Plenty of promise - Saubers mid-season report 24 Aug 2012
Just 26 points shy of fifth-placed Mercedes in the constructors standings, Sauber have exceeded even their own expectations so far this season. Leading the midfield charge, the quiet team from Switzerland have made a lot of noise in 2012, forcing the frontrunners to sit up and take notice. Even so, wrapped up in this David and Goliath battle, the ever-calm Hinwil squad are remaining realistic about their chances of moving up the order
Season in numbers
Constructors standings: 6th, 80 points
Drivers standings: Sergio Perez (9th, 47 points), Kamui Kobayashi (10th, 33 points)
Highest 2012 qualifying: 4th (Kobayashi, China)
Highest 2012 finish: 2nd (Perez, Malaysia)
They may have lost technical director James Key on the eve of the season, but he left the team in chipper form, with a car that had shown flashes of speed and excellent reliability in pre-season testing. Stripped of the shortcomings of its predecessor, the Ferrari-powered C31 was expected to show strongly. But it has done much more, reaching the top-ten qualifying shootout several times and scoring two podiums and eight other points finishes from the first 11 races. There have been some technical problems, like Kobayashis hydraulics giving way in Hungary and Perezs transmission issue in Spain, but overall the car has done Sauber proud.
The loss of Key was undeniably a difficult start to the year, but there has been stability in all other areas. Consistency in the choice of drivers with Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez partnered for a second season, CEO Monisha Kaltenborn becoming a shareholder and Peter Saubers son Alex playing a greater management role have all buffered the teams solidity. Of course, theres nothing like the backing seen in the BMW-bankrolled years, so the progress of development cannot match that of the grids frontrunners, but Sauber are a leading example of how much a budget-conscious team can achieve.
Kobayashi and Perez may be one of the younger and less experienced line-ups on the grid, but that hasnt stopped them performing very well and leading the way in canny tyre management. The Mexican Perez has fared much better than his Japanese team mate, delivering podium finishes in Malaysia and Canada, and impressing with a one-stop strategy that took him from 22nd on the grid to eighth in Australia. And thats despite a fair helping of bad luck, including a puncture in Spain after he had qualified career-best fifth and his collision with Maldonado at Silverstone. Kobayashi has struggled to get quite as much out of the C31, with third on the grid in China and a fourth-place finish in Germany his highlights to date.
What they say: If you take a closer look at the five teams who are in front of us then you will see that all these teams have substantially more funding than we have, so staying realistic is the need of the hour. Monisha Kaltenborn, Sauber CEO
What we say: They are the midfield yardstick. If Ferrari, McLaren or Red Bull lose momentum, expect to see more podium appearances. Already a season to be proud of.
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