While the Formula 1 field takes a well-earned moment to rest and recharges its batteries ahead of the second half of the season, the RichardsF1.com team has taken the opportunity to review each driver and team and their performances over the first eleven rounds of the season.
One of the most surprising performances – and not in a good way – has come from the Sauber team, which has crashed to earth after a sensational back half of the 2013 season. It’s the worst year to-date in the midfield outfit’s history, with no points in the balance. We delve into some of the major talking points at the Hinwil squad…
There’s no way of saying this delicately: Sauber’s 2014 campaign so far has been an unmitigated disaster. Despite Nico Hülkenberg delivering a number of terrific performances in the back half of the 2013 season, the team looked to be in financial trouble until it announced a major investment from a group of Russian companies.
The future was looking brighter, but while the team was outwardly positive, the progress of the investment appeared to stall along with the team’s ambitions of building on its solid end to the year. Then the Crimean crisis broke out, with the resulting sanctions on Russian businesses all but putting the deal on ice.
The trouble seems to have translated onto the track as well. The Ferrari-powered C33 has never looked competitive: both the car and engine are overweight, giving both Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutiérrez quite the challenge to just keep the ill-handling car pointing straight.
The pair has struggled to get among the lower reaches of the midfield and it finds itself barely able to keep up with Lotus, let alone run ahead of the Marussias. A brace of eleventh-placed finishes aren’t enough to get its points tally on the board, leaving it only above Caterham in the Constructors’ Championship standings on countback.
Its best shot of breaking its duck came last time out at the wet/dry Hungaroring, but Gutiérrez retired while in the points and Sutil again missed out with another eleventh-placed effort.
The team’s prospects look unlikely to change when the action resumes at Belgium, so it’s only hope of getting onto the score sheets will come via another wild race where many others strike trouble.
RichardsF1.com Rating: 2/10
|Rank||Constructor||Races||DNS||Poles||Wins||Podiums||FL||Laps Led||Laps Raced||DNF||Pts.|
|10th||Sauber F1 Team||11||0||0||0||0||0||0||1052/1396||11||0|
After enjoying a solid comeback with Force India last year, Sutil made what appeared to be a smart move to Sauber in the hope that 2014 could deliver him his first podium finish.
But the writing was on the wall as soon as the C33 was fired up. His best finishes have been a pair of eleventh-placed efforts, while qualifying has seen him make the Q2 cut just five times.
The car’s unreliability hasn’t helped matters either, but Sutil has also been his own worst enemy with a number of surprising errors as well. Spinning out of his home race was perhaps the nadir of his year so far.
The team’s financial situation has in turn triggered suggestions that he might be dropped in favour of a better-funded driver waiting in the wings – Giedo van der Garde and Simona de Silvestro are both waiting on the sidelines. Sutil and Sauber have both batted away the rumours, but that kind of talk is a very unnecessary distraction.
His future beyond 2014 will be contingent on what kind of performances he is able to deliver for the rest of the year, but his fate probably rests in the hands – and cheque sizes – of other candidate drivers.
RichardsF1.com Rating: 6/10
Halfway into his second year as a Formula 1 driver, questions still remain about whether Esteban Gutiérrez truly deserves a place on the F1 grid. Yes, he comfortably won the GP3 Series championship before inking a deal with Sauber, but his attraction was also courtesy of the millions in backing he bring from long-time supporters Telmex.
Shaded by the experienced Nico Hülkenberg in his rookie year, he’s not exactly outshone new teammate Sutil in Year 2014: he’s outqualified the German 6-5, but Sutil has generally had his measure on Sunday on the rare occasion when both have finished.
Great drivers are capable of outshining the limitations of the car – one need only look to Fernando Alonso’s performances at Ferrari for an example – but Gutiérrez has never looked like doing so.
There have been a few mistakes, with the most notable being his collision with Pastor Maldonado at Silverstone – the pair’s second of the year – for which he was rightly given a grid penalty at the following race in Germany.
On the two occasions where he’s looked a possibility of breaking the team’s points’ duck, he’s failed to finish. He held a top-ten result at Monaco until clumsily spinning out at the Rascasse with 20 laps to go, while mechanical issues intervened at the Hungaroring.
Provided his Maxican backers continue to cough up the cash – and with a home race on next year’s F1 calendar, it would be a great surprise if they didn’t – then Gutiérrez’s position on the grid looks secure for now.
RichardsF1.com Rating: 5/10
Images via XPB Images