After four races into the new season, Peter Sauber is not regretting his decision to buy back the team he founded, despite their disappointing start to the season.In fact, he says he’d do the same thing again.
After BMW pulled out of the sport at the end of last season, Sauber stepped in to rescue his old team. However, an almost completely white car shows their problems recruiting sponsors, and performance on the track has been poor when compared to the other established teams.
“Of course, we're all disappointed that we haven't collected any points with four races gone,” says Sauber. “After all, our aim was to be fighting for World Championship points on a regular basis.”
The team boss explains the problems they have been having. “It's been a combination of factors. We've suffered too many reliability issues on both the chassis side and with our engines. That's very unusual; we've always been one of the best teams in this respect over the years. We've closely analysed all the chassis-related problems and already put measures into effect. Our engine partner Ferrari is doing the same.”
The poor performance from Bahrain onwards came as a bit of a surprise to the F1 community after they showed some impressive pace in testing during February’s pre-season tests. The team have recruited James Key from Force India, and one of his first tasks is to identify their pace problems, and crucially rectify them. “There's no doubt that we were all expecting more after winter testing. The fact is that we're lagging behind our direct rivals,” says the boss.
“[Key] has already carried out some initial analysis and set out a series of measures we need to take. But he's an engineer not a miracle worker, and the measures will need a certain time to take effect. Our competitors will not be standing still either, so we have to take two steps forward at a time if we're going to make up lost ground. James is currently engaged with setting out our medium and long-term development path.”
“When I sold the team to BMW in 2006 I made a clear decision to take a step back. It was important for me to have a certain distance from things. Now I'm discovering that there's quite a lot to do. This process of analysis is underway and we will see the results in the near future.”
Peter Sauber has been impressed with his new technical director so far. “James has clear ideas of how we can improve. Although he's still very young he has a lot of experience, and – very importantly – he brings fresh blood into the team. The technical progress he made at Force India speaks for itself. I'm very pleased that we were able to secure his services.”
Like all the other teams, Sauber will be bringing a raft of modifications to the next race – the Spanish Grand Prix. “We will have a development package of aero modifications on the car in Barcelona. I can't say whether that will take us further up the grid, as all the teams will have improvements on their cars in Barcelona. Ultimately it will be a question of who has made the bigger step forward. What I can say is that we have to work very hard and purposefully, and we have to remain realistic.”
Sauber insists that the lack of sponsor’s logos on the cars is not yet a problem for the team, but hopes to secure a major partner for next season soon. “When I bought the team at the end of November we didn't have any sponsors or a place on the grid; I went into the project with open eyes. The car was all white. However, I couldn't have predicted that the C29 would be so far off the pace.
“Of course it was fanciful to think we could still recruit major sponsors for 2010 at the start of the year. Having said that, we are financially secure for this season. Our search for new sponsors primarily concerns 2011, although of course that doesn't mean we aren't already trying to bring new sponsors on board this year.”
Many will say that Peter Sauber, who is 66, is too old to be re-entering the world of Formula 1, especially in such a stressful position as a team boss. However, with BMW’s exit at the end of last season, he felt he had no option. “At the end of November I had two choices: either take over the team or see Hinwil close its doors. The latter was not an option for me. It was always clear that it wouldn't be easy. But I'd do the same thing again!”