Saturday, March 16, 2013

Engine Blood Team Profile: Sauber-Ferrari

ESTABLISHED: 1993.  Re-established 2010, after three years as BMW Sauber.

HISTORY: Kings of the also-rans throughout the nineties and early 2000s, a savvy eye for up-and-coming drivers - Wendlinger, Lehto, Massa, Raikonnen, Vettel and Kubica spring to mind - kept them in the hunt until BMW married them on the rebound from Williams.  A debut win came in 2008, but a year later their big league suitors pussied out of F1 along with other major manufacturers, and Sauber were only let back in when Toyota also ran away like big girls.

12. Esteban GUTIERREZ (MEX)

All change here, of which more later, but both of these drivers will serve a good purpose for the team.  Hulkenberg is damn fast and proved he can challenge for wins, especially in Brazil, where he's had a pole and the lead on two different, non-consecutive occassions.  Whether he regrets moving from Force India, who were on a par with Sauber in performance last year, remains to be seen.

Gutierrez is here for one reason and one reason only: to secure the huge amount of Mexican sponsorship money that may have headed elsewhere with Sergio Perez's departure to McLaren.  He has been impressive in young driver tests so could spring a few surprises.

2012 PERFORMANCE: 6th place, 126 points.

Sergio PEREZ (MEX): 10th, 66 points. Best finish: 2nd, Malaysia and Italy
Kamui KOBAYASHI (JPN): 12th, 60 points. Best finish: 3rd, Japan

This shows how crowded the battle for tenth in the championship was; six points covered these two and Hulkenberg.  There's no doubting that Perez had a breakout year, with his eye-catching second places built on long runs with a tyre-light car.  McLaren made a knee-jerk for him when Hamilton left, but could be rueing it, as his form fell off a cliff after he signed.

We're huge fans of Kobayashi, so this may be taken as bias, but he had some awful (often Grosjean-related) luck last year and proved the more consistant of the two drivers.  We salute him for not plying his trade at a lesser team and hope the door isn't closed; with Honda rumoured to be returning as an engine supplier, he could be hooking up with Perez again at McLaren before long...

2013 PROSPECTS: Really hard to tell.  Could easily lose ground or may spring a surprise - the tyres have been kind to them and could be key again.

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