The Sauber Conundrum


No passing through my dirty air please
So rumours of the everyones favourite Swiss Formula One team were greatly aggregated and all it took was a sponsorship deal to bring in the planned upgrades and the team have jumped back up the order. What won't have escaped the notice of the powers of be at Sauber is that this phoenix from the flames act has been spearheaded by a driver with a point to prove, namely Mr Hulkenberg. In fact if you look back at the history of Sauber their general rule for success has been to have a semi decent car driven by a guy out to prove he is better than a Sauber seat. Be it Hulk, Perez, Kobayashi, Massa, Frentzen etc etc. Now that is all well and good and a great way for a small team to get success. The problem is they are in danger of not having that for next season.

Martin Brundle told us today that he'd been told in private that Nico Hulkenberg had signed a contract for next season with a 'team'. He wouldn't say which but the jist is its not Sauber, which is what we all expected anyways, but it pushes Sauber closer into having to make a tough decision on what to do with their driver line-up.

Part of Saubers problem is in the shape of Esteban Guttierrez. Guttierrez has actually been part of the Sauber team for 3 years now with this being his first season as full driver. As so far it has not been a stunning season from him but, credit where credit is due, Guttierrez has gradually improved as the car has improved. In recent Grand Prix's he's had 2 trips to Q3 and a stand out performance in Japan with a 7th place where we saw him start to mix it up with the big names. Those performances, along with a pretty strong junior record, should be enough for him to graduate to a sink or swim second year in normal circumstances. Unfortunately these aren't normal circumstances and Guttierrez fight back might be for nothing as, due to their new Russian sponsor, Sauber seem determined to run 17 year old Sergey Sirotkin. Whether Sirotkin should be in the seat is another question, he does have speed but very little experience, but that appears to be the way its going to go. Now Sauber can not expect that it will be Sirotkin playing the Hulkenberg role and scoring them the big finishes that push them up the constructors table so they have to expect that from the other driver. Will they gamble on Guttierrez becoming that driver? Its would not be a huge shock if he was to go on next season and start to be someone capable of dicing with the big boys and getting them results. However it would not be a huge shock if he floundered and couldn't keep up with the pace either. I'd say it was 50/50 and would Sauber be prepared to take that gamble?

I guess to answer that you have to look who else is on the market. I think most people expected they might got with Jules Bianchi who has impressed further down the field, but with him confirmed at Marussia for next year he looks to be out the running. So who's left that could fill the Hulkenberg role? Not a lot of names jumping ut at you are there? If Sauber can't find the young charger then how about an old one with a point to prove? Felipe Massa returning to his old team to try and show up his old employers instantly springs to mind but isn't he a big a gamble as Guttierrez? You can say the same about Kovalienen. Pastor Maldonado has grumbled somewhat at Williams and has a big chunk of cash and might do the job for Sauber but could they afford the repair bills and could Pastor swing a new deal for his sponsorship? One option that might fall their way is Sergio Perez who rumours suggest is on his way out at McLaren, you would have to question how motivated Sergio would be to be back at his old team so quickly. But if we're on the looking back theme maybe their answer was sitting in the Ferrari garage this weekend in the former of Kamui Kobayashi.

What the solution is I don't know but it seems obvious to keep the car semi decent they need the Russian sponsorship and therefore need to run Sirotkin but it also seems obvious to get the points to push them up the championship high enough to attract the sponsor in the first place they need a quality lead driver. After seeing the Sauber boss interviewed on Sky F1 I have the feeling they are scratching their heads on this one as much as we are.

In the words of Lewis Hamilton - has anyone got any suggestions?
It depends on who they can afford, doesn't it? Massa would surely be as safe a pair of hands as they could afford. Maybe Di Resta who I think needs a change - it worked for Hulk in the end didn't it?

The suggestion to take back Kobayashi is almost certainly better than another rookie. Perez must surely be in the McLaren but if he's not then he will surely have a better offer than Sauber from Lotus or FI depending on which Hulk hasn't grabbed.

Rubens would have been another option but they've ruled him out already.

I'm don't think that Guttierez is going to get a second chance because Sauber surely cant rely on either him and Sirotkin to bank the all important WCC points.
In 2011, they went for Kobayashi and Perez, hardly a statement of the triumph of experience. I wonder if they'll go for a solid GP2 citizen such as Nasr.

Otherwise, they may act as a better staging post for Bottas or Pic to showcase their talents.
Kobi had already proved himself by smashing Heidfield the year before and was considered a much safer pair of hands than Guttierrez is.

I do think it'll be a shame Esteban won't get another go because he is showing improvement signs and he is a champion in junior series.

Bottas might be a good pic but Toto Wolff will prob keep him Merc-tied. Pic might be a good call but I don't think he's had a brilliant year either.

Massa comes with sponsorship. Maybe they'll go with him but it seems the wrong move to me.
RasputinLives I think you mean exaggerated not aggregated if I am right

- the problem was people have families to support and a livelihood to maintain and obviously not getting paid themselves was a worrying sign.

Hulkenberg tore up his existing contract when he was not getting paid.

Obviously there is due diligence involved some more complicated than others and it certainly left everyone on tenterhooks in the Sauber team


In light of the rumours that Hulkenberg signed with another team - on the F1 forum it was suggested it was Force India replacing either Di Resta or Sutil which bamboozled EJ who is convinced its Lotus

AS for replacements

Massa would be obvious choice and a definitive No 1 probably something he would relish with the Ferrari engine

I don't see Gutierrez in the team unless he brings more money than Massa and it certainly did not help the team for picking him instead of Kobayashi.

Kobayashi is an option if Sauber cannot afford the full price of engines

Segio back to Sauber only if Telmex decide to up their backing
RasputinLives - I don't think Pic has had a great year, but he seems to have a little money behind him. JEV has been pretty disappointing recently, he could be facing the big Toro Rosso hoik if he carries on. Actually, thinking of that, what's Alguersuari doing these days?
I don't see Di Resta at Sauber because he does not bring any sponsorship money unless his management seriously convinces them that he is ready for commitment to lead to the front and is as just as good as Hulkenberg

On evidence it seems Di Resta is too similar to Button - if the car works for him he's up there with the best but if it does not he struggles more
Il_leone if you had watched Sky F1 then you would have heard Brundle say he's been told Hulkenberg had signed a contract with another team already but they have a few loose ends to tie up before they can announce it. He refused to say who it was but Ted asked him straight after whether he thought Hulkenberg would look good in black and gold overalls.

As for exaggerated or aggregated. *Shrug* - I know you did it ;)
Quite apart from everything else (and that's not taking anything away from The Hulk's late surge) I think the single most important factor behind Sauber's upturn in form has been Pirelli's return to a 2012 construction...
My understanding was that they have got to grips with the diffuser/exhaust blowing in the same lines as Red Bull, which allows much better traction. I dont know if the tyres have helped here.
The Sauber seemed to have very good traction out of the corners which was why Hulkenberg was able to hold his position for so long.
RasputinLives Is Sauber going to get a lot of Mexican/ hispanic sponsors then that is the only way I see Gutierrez staying

What if their car turns out to be a very good car but unfortunately wasted by two novices
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