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Plenty of promise - Sauber's mid-season report 24 Aug 2012

Second placed Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber celebrates on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, 25 March 2012 Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber C31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 21 April 2012 Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) Sauber.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 21 April 2012 Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) Sauber C31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, British Grand Prix, Qualifying, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 7 July 2012 Peter Sauber (SUI) Sauber F1 Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Practice, Hockenheim, Germany, Friday, 20 July 2012 Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber C31 with aero sensor.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Budapest, Hungary, Friday, 27 July 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 Kobayashi’s hydraulics giving way in Hungary and Perez’s 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 Sauber’s son Alex playing a greater management role have all buffered the team’s solidity. Of course, there’s nothing like the backing seen in the BMW-bankrolled years, so the progress of development cannot match that of the grid’s 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 hasn’t 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 that’s 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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