Sauber driver Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez are eager for the 2012 F1 season to get underway after what Kobayashi described as ‘promising’ pre-season tests for the team.
The pair do not have too much longer to wait – this Friday cars will roll out of the pitlane in Melbourne, Australia, to begin the first Free Practice session of 2012, ahead of the opening race next Sunday.
The team are, this year, aiming to improve on their seventh place finish in the constructors’ championship in 2011, and to score points on regular basis throughout the coming season.
“I am very much looking forward to what will be my third season in Formula One, and at the same time my third season with the Sauber F1 Team,” said Kobayashi. “We had promising pre-season testing with the C31 and the car feels pretty good. This, together with the experience I gained last year, makes me a lot more confident now.
“For me the main target is that we are more consistent this year. In 2010 we had a difficult first part of the season, and only recovered in the second half. In 2011 it was vice versa – we had a great start but struggled later in the season. If we can consistently display our best potential, we could score consistently. It must be like this. Personally I did a lot of training during the winter break and feel very fit now.
“Melbourne is a great place to start the season because the people there really like racing and Formula One. The city is very much alive and, as soon as you get there, the atmosphere tells you: Yes, here we go again, it's time to start! I hope the weather will still be nice and warm during the Grand Prix weekend, as there the summer is almost over.
“The Albert Park Circuit itself has a very nice lay-out. The fact it isn't a permanent race track, and therefore very slippery at the beginning of the weekend, doesn't make the set up work for the first Grand Prix any easier, but to adapt to the improving grip level is a challenge for everyone.”
Perez feels that he is much better equipped heading into this season than he was before making his debut a year ago. He also thinks that pre-season testing went well for Sauber, and recalls that last time out in Melbourne he completed the entire race with just one pit stop.
“I just can't wait to go racing again,” said the Mexican. “My feelings ahead of this season are quite different to last year, when everything was entirely new to me. Now, with one season in Formula One under my belt, I feel physically and mentally capable of doing the job.
“One year of experience isn't that much, but even this will allow me to focus more on performance than I was able to last year. I got used to a variety of circumstances which come along when you are a Formula One driver. This goes for procedures and communication inside the team, but it also includes that I found a good personal life balance with all the travelling.
“My target for 2012 is to make the most of the car in every given situation and to fully establish myself in Formula One. We have made really good progress during testing and learnt a lot about the new car. Nevertheless, the track in Melbourne can still come up with surprises. Last year, for example, we would never have expected it was possible to get away with only one pit stop for the race distance because testing suggested higher tyre wear.
“So we will see how we manage the first Grand Prix and, although the track in Melbourne is a special one and not that representative, we will get a first indication of where we are with the C31 in terms of performance.”
Team Principal Peter Sauber notes that this is a particularly special year for his team, and admits that he has set some ambitious targets for 2012.
“This coming season is the 20th for the Sauber F1 Team,” he said. “Having said this, you might expect that the first race of a season would be routine by now. But this is by no means the case. I even have the feeling that this year the excitement is special.
“The winter tests left the impression that the competition could be tighter than ever before. Apparently the mid-field teams have reduced the gap to the top teams. I am really pleased with the progress we made during testing and I think we are well prepared.
“We have to be [prepared] because we have set ourselves quite high targets for 2012. We want to score points on a regular basis and significantly improve our position in the constructors' championship. We are well aware that this sounds very ambitious, but this is what we are working on.”