Season Preview 2012: Sauber

By on Friday, February 24, 2012

As a grand prix team, Sauber is really quite astonishing. Every season – except for the BMW days – they operate on a budget that amounts to roughly £1.50 and continue to fight in the midfield. However, could they be the team that struggles in 2012?

Such a statement will only be pure speculation, but track side observers have noted nothing special from Sauber. It appears to be on a similar level to the C30, which finished seventh in the championship, although the problem could be that other teams have caught up.

At the end of 2011, they only just edged out Toro Rosso for 7th, while Force India continues to move away. 7th appears to be the best bet for 2012 as well but with Williams and Caterham improving, they could overhaul Sauber. It’s unlikely that the latter will outscore the Swiss team, but it’s possible. Toro Rosso seems to have built a handy car, so they could be locked into a yearlong battle for 7th in the championship again. In a highly congested midfield, someone has to be the loser.

Similarly, the changes at Pirelli could hinder Sauber. The C30 was notoriously kind to its tyres, which enabled Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez to stop less frequently than their rivals and this assisted them early in the season. However, as teams got a better grasp of the rubber, Sauber slipped back and were reduced to picking up the occasional point. Pirelli hope to spice up the action in 2012 through closer compounds rather than higher wearing tyres, so it’s possible this could prevent Kobayashi and Perez from taking more points.

Sauber has lost highly talented technical director James Key, a man who took a lot of credit for their improvement following BMW’s sudden pull out in 2009. Such a loss could upset the applecart early on in the season. The start of the season has traditionally been stronger for Sauber as they struggle with development compared to their rivals. Either way, losing Key will only – in the short term anyway – have a negative impact on the team.

It could be a defining year for both drivers

On the driver front, Sauber stick with Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez for a second season. Kobayashi’s form dipped towards the end of 2011 as Perez improved. The gap between the pair last season was sixteen points in the Japanese’s favour, although he gained sixteen points in the two races from which Perez was absent through injury. There’s no doubt that his hefty Monaco crash affected the Mexican’s season and he has made that much clear. Now that he has knowledge of the circuits and is no longer a rookie, the battle between the pair should be engaging. Moreover, if Perez impresses this season he’ll be a leading candidate for the second Ferrari seat and he’s still only 21 years old. You get the impression that it’s a more crucial season for Kobayashi, whose swashbuckling style was sometimes missing in 2011 compared to 2010. Like with Lewis Hamilton, one of his strongest assets was his overtaking skills, something which was lost with the introduction of DRS, KERS and Pirelli rubber last season.

So Sauber could be in for a difficult season. Nevertheless, with their history – and a pair of young, exciting drivers on board – you wouldn’t put it past them to overachieve once more.


I am looking to travel to and report from races this season. These features are written in spare time so if you'd like to help contribute to my expenses, I'd be eternally grateful and humbled. Thanks!

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