Sauber became the first of three Formula 1 teams to launch its 2012 challenger on Monday at Spain’s Jerez circuit, with the Swiss team taking the covers off its C31 with a simple launch on the track’s start/finish straight in the morning.
The unveiling came just days after the team confirmed that its technical director, James Key, had left the team with immediate effect.
With drivers Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Pérez doing the honours in front of the assembled journalists and photographers, the Ferrari-powered car features the same ‘platypus’ nose design that has been favoured by all but one of the five teams to have previously unveiled their 2012 challengers.
The car appears to be an evolutionary follow-up to its predecessor, the C30, although much attention has been paid to the design at the rear of the car, which was an area where the C30 was particularly weak. Most notably, the team has gone down the pull-rod rear suspension design route (where the suspension arm connects the top wishbone to the springs/torsion bars at bottom of the chassis), a concept favoured almost universally on rivals’ cars revealed to-date.
After a strong start to its 2011 campaign, the team’s form – as has often been the case with Sauber – faded as the year wore on. Much of the loss of pace was attributed to the team electing to stop its design work on the ‘blown exhaust diffuser’ when the FIA made its decision to ban the aerodynamic concept mid-season, but it was caught on the hop when the governing body elected to reverse its decision.
The team fell to seventh place in the Constructors’ Championship standings, being overtaken by Force India in the final races, and only just managing to fend off a fast-closing Toro Rosso.
“Our goal is to finish regularly in the points so as to put ourselves in a significantly better position in the world championship,” said team founder Peter Sauber.
The C31 also features a partial livery change for the Swiss team, with the all-white decal removed at the front and rear of the car, to reveal a graphite treatment on its nose and flanks.
Adding to the theories that the team’s funding is not quite as healthy as it should be – despite the rumoured millions being poured into its coffers from a coterie of Mexican sponsors – there is ample space on the car for more sponsors’ stickers.