linked to shrinking finances, restricted resources and the steady trickle of talent away from Hinwil but while others in similar straits (Marussia, Lotus) have found ways around the strictures, Sauber appear mired.

Chief among the performance-related causes is of course weight. At the start of the season much was made of the C33’s weight issues, in large part blamed on its portly, Ferrari engine. Marussia, however, uses the same engine and has not been plagued by the issue to the same extent. Variously Sauber was reported to need to shed between 10 and 15kg of excess baggage and with 10kg representing 0.36s per lap the deficit to less hamstrung competitors was clear.

The team made substantial progress with a comprehensive update in Spain, with Adrian Sutil insisting that the Barcelona-spec C33 was “more than 10 kilos [lighter], which means you are three to four tenths (of a second) quicker depending on the circuit.”

It didn’t go the whole way to solving the problem, at least not for Sutil. As one of the grid’s tallest and heaviest drivers, Sutil’s car was still unable to make the minimum weight and the inability to play with ballast was lamented by the German.

“Obviously the lighter you are the better because then you can place some of the weight where you need it [on the car],” he said. “We are talking about a few more kilos, but I don’t want to say a definite number. It’s still quite a bit we have to find.

“The best situation is having another five to 10 kilos to play with and then you can really place it where you need it. Then you are in a good area. So we need to wait a little longer and reduce the weight quite a lot.”

While the weight saved in Barcelona undoubtedly helped the team at least keep pace with the gains made by rivals the aero upgrade that accompanied it, including a modified front wing, a new engine cover, new side-pod fins and deflectors, as well as software upgrades aimed at better performance for the sluggish Ferrari engine, failed, at least according to Sutil.

“The update in Spain didn’t really work. The only thing that really worked was the weight reduction,” Sutil to Autosport in Monaco “The biggest problem, and why we are not performing well, is the drivability of the car and the strange driving you experience with it.

“You can’t control it in certain races. In Barcelona, you went from tricky-to-drive to undriveable and tyres locking up, front, rear, oversteer, understeer, you have everything. And this is the worst thing you can have, you don’t know how to solve a problem; you just change it from one end to another. Then it’s just multiplying all the problems.”

The German also expanded on the braking issues that have plagued the car since its launch.

“It’s still a bit strange,” he said, “but I also think it comes from the loss of grip when we enter a corner.

“It might be somewhere else where we have to look first. Maybe the brake system is doing the right thing but we just haven’t got enough grip.”

The German added that the mood in the camp is pessimistic. “That’s where we are at the moment and we have to improve, we have to try to make it better. But it’s one of the most difficult starts [to a season]. It’s very, very hard to get out of it at the moment.”

With performance increases proving elusive, with the team potentially facing its worst season since it made its 1993 debut, with technical staff continuing to abandon ship (aerodynamicist Tony Salter is joining McLaren) and with senior figures still desperately clinging to the faded dream of a cost cap, the question is what does the future hold?

According to former privateer team owner Eddie Jordan the best option is to sell up. In 2005, crippled by sponsor pullouts or no shows, technical deficiencies and debilitating court actions, Jordan walked away from the team he brought to F1 in 1991 and last week suggested that Sauber should do the same.

“Sauber are in the biggest crisis they’ve ever been in,” he said. “It’s obvious that they’ve reached the point where it can’t go on like this. Before the damage is even greater, the best solution would be to stop and sell the team. I don’t say this lightly, but Sauber can no longer compensate for their disadvantages on the financial side, and also on the engine side as well.”

The situation at Hinwil may not be quite that drastic yet, and team boss Monisha Kaltenborn sounded a positive note saying “I am confident that whatever races are going to come now, with the updates we have and the understanding we have from the car, we will improve.”

There’s precedent for that. After all the team turned around a calamitous first half of 2013 (it had just seven points by round nine in Germany) to eventually score 57 points and finish a respectable seventh in the Constructors’ Championship. This year, though, is technically a very different animal and it may just get worse before it gets any better.



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In my view Monaco should erase any doubt that it is time for Gutierrez to go. Sure many drivers make mistakes, but it is clutch moments like this with valuable points on the line that separate the men from the boys. A team simply cant afford to a have a driver who chokes at crucial moments such as this. That’s how I saw it.


Sell the team to Gene Haas F1. Then at least Haas will have *something* to start with.


Peter Sauber…a man who’s enters and exits F1 with impeccable timing. One feels for Moisha and all of the employees at Sauber. It’s the loss of jobs and the consequences for the families involved which sickens the most.


From a Swiss perspective I must admit I’m very proud of what Peter Sauber and his team have achieved over the years. They also have a history of recruiting and building into some great drivers of this last decade. Massa, Raikkonen and Perez just to mention a few.

This year however their driver line up desperately reflects the teams need for $$$ and apart from a great looking livery (one of the best of the field in my opinion) I fear there’s not much good left about this Swiss team.

James do you think Peter Sauber could do a Ron Dennis style come back should Kaltenborn fail to get the job done as team principal?


He was hoping to retire when he sold to BMW….


Maybe it’s Ferrari that should sell their team before they totally destroy their brand by redefining it as “ugly, overweight, and slow”.

But if they don’t, then they need to buy Sauber and do what Red Bull did… run 4 cars.


saubers fortunes this year are tied to ferrari’s ability to get the power unit sorted. that puts them in the same boat as most of the other teams that run ferrari or renault units. even adrian newey has cast an admiring glance at the saubers chassis’ and has sometimes adopted a few sauber aero ideas.

over the years sauber has brought in a lot of new driver talent. maybe they need to get bianchi in the car.

as for the sauber budget – maybe sauber can apply for an austerity bailout package from the IMF. that seems quite fashionable at the moment. there goes the hospitality suite.


This was always the risk following a major major rule change – that one team would get so far ahead they will never be caught (Mercedes), and another team will struggle and vanish without trace (Sauber).


Seriously, is Schumi still in a coma and still in that same French hospital? For real? 5 months?

I try not to believe it. I try to convince myself it’s a smoke screen and Schumi is working on his rehab in peace.


Jordan seems ready to broker a deal.


Just like Lotus last year, they put their trust with the wrong people. In Sauber’s case, with Russians.

History clearly shows one deals with Russians at his own peril. Sure, they have truckloads of money, but they are also notoriously fickle. Huge plans today, zero interest or some strange, but insurmountable problems tomorrow.

Now Sauber has no money, reputation is damaged, and some of the best technicians have left. It can take several years to recover from this kind of slump – unless BMW comes back… .


Hi James

Why don’t the FIA and commercial rights holder provide financial assistance to teams like Sauber i.e. low interest loans.


A little too late to sell. Mercedes is going from strength to strength. Sauber is going from weakness to weakness. Not a very solid position to negotiate from.


It’s a shame to see a great team like Sauber be in this position, even though times are very different now than 20 years ago, I can’t imagine Peter Sauber not being able to pull through (just like he did it in 2010 when BMW abandoned the team).

Unfortunately he’s not running the team anymore and that’s why we should really be worried this time around.


Did anyone see Sergey Sirotkin go off in Spa at first race of The World Series by Renault . Big of a pile up at Spa after two no starts due to light failure at the track.

Sauber are you sure you want Sergy?!

All drivers ok .


Thats bit of a pile up 🙂


Expensive too.

Scuderia McLaren

Shame really. I always had a soft spot for Sauber as a team and Peter Sauber. Seemed a ‘relatively’ honest team with some integrity given the environment of F1 being riddled with scoundrels, liars, criminals and sociopaths. One of the last true privateers and one of the last based outside of the Silicon Valley of F1 in the UK. I hope they pull through. I’d be good to see maybe Ferrari purchase a stake in them, injecting capital and running them ala Red Bull / Toro Rosso. You know, a junior team but still runs with its own flavour and style, yet heavily linked to Ferrari.


I think Ferrari would love that – but if they argued for rule changes to allow them to get more data sharing from a ‘junior’ team it would help Red Bull use Toro Rosso again as a full test bed car. This must be a dilemma as I think they clearly would love a development team for both car and younger drivers in Sauber.


I have always been of the opinion that a team should be based in the country of which it is registered. McLaren, Williams, Ferrari, Toro Rosso, Sauber and Lotus are the only teams to meet this requirement. Red Bull is apparently an ‘Austrian’ team. This is a joke; it is based in Britain and the overwhelming majority of employees are British. Even more ridiculous for obvious reasons is Force India.

If this was made a rule, Formula 1 would inevitably become more diverse as a result.


Wut? That makes no sense. Must be 5.

You force your rule, costs go up exponentially for all those teams, they just register in britain and the sport is less diverse overnight.


Worse still they wouldnt even bother.. Could you imagine FI telling its british mechanics they have to live in India and once a year they get to visit home.

On this basis we should just tell 6 teams to shove off..yep makes terrific sense.

Right now we have an Australian driver in an “Austrian” team based in England. A dutch and swedish driver in a Malaysian team ,based in England. A finish and Spanish driver in an Italian team – but apparently thats not diverse enough..yep got it.This guy has issues and there not nice…


I’m not always agreed with your comments but on this one…yes. Ferrari should invest in this team (which I happen to like because they seem to be one of the more integer teams) and share a little more of their knowledge, especially on the PU side.

I guess they are struggling themselves with driveability but if they would have another (stronger) technical team helping at Sauber they might benefit themselves.

Scuderia McLaren

“I’m not always agreed with your comments but on this one…yes.” – @Hansb

It’s like my father always said, “Son, even a broken clock is right twice a day.”

Let’s call it a fluke Hansb, shall we?



Hèhè nice saying, I’ll remember that one.

Isn’t it a nice thing ? So many different views on so much different subjects this sport offers ?

We’ll find something to disagree about next time 😉


I dont think its a surprise given all the troubles Ferrari have had with the brake by wire issue and various other PU issues. Sutils comments exactly mirror Kimis over the first few races. It is a tough time and Sauber dont have the resources Ferrari do but I would rather think they can/ will recover – especially given Estabans pre Rascasse position.

Im certain they can return tosome points in the next few races which means more prize money at year end. Wether its enough, only time will tell.


At the end of 2013 when force india anounced hulk and perez drive for them, adrian sutil compared 2013 force india car with carrot…. for the first 9 races before changing the tyre compounds sfi was ahead of mclarn…. still sutil called it a carrot… that shows his driving ability and understanding about the car he is driving…. pdr scored twice what he scored…


Sutil had returned for a year off whilst PDR was in his 3rd straight year. Once Sutil was up to speed they were pretty even, except for those races in the second half of the season where PDR forgot how to drive.


No sympathy for them after they ditched kobayashi. What goes around comes around.




Not so much the fact that he was ditched but HOW they did it, IMHO. The whole time they kept telling Kobayashi that money wasn’t a deciding factor when it clearly was.

What happened to all the financial support from Carlos Sim (supposedly one of the richest men in the world)?

Unless he’s being incredibly discreet, it didn’t look like it followed Perez to Force India, and certainly isn’t with Gutirez…


I have a question James. Do you know of anyone or hear any whispers of people who wolud be likely to buy a F1 team at the minute? And would Sauber or Caterham even be on the list of teams they would be looking to purchase?

Thanks and keep up the great work



I reckon Sauber is doomed to failure especially when they hired Sutil who is a “hit & miss” driver mostly missing targets & hitting trouble on track & off track. Esteban though a good driver seems on a zig zag in performance. Though Lotus driver Maldonado shunt didn’t help either. Then in Monaco he didnt do himself any favours.

I don’t know who picks their drivers but surely Koby should have stayed instead of going with drivers with big wallets. The technical input they provide has dollar signs & no car performance input. I think Sauber are looking for either a takeover from Haas or somebody with a clue.. its all gone Pete Tong for them.


People like to forget that Sutil had a brilliant comeback to the 2013 season, at least the first half of it and he was doing pertty well the years before his 1 year break. Now he’s got a rather underwhelming start to the 2014 season, partly caused by him being the heavier driver in an overweight car. He is a fast one, it’s Sauber that need to deliver.

But with a lot of good personnel jumping ship, lack of proper sponsorship and a factory far away from the english F1-villages around Silverstone it’s not going to be easy to turn things around.

Bring back V12's !!!

Regardless of whether he is good or not, Sutil has got to be one of the least charismatic drivers of all time, in any category of motor racing if you ask me.

Sauber should have jumped at the opportunity to sign Koby, cannot believe that man is racing in a Caterham.. Although looking at the way things are currently that may be a better option than Sauber!!


I don’t care if he is charismatic or not and I’m pretty sure that from last year’s perspective he has been Sauber’s best option. Kobayashi had a break and no one could know if he’d be back as quick as he was when he went. Sauber was not in the position, like Force india, to take any risks. And if it comes to speed vs charisma, I bet every team would vote for speed.

Still I’m afraid that if Adrian can’t have a few very decent races in the rest of the season this will be his last.


I realised that if Ericsson had finished infront of Raikkonen. Sauber would be last in the championship. This is when you realise how badly they are doing.


This is a bit off topic but can someone pls explain how it can be so damn expensive to see your own home gp compared to some where like Hungary or Italy?? Best part of £100 more to see the British gp!!! What do you think the reason(s) are James??


A lot of the tracks are heavily subsidised by their local government, they may also have targets attached to that subsidy (Singapore for example has to attract a set number of foreign tourists to the Grand Prix each year), so they price tickets attractively to get the people coming in. Silverstone doesn’t get a penny of government funding, it has to make money on it’s own terms and so pricing is high. That us British fans will seem to pay anything to go and watch motor racing surely doesn’t help matters.


Good point.

I’m one of those silly people who spend a bloody fortune to see our annual festival at Silverstone of noise, skyving revs, flailing arms and last year terrifying tyre failures (not to mention great skill from the drivers for avoiding flying debris and the like), but I don’t blame Silverstone/BRDC for the high prices. They have to set them at a price so they can recoup the massive license fee required by Mr E/FOM so F1 can come to “motorsport valley” in front of the “rosbiffs” such as myself. I don’t think Silverstone actually makes a huge profit from running the GP weekend; apparently they only just about break even – and that’s only if the place is a sell out.

Thank you Milton Friedman and your neo-liberalist economist theory and how Western society – including F1 – would benefit from its “trickle-down” effect………..

If you’re wondering on earth I’m talking about above, google “neoliberalism”; it explains how western society, including F1 (and football) has become more fiscally unequal and iniquitous……..

Andrew Carter

Why don’t you try comparing the average wage of someone in the UK with someone in Hungary or Malaysia. Think before you start asking questions with blatantly obvious answers.


A lot of people from Finland, Poland, Romania, Czech Republic and previously Austria (they’ve got a GP from this year) go to Budapest for the GP – the Finnish drivers usually consider Hungary their “home” GP, it’s very popular from spectators from Central, Eastern and Northern Europe. (I think Finnish and Hungarian similar and are from the same language family, the Finno-Ugric branch of European languages, and that the Finns and the Magyars – Hungarians – have similar roots and ancestry, but I stand to be corrected).


RE Andrew Carter: I wasn’t responding directly to your post per se, but you are correct: the average wage in the UK, Germany, et al is higher than that of South East Asia or Eastern Europe and ticket prices are priced accordingly for that.

We are all missing the bigger picture…….we shall blame a smallish chap with a pudin basin haircut for silly prices in Western European GPS……..there again, if the customer base such as Martin and myself is willing to fork out UK £500 to watch F1 at Silverstone I guess that’s just the (greedy) capitalist system at work………….


Which has absolutely nothing to do with the point I was making. Tickets, though expensive, will always be priced to what the locals can (just) afford, not foreigners from a stronger economy. Thats why races in Western Europe will always cost more than those in the far east (Japan excluded).


I love the British gp and have been 3 times . I have been to the Singapore gp last year and the Malaysian gp . Something that Malaysia and Singapore give us value , a word never associated with silverstone .

3 day ticket in a grandstand at final corner was £70 in 2007 in Malaysia .

Hotel for 4 nights if staying next to the circuit in tune hotel can do for easy £40 for whole 4 days trip .

Flights from manchester £550

Total £610

At silverstone the same seat would be about £500 before you start with hotels etc . I realise it’s not fair to compare as they are two different countries, but I got sick of paying over the top for stuff when you are at the circuit . At Singapore and Malaysia you get loads of free stuff , posters, flags , drinks , snacks . You feel looked after and that they care about you and want you to come back .

One thing I thought was good in Malaysia is that there was a ticket for every mans pocket . Roughly a ticket started at £7 so a normal guy could afford to take all his family , pack up a picnic and watch some f1 . When I was a kid it was just me and my dad stood on copse corner in the rain . For all my family to go we would of had to ditch our family holiday.

Again I love silverstone and would go crazy if they stopped it . The problem is the facilities and lack of. Toilets brimming, my mum refused to use them when we went in 2006 . ( I have visited recently for other events to see upgrades but still not what us expected from the home of f1)

The government need to take some pride in what we have , we are f1, we are motor racing, we have the best fans , give us what we deserve instead of pumping dish into some random sports facilities that stay empty after the event . Silverstone is busy all year .


I had no idea Singapore was so reasonable. I live in canada and have been to Montreal. A fantastic experience but like silverstone very expensive and dated. They haven’t spent any money on it in years. The big screens are poor to say the least and not even big. Also you don’t get the GP2 races. I would love to take the family but just can’t justify the cost.

It would be good to get fans perspective on all the races and best seating areas


Weirdly, even though you are right in saying Silverstone and Montreal are stupidly expensive and dated (and stupid idiots like me keep splashing out a small fortune to sit on the grassy banks in the Norths area every mid summer), they are, pound for pound, the best RACING circuits in F1 at the moment.

I can’t think of one dull race at Montreal in the last 15 odd years, while Silverstone with its stunning mega-fast corners (where the drivers pull 5G) is a true red blooded drivers circuit that is the ultimate test of man and machine.


Singapore is about £200 3 day pass with international concerts included . I saw the killers Tom jones and some others . I still think Malaysia kl is the best value as I said in my previous message .

I also agree it would be good to get done facts about other races up here .


Peter Sauber made a massive impression on me during his Le Mans days, and they’ve always been an F1 team I’ve wanted to do well, (like Jordan when they started our) not a big corporate team, a team with soul.

I think it would be a real shame if F1 lose the likes of Sauber or Williams as the sport would become even more bland.


Has anyone spotted the irony that Sauber, a very Swiss team, is fiscally constrained while Ferrari, the epitome of Italy is bursting at the seams with dosh?

I say that because there’s a joke here in the UK (and probably AUS and NZ as well) that the difference between Switzerland and Italy is the Swiss understand all forms of finance and spend prudently and diligently while the Italians understanding of finance is a bit, er, lacking……..

Ironic isnt it? Sauber are unsuccessful because they don’t have enough cash while Ferrari are successful because they wilfully waste it………go figure!


PS Perhaps I should modify that and say Ferrari are moderately successful………..


This might sound weird but I feel like ever since Monisha Kalternbon has taken over they’ve started to go downhill. Just a feeling… But it feels true. I’ll also take this opportunity to trash the Ferrari engine again… The clowns at Maranello must have done a bang up job again… Their teams seem to have serious drivability issues perhaps more so than Renault.

Bring back V12's !!!

@snarfsnarf – I am beginning to agree with you. After testing I was feeling confident that Ferrari and Ferrari based teams would go quite far this year (not win bc of Merc). But I think Red Bull has overplayed and over hyped the disadvantages of the Renault power unit compared to the Ferrari one. At this point I would probably choose the Ferrari engine last!

Mercedes power unit as a whole is an absolute masterpiece though they really nailed it.


Monisha has run the team for a long while really – Peter Sauber just made it official when he didn’t want to come to races anymore. So while it may ‘feel right’ it isn’t. It’s just the timing of their sponsor challenges coincided with Sauber taking an even bigger step back and let the person who did most of the financial work get the actual job title.

Remember Peter didn’t even want to keep the team, he only came back as he didn’t want the BMW bailout to cost everyone their jobs. You can’t really keep a team going on goodwill.


Aura, while I agree with that sentiment, when you are the official team principal the buck stops with you. You could say the same about Whitmarsh doing a lot but once he became the top man he felt the wrath of failure, and Mclaren performed worse under him. Sauber handed things over to her in 2012 and its been a decline since. Would you still feel it’s irrelevant if this decline continued next year as well?


I wasn’t defending Mohisha’s performance I think you may have misunderstood. I was saying that she has more or less been in charge for several years and overseen both the upturn in Saubers fortunes and now it’s decline.

I’m of the opinion that team principals set a tone rather than are overwhelmingly responsible for every success or failure. I don’t think Christian Horner single handedly gets the praise for 4 doubles on the trot, but the counterpoint is I don’t think he gets the blame for the lack of success this year…

Generally I think Saubers decline is quite simply down to money and being one of a dwindling group of privateers – which they didn’t even want to be – it’s a company that has continued post BMW abandonment based on trying to do the right thing – which is praiseworthy but ultimately futile.

Either F1 changes or Sauber fold/sell. I’m not suggesting either is correct, just that it is unlikely to be directly tied to Monisha getting the official TP title – which is more coincidence than direct incompetence. Unlike McLaren or Ferrari – Sauber simply don’t have the cash flow to be competitive. Whitmarsh didn’t even go because of failure – he went because Ron Dennis wanted his job back and promised to buy up more shares – but I can see where a rich team like McLaren should press their TP harder (though I suggest McLareb were already in general decline when Ron was still in charge).


You’re right – goodwill doesn’t equal lots of loot………hence why Lotus were “inclined” to take a certain driver who has a propensity for crashing…..

…into Mexicans driving Saubers weirdly enough!

Money talks, but perhaps we’re all being a bit naive? Motor sport has always consumed vast amounts of cash, it’s just that the runaway over inflated cost of an F1 programme hasn’t been addressed, because, surprise surprise as Cilla Black would say, the teams can’t collectively agree on anything financially speaking!


Because the best way to win, if it isn’t homologating a built in rules change defined advantage is to hope that everybody else goes bust. Won’t that be fun watching 2 or 3 teams drive around the lonely tracks (though if you still come last you can always rant about the cost deficit then…)


Trashes the team principal & “takes the time to trash Ferrari in the process “..a very considerate “trash poster” : ) Nice of you to try to set him straight though..


– “crippled by sponsor pullouts or no shows, technical deficiencies and debilitating court actions, Jordan walked away”

Another view would be that he always had a plan to sell up at a profit and he judged the moment to be right.

Jordan and Minardi did well out of F1. Not everyone did as well.


The ban on Tobacco advertising is what killed the Jordan team. In fact it could even be the case that Red Bull became as dominant as they did because it was a new team not reliant on Tobacco sponsors. Teams like McLaren and Ferrari were somewhat left behind.

The ban on Tobacco advertising has not helped the sport at all. It has really caused a lot of difficulties for most involved and global rates of smoking have increased unabated anyhow.

Bring back V12's !!!

Just left wing “do gooders” ruining the fun for everyone else as well. I wish people/politics would be less intrusive and judgmental, always trying to stick their noses in other peoples business and tell them what they think.. It’s starting to get out of hand!


Don’t want to sound like a British Eurosceptic (plenty of those around in the UK at the moment anyway!) but blame the EU for that loss of dosh for F1…………….


I was watching the highlights of the ’77 season last week, the Germans had already banned tabacco advertising!

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