Peter Sauber says that new driver Sergio Perez has exceeded his ‘high expectations’ in the first three races of 2011, and is very pleased with his eponymous team’s start to the new season.
The 67-year-old team principal has been given his verdict on the performance of Sauber which has seen them score seven points from three races – a total which could have been greater, had they not been disqualified from the opening race in Australia.
“This season we wanted to have a car that would be both competitive and reliable from the outset – and we have clearly achieved this initial aim,” explains the Swiss owner. “If it hadn't been for the oversight with the rear wings in Melbourne, our points total would be excellent; as it is, seven points is still okay.
“The important thing is that in each race we have been in a position to fight for World Championship points on merit. However, the race in Shanghai also showed that the competition is getting tougher. It will therefore now be even more important to continue making improvements. Several teams have announced they will be bringing extensive development packages to the next race in Istanbul, and that could certainly shake up the order once again. We have a larger update scheduled for the race in Barcelona.”
Sauber insists that their aim is to continue to collect points in every race, and feels that he has the drivers to achieve this goal. He acknowledges that Perez had a messy race in Shanghai on Sunday, but insists that the Mexican rookie has impressed him in the opening races.
“We knew that in Sergio we were getting a quick, young driver,” said Sauber. “Even so, with a rookie you never have a guarantee that he will be able to call on his full potential under the pressure of a race weekend. I had high expectations of Sergio, and I have to say that so far he has actually exceeded these. He not only has the ability to look after his tyres extremely well, but also drives very consistently in the races.
“However, Sergio is also well aware that he is at the beginning of a long learning process, part of which will be incidents like the ones last Sunday in Shanghai. I'm in no doubt that Sergio will maximise his huge potential step by step. The critical factor here is that he feels comfortable within the team and has an environment which helps him to develop as well as possible.”
It is Kamui Kobayashi who has collected all of the team’s points so far in 2011, and Peter Sauber is pleased at how the Japanese driver has stepped up to the ‘lead driver’ role – even though he insists that both of his race drivers are treated equally:
“As a general point, I would like to emphasise that our drivers are given equal treatment,” he said. “But when a rookie joins the team, the longest-serving of the two drivers – that's Kamui in this case – takes on a certain leadership role.
“Kamui has developed wonderfully well as a driver over the course of the last year alone, and now he is also carrying out his new role by challenging our engineers and helping them to follow the right development path. And, of course, he continues to give us a lot of pleasure with his outstanding overtaking moves out on the track.
“Another very important factor is that he is a true team player, and that's something Sergio also benefits from. The two drivers really work very well together.”
Of course, there has been much discussion over the opening races about the new regulations. In particular, there has been a lot of focus on the new adjustable rear wings (or the DRS) and the new Pirelli tyres. Sauber is so far undecided on the effectiveness of the DRS, but does congratulate the new F1 tyre supplier – and his team for designing the C30 to be very easy on the new rubber.
“[The DRS] has provoked an enormous amount of debate among the drivers, team principals and fans alike,” comments Sauber. “The fact is that these rear wings are working less well for some teams than others, and are therefore causing a few difficulties for some.
“On our cars they have worked well from the first race and do the job the FIA had in mind for them as an overtaking aid. However, in my view it's still too early to come to a definitive conclusion. I think it would be useful if all those involved could sit down in the summer and evaluate the experiences we've had with them.”
“Pirelli was given a baptism of fire; the requirements it was asked to fulfil were very tough and the amount of time for development extremely short,” he adds. “They were also asked to produce tyres that would wear more rapidly to inject extra excitement into the races.
“After three Grands Prix we should applaud Pirelli for getting to grips with this tricky challenge so impressively. Our car is very easy on the tyres, but this has not come about by chance. Our engineers started working on this issue at a very early stage and have carried out the requisite measures. And now we can enjoy the benefits of this work during races.
“Needless to say, the character of the races has changed markedly as a result of the frequent pit stops, and the fans and TV commentators now have quite a tough job keeping track of how the race is unfolding. The same applies for the team strategists on the pit wall.”
The Sauber team had to wait until the seventh race of 2010 before they secured their first point of the season, and so results in 2011 are already much better than last season’s effort. As Peter Sauber explains, things are looking positive for the team’s future.
“The situation as a whole for our team already looks a lot healthier than it did 12 months ago,” he said. “2010 was a very difficult year for us. The transformation from a works team back to a private set-up used up a lot of our energy, and at the start of the season in particular, our results on the track were extremely poor. From this position it was also virtually impossible to find sponsors for 2011. However, our car is no longer all white and we can be proud of that.
“Inevitably in a team of our size – where the engineers' ideas outweigh the resources available to them – additional financial resources are reflected directly in performance. We are therefore continuing our search for sponsors.
“As far as the technical side is concerned, I would like to underline that the Sauber C30-Ferrari is the first car for which James Key has been responsible. It is now a year since he joined us, and he has done a lot of very good things. On the one hand, there are the structural changes he has implemented. Equally, the car is meeting the aims he set out for it.
“With the C29 the main problems concerned driveability on uneven circuits and over kerbs, which could not be alleviated by mechanical adjustments to the car set-up. The C30 gives us significantly greater flexibility in terms of ride height and also has good aerodynamic efficiency.
“To sum up, I can say that the overall development of the Sauber F1 Team is progressing positively, but that we have to continue to work very efficiently and with great dedication against a backdrop of limited resources in order to achieve our goals for the season.”