Saturday, March 08, 2014

Engine Blood's Guide To 2014: Sauber

IN SHORT: Mister, can you spare 300 million dimes?

HISTORY: The excellent sportscar maker first came to Formula One in 1993 and has since become the go-to place for great drivers to make a name for themselves, with its former roster reading like a who's who of impressive, if sometimes mercurial, talents.  However, mainstream success eluded the plucky team, who developed an underdog reputation.

Enter BMW, who bought into Sauber and briefly turned them into championship challengers with Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld; exit BMW in the financial crash, which nearly left Sauber without an entry into the 2010 season.  Since then it's been back to "impressive drivers, lack of budget"; recent flirtations with the very young and the very female as drivers smack of PR desperation, and some investment is clearly desperately needed.



Another exercise in dildonics, we fear; not many ways to dress that up differently.

ENGINE: Ferrari.  Sauber have historically been a proving ground for the Prancing Horse, with Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa, Giancarlo Fisichella and Kamui Kobayashi (he joined the sportscar team, which definitely counts) having joined up latterly.  Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg may have ended up there too, had things gone differently.


21. Esteban GUTIERREZ (MEX) - Last year: 16th (6 points, best finish: 7th, Japan)

99. Adrian SUTIL (GER) - Last year: 13th (29 points, best finish: 5th, Monaco)

"ESTEBAN!  ESTEBAN!", as the entire dialogue of whole episodes of 'The Mysterious Cities Of Gold' would run, grew into his role throughout last season after looking like a lame duck pay-to-drive necessity for most of it.  Admittedly the car got better as the season ground on, but he was noticeably more comfortable as time went on and has earned a second season on merit; it's time for him to push on now and cement his reputation.

Convicted violent criminal and Mercedes prospect Adrian Sutil is an odd fit for the traditionally red-leaning team, though in stepping in for the unprepared Sergei Sirotkin he is mercifully sparing us a driver so young his biggest challenge is learning to shave.  Sutil has always been solid, and perhaps that's exactly what the increasingly embattled squad needs.

LAST YEAR: 7th (57 points)

Nico HULKENBERG (GER) - 10th (51 points, best finish: 4th, Korea)

Here we see the difficulty Sauber have.  In the last two years, the team have failed to retain three fantastic drivers in Perez, Kobayashi and Hulkenberg, with the latter being genuinely electrifying in the latter half of the season after the team had an awful start.  Despite that good run, they hardly troubled a Force India team whose financial superiority really showed.

PROSPECTS: On the slide - money grubbing could spell the end for their overachieving, as well as their reputation.

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