It will be upgrades galore as the F1 circus lands in Barcelona next weekend, and Sauber are arguably the most in need of big performance upgrades.
The team enter the European season pointless after poor showings in the first four flyaway races. The Swiss team will be bringing an aero update to the Circuit de Catalunya which they hope will get their 2010 campaign back on track.
The Spanish Grand Prix is also driver Pedro de la Rosa’s home race, and he will be hoping for an upturn in Sauber’s fortunes. The experienced driver is very familiar with the local area. “I grew up in the city centre of Barcelona, and I certainly love my home town. You have everything there – a lively city, the sea, the mountains and a permanently good climate. I'm very much looking forward to this race!
“My parents always had a summer house close to where the circuit is. From 1991 onwards I loved to listen to the fabulous sound of the Formula One engines from there when teams where testing. Also in 1991 I raced in Formula Renault in the first event at the Circuit de Catalunya. My first Formula One Grand Prix there was in 1999.”
De la Rosa is understands the testing nature of the circuit, but thinks the team will begin to show an improvement there. “The circuit has become the best test track for Formula One. It is a very demanding circuit – tough on the cars,the engines and the drivers. It is a track I really, really like. Turn three is very fast and very long – it is a true neck killer. There is a great variety of corners – high and medium speed, and a couple of slow ones in the last sector.
“We had a good winter test there and I have the feeling our car suits Barcelona better than some of the more recent tracks. For the Spanish Grand Prix we will also have a new aero package in place. I'm sure at the end of the race we will either be close to or in the points.”
Kamui Kobayashi is yet to finish a race this season, and hopes that on a very familiar track he will finally see a checkered flag. “I know the Circuit de Catalunya pretty well. I won a GP2 race there, raced there in Formula 3 and did some Formula One testing there. Even my first ever F1 test was in Barcelona. In those days the last two corners were different to now, as it was a very fast double right hander. The circuit is very demanding on the cars and challenging for us drivers. The car-and-driver combination has to be very good, as it is difficult but crucial to get the set-up right. The fast right hander before the back straightis my favourite corner and quite challenging.
“I like Spain and the Spanish Grand Prix. The weather is usually very nice and there is a large crowd. I'm happy for Pedro that it is his home race and all his fans will be there. We have been testing there over the winter. We have an update to the car and I believe our reliability problems are solved. I should have a good chance to finally go racing after I have only done 19 laps in total in all four races.”
The team’s new technical director James Key explains the updates the team are bringing to Barcelona. “We have some updates for Barcelona, as most ofthe teams will have. We are trying to push our F-Duct design a step further. This is obviously a technology that will eventually appear all the way down the grid during the year, but our team has some experience of it from the first events. Additionally we have a package of updates on the car, which are particularly on the front end and the diffuser.
“It's a decent package, which will hopefully allow us to find some more performance. Obviously a lot depends on how tough the competition is. Some of the steps address the issues the team has identified in terms of the aero characteristics, so it should make the car a little bit better purely through changing the way it behaves.
“With regard to the circuit itself, it's obviously a place everybody knows extremely well. It's an excellent reference circuit with a real mix of low and high speed corners, which require downforce as well as a good mechanical grip. It's a very technical circuit where it's never been easy to get the best out of the car. It will be interesting going back there after the cars have developed since winter testing, and to see how much they have changed. An important question will be how well we can get the tyres to last because it is a very hard circuit on tyres; and, of course, the difference in temperature between winter and now is also an interesting aspect.
“I'm looking forward to the event. It's obviously Pedro's home race, which is great for him and, as a team, we will try to have a good weekend and put the difficult start to the season behind us.”