2011 Team Reviews - Sauber


World Champion
I think I have kind of waffled on with this one, it's a bit long.


Sauber Season Review

Sauber’s driver line-up invites comparisons with the past. The last time they had two such inexperienced drivers, with just one full season of F1 between them, was 2001.

Ten years ago, with Kimi Raikkonen in one car and Nick Heidfeld in the other, they finished a best-ever fourth in the constructors’ championship.

Were Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez a match for that pairing?

And did James Key’s C30 prove as effective as Sergio Rinland’s innovative twin-keel C20?

It certainly looked good for the team when Sergio Perez headed the testing times in Barcelona. But we all knew to treat testing times with caution.

Still the team went into 2011 on a much surer footing than they did the year before. Twelve months ago the team were still reeling from the BMW pull-out and the near-miss of almost disappearing from the grid entirely.

The technical side of the team was more settled and the new car was ready from the off. It’s accumulated a decent amount of testing mileage.

It may not have had any eye-catching special features like fancy exhausts or a blade roll-hoop, but with Ferrari’s race-winning Kinetic Energy Recovery System the team were well-equipped for the midfield battle.

The young driver pairing is classic Peter Sauber.

In a short space of time the name ‘Kobayashi’ has already become synonymous with gutsy overtaking moves. But his best finish last year came in a more ordinary race at Silverstone, showing there’s more than one side to his game.

Perez had mixed flashes of pace with inconsistency on his way up the motor racing ladder.

He brings backing from Mexican telecommunications giant Telmex with him but he has proved his potential in the junior formulae.

He was GP2 runner-up to new Williams driver Pastor Maldonado last year, despite Maldonado having two years’ more experience in the category.

This was a team that until recently finished in the top three in the championship two years running. The backing of BMW may have gone but Sauber’s potential remains.

With a pair of exciting young drivers they should be a team to keep an eye on in 2011.

And they were.

At the start of the season in Australia, both Perez and Kobayashi finished seventh and eighth, later disqualified due to technical infringements. The technical infringements created as many headlines as Sergio Perez’s debut. Not only did he finish seventh (before the DSQ), he finished ahead of his team-mate, and also made one stop strategy work, when the high-degrading Pirelli tyres were forcing the rest of the drivers to pit two to three times.

Kobayashi in Malaysia went on to finish an impressive seventh place, leading the midfielders.

The car looked solid in the first two races, as without the disqualification the team would have scored sixteen points, fourteen points ahead of their nearest rival, who would have been Toro Rosso.

Their great start of the season continued with six points finishes after Malaysia, with Kobayashi scoring points six time out of a possible seven. The consistency displayed by Kobayashi in the first seven races was phenomenal. He even went on to score a fifth place in Monaco, (his highest finishing position in F1), and was running for a podium place, that was, until the track was drying out, and DRS coming into place, robbing him and Schumacher of a podium place.

He was looking like a proper team leader at this point of time.

However, his team-mate in this time of the season was quite the opposite after a eye-catching debut.
Only scoring two points in five races. He could have had a brilliant result at the Monaco Grand Prix, but he suffered a major collision in the last part of qualifying where he was running well, resulting in concussion and a sprained thigh. Despite being passed fit for the Canadian Grand Prix, Perez withdrew from the weekend after the first free practice session due to illness, he was replaced by 2010 Sauber driver Pedro de la Rosa for the remainder of the weekend.

Perez at this point of time, was looking like an average rookie, getting into a few collisions and getting shown how it’s done by his experienced team-mate.

The team didn’t score any points at Valencia and their pace wasn’t exceptional. However, at Silverstone, they looked like the real deal, just like their engine supplier Ferrari. Both cars were running well with Perez finishing in seventh, but Kobayashi had to retire due to an oil leak. Kobayashi scored a ninth place in Germany to boost the teams points tally.

The team was known to be easy on their tyres early on in the season, after numerous races where the drivers did at least one stop less compared to their rivals. James Key explains why the car was tyre friendly:

"The initial Pirelli data showed a weak rear tyre compared to what we were used to. We figured the need to design a car that could cope with that, with lots of different ways to change low and high-speed balance."

"The car was balanced and easy on the tyres but that was a disadvantage when you couldn't get tyre temperatures in cold conditions. The drivers were good at conserving the tyres too, particularly Sergio."

As with Ferrari a little further up the grid, it meant that generating sufficient tyre temperature for a qualifying lap could be problematic. And in damp, cold races with a low grip surface and little loading on the tyres, such as Nurburgring, the team was in trouble.

Things were looking up for Sauber, being “best of the rest” behind the top five, who were in another league to the midfielders.

Nevertheless, what goes up has to go down, and unfortunately for Sauber, that’s exactly what happened to them. Scoring no points in three races hampered them as their competitors capitalised, both Force India and Toro Rosso scoring handful of points bringing them both back into the midfield fight.

The Sauber team slid back, as did their lead driver.

From Hungary to Korea, the team only scored five points, and they came from the inexperienced Perez who finished tenth in Singapore and eighth in Suzuka respectively.

The other major issue, a big one as the season developed, was the lack of a Red Bull-type exhaust blown diffuser, leading them to a big slump in the second half of the season.

"Over the winter we couldn't really get it to work in the tunnel," Key explains, "but then we saw how powerful it was. "In Shanghai we introduced the first parts as a test item but on track it didn't correlate with what we'd seen in the tunnel and with CFD. By Barcelona we began to see some effect but installing it where it was actually lost us a lot of downforce."

With associated development of the bodywork, diffuser and brake ducts all inter-linked and the engine mapping side also important, Sauber binned the project when it looked as if FIA clarifications applicable to Valencia and Silverstone should level the playing field. Then, of course, the Silverstone interpretation remained a one-off and the team was significantly disadvantaged.

This could give them a head start next season, but it certainly disadvantaged them in 2011.

The team after a great start to the season where slipping back rapidly, already been overtaken by Force India in the standings, they were also on the verge of losing eighth in the constructors to Toro Rosso, who like Force India stepped into another gear in the second half of the season.

The battle for seventh in the constructors, between Sauber and Toro Rosso, went down to the final race, it looked as if Toro Rosso were going to take it as early as Korea, but a fight back from Sauber and Kobayashi Abu Dhabi took it right down to the wire.

Kobayashi in Interlagos, got off to a great start and passed both Toro Rosso drivers early on, giving Sauber the advantage.

He pushed on and finished in ninth place, while the Toro Rosso drivers battled hard but finished eleventh and twelfth.

Sauber managed to sneak seventh in the constructors from Toro Rosso by three points, their lead driver Kamui Kobayashi came good in the last two races to give them three points, and how crucial those points were in the end.

They started off brightly and looked promising; however they had a major slip in the second half of the season. Dropping the EBD proved costly for them, as it effectively lost them sixth place in the constructors.

A season of two halves for the team, as it was funnily enough, for both drivers as well.

Let’s start off with Kamui Kobayashi; to many his season wasn’t at all great. But overall it balanced out. An amazing start to the season, scoring his twenty-five points out of his thirty in seven races, asserting himself as the lead driver early on. However, as the car dropped off the pace, so did Mr.Kobayashi, only five points scored in twelve races, abysmal to say the least. His qualifying didn’t help matters, getting out-qualified by his rookie team-mate, the score being, nine to Perez and seven to Kobayashi. On the other hand, it was he, who came to the fore when Sauber most needed points in the last two races, making sure that the team didn’t lose seventh place in the constructors to Toro Rosso.

We saw a more mature Kobayashi this season, to the annoyance of some viewers, he wasn’t going for his usual ‘do or die’ manoeuvres, and when he was on the verge of being overtaken by a faster car, he did the sensible thing, and that was to move over without too much of a fight. Something we wouldn’t have seen last year from him. Up and down season it may have been, but at the end of season he could be proud. Scoring rapid points when the car was good, beating his team-mate comfortably, and rise to the occasion when the team needed him.

His best performances have to be in Monaco where he kept his tyres intact and was fortunate enough to benefit from the safety car to gain his best finish in F1 to date, a fifth place. Canada where he was running in a podium position and fighting with the big boys until the track dried out.

Sergio Perez made his presence known to the F1 world with an astonishing debut. But from Malaysia onwards, it was up and down from there. He only scored nine points in nine races while his team-mate in seven races scored twenty-five, let’s not forget though that he missed two races where Sauber and Kobayashi scored sixteen points, he was looking strong in qualifying in Monaco until the crash which put him out for the Monaco and Canadian Grand Prix. He very much looked like a rookie in the first half of the season, collisions, and mistakes and thoroughly dominated by his team-mate.
But that’s not all; the Mexican turned his season around a little when his Japanese team-mate went off the boil. From Britain onwards, he out-scored Kobayashi from twelve points to five, and that was when the car had lost performance to the competitors around it. Was the better qualifier, and judging by James Key’s comments, he was also better in tyre management. That showed in his best race of the season, Round 1, where he was the only one to do one pit-stop in the race and in fact the only person to do so in a race this season, this led him to sixth place, however the team was disqualified and a magnificent debut was ruined.

The future seems bright for Perez in Formula One.

An exciting driver pairing, and have proved worthy of their places in the Sauber team, as they’ve both been signed for the up and coming season.

Which one of these two drivers will impress the big teams next season? One must assume its Sergio Perez who has the upper hand, backed by Ferrari, the better qualifier, and a big sponsor.

A relishing team-mate battle nevertheless!

Highlights: Having an excellent start to the season, and managing finish ahead of Toro Rosso after a difficult period in the season.

Lowlights: Getting disqualified for a minor technical infringement after a great result in Melbourne, dropping off rapidly in the second half of the season.
Nice one Sly.

What I feel should also be mentioned is that Perèz said in an interview (on F1.com I believe but I'm not sure) that he had changed his driving style to be more conservative and easier on the tires in order to make the team's strategies work.
I think the blown diffuser crap in the middle of the season hurt them more than their other competitors, and was the main reason they dropped off so rapidly in the second half.
I already put up too much info!

But yeah I do remember him saying that, you can check out my other reviews, they are around here somewhere
Indeed! Their season in a nutshell is: preserve tyres, pit later and fewer than everyone else, worked sometimes.

Thats a tactic that only works if you know the drop out rate was high or you're driving in places where its difficult to pass - Monaco !

I thought they were ridiculous trying it at Hungary when they were 5 seconds a lap slower and still insisting going along with it
Overall disappointed with Sauber because they did get a lot of attention and were Q3 first half of the season -
Kobayashi who did provided some entertainment last year was somewhat invisible and there was hardly any of the overtakes that we were use to seeing
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