A lot is looking up in the Sauber camp as it heads into the 2011 championship season.
The team endured a difficult return to privateer status and there is certainly plenty of momentum as it approached another chapter in the team’s lengthy history.
At least the team’s funding issues are resolved with plenty of money coming in from Mexico, and new designer James Key seems to have penned an interesting challenger in the C30.
But will the team’s youthful driver line-up be able to deliver on the day?
Sauber’s 2010 track record
The team entered 2010 under the confusing entry of BMW Sauber Ferrari, but the departing German carmaker’s role was largely by name only, as the cigar-smoking Peter Sauber took back the reins to oversee the team’s return as an independent constructor.
Having posted very competitive times in pre-season testing, much was expected of the C29 and its reported gentleness on the Bridgestone tyres, but it was quickly proved to be little more than a vain sponsorship-seeking furphy.
In truth, the car was poorly balanced, slow in a straight line and very unreliable – although quite a bit of that was down to problems with the Ferrari engines.
But when James Key came on board from Force India, things slowly began to turn around, and he – together with the experienced Pedro de la Rosa – began to claw back downforce and reliability, while also improving speed.
A tally of 44 championship points was an impressive recovery, and by the end of the season, the team found itself being a contender to make the top-ten in qualifying.
Kamui Kobayashi was very much the shining light, and the team backed his overtaking nous with some bold strategic calls that saw the little Japanese driver defy the myth that you can’t pass in F1.
De la Rosa, sadly, fulfilled our pre-season expectations by showing he’s a better test driver than a racing driver, and it wasn’t perhaps too surprising that he was shelved. Nick Heidfeld did little more in his few outings, and he was signed when the team already had Sergio Pérez locked in for 2011.
At least the Mexican brings plenty of sponsorship with him from his homeland, but one wonders if the team’s decision to go with two inexperienced drivers could backfire…
Watch the Richard’s F1 pre-season vodcast as Richard and Jen predict Sauber’s prospects for the 2011 F1 season:
[Images via Sauber; video by Matt Lennon]
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