Interview with Peter Sauber
21 April 2011 – Peter Sauber's Hinwil-based squad has enjoyed a much more positive time on-track this year compared to the early season difficulities of 2010, with seven points currently on the board after the first three 'flyaway' races. The 67-year-old discusses these promising results, his driver line-up and the new-for-2011 Drag Reduction System (DRS) among other topics ahead of the next round in Turkey.
How would you assess the first three races from the Sauber F1 Team’s point of view?
This season we wanted to have a car that would be both competitive and reliable from the outset - and we have clearly achieved this initial aim. If it hadn’t been for the oversight with the rear wings in Melbourne, our points total would be excellent; as it is, seven points is still okay. The important thing is that in each race we have been in a position to fight for World Championship points on merit. However, the race in Shanghai also showed that the competition is getting tougher.
It will therefore now be even more important to continue making improvements. Several teams have announced they will be bringing extensive development packages to the next race in Istanbul, and that could certainly shake up the order once again. We have a larger update scheduled for the race in Barcelona.
Does this mean your aims for the season have changed?
No, that’s not the case. It remains our aim to collect points in every race and improve our position in the Constructors’ World Championship.
How happy are you with your rookie driver Sergio Pérez?
We knew that in Sergio we were getting a quick, young driver. Even so, with a rookie you never have a guarantee that he will be able to call on his full potential under the pressure of a race weekend. I had high expectations of Sergio, and I have to say that so far he has actually exceeded these. He not only has the ability to look after his tyres extremely well, but also drives very consistently in the races.
However, Sergio is also well aware that he is at the beginning of a long learning process, part of which will be incidents like the ones last Sunday in Shanghai. I’m in no doubt that Sergio will maximise his huge potential step by step. The critical factor here is that he feels comfortable within the team and has an environment which helps him to develop as well as possible.
How has Kamui Kobayashi risen to the challenge of his new role as team leader?
As a general point, I would like to emphasise that our drivers are given equal treatment. But when a rookie joins the team, the longest-serving of the two drivers - that’s Kamui in this case - takes on a certain leadership role. Kamui has developed wonderfully well as a driver over the course of the last year alone, and now he is also carrying out his new role by challenging our engineers and helping them to follow the right development path.
And, of course, he continues to give us a lot of pleasure with his outstanding overtaking moves out on the track. Another very important factor is that he is a true team player, and that’s something Sergio also benefits from. The two drivers really work very well together.
What’s your view on the introduction of adjustable rear wings?
This new element has provoked an enormous amount of debate among the drivers, team principals and fans alike. The fact is that these rear wings are working less well for some teams than others, and are therefore causing a few difficulties for some. On our cars they have worked well from the first race and do the job the FIA had in mind for them as an overtaking aid.
However, in my view it’s still too early to come to a definitive conclusion. I think it would be useful if all those involved could sit down in the summer and evaluate the experiences we’ve had with them.
How do you rate the tyre situation?
Pirelli was given a baptism of fire; the requirements it was asked to fulfil were very tough and the amount of time for development extremely short. They were also asked to produce tyres that would wear more rapidly to inject extra excitement into the races. After three Grands Prix we should applaud Pirelli for getting to grips with this tricky challenge so impressively.
Our car is very easy on the tyres, but this has not come about by chance. Our engineers started working on this issue at a very early stage and have carried out the requisite measures. And now we can enjoy the benefits of this work during races. Needless to say, the character of the races has changed markedly as a result of the frequent pit stops, and the fans and TV commentators now have quite a tough job keeping track of how the race is unfolding. The same applies for the team strategists on the pit wall.
How would you sum up the all-round development of the Sauber F1 Team?
The situation as a whole for our team already looks a lot healthier than it did 12 months ago. 2010 was a very difficult year for us. The transformation from a works team back to a private set-up used up a lot of our energy, and at the start of the season in particular, our results on the track were extremely poor.
From this position it was also virtually impossible to find sponsors for 2011. However, our car is no longer all white and we can be proud of that. Inevitably in a team of our size - where the engineers’ ideas outweigh the resources available to them - additional financial resources are reflected directly in performance. We are therefore continuing our search for sponsors.
As far as the technical side is concerned, I would like to underline that the Sauber C30-Ferrari is the first car for which James Key has been responsible. It is now a year since he joined us, and he has done a lot of very good things. On the one hand, there are the structural changes he has implemented. Equally, the car is meeting the aims he set out for it.
With the C29 the main problems concerned driveability on uneven circuits and over kerbs, which could not be alleviated by mechanical adjustments to the car set-up. The C30 gives us significantly greater flexibility in terms of ride height and also has good aerodynamic efficiency.
To sum up, I can say that the overall development of the Sauber F1 Team is progressing positively, but that we have to continue to work very efficiently and with great dedication against a backdrop of limited resources in order to achieve our goals for the season.