Team boss happy to be beating big-budget rivals
Sauber are having a good 2004. With only five races to go they are a strong sixth in constructors standings, ahead of the manufacturer-backed Toyota and Jaguar squads, proving that money still isnt everything in Formula One racing.
After another point-scoring performance at last weekends Hungarian Grand Prix, boss of the Swiss squad, Peter Sauber, spoke about the race, the teams season to date and about Felipe Massas unfortunate run of bad luck.
Q: How satisfied are you with the outcome of the Hungarian Grand Prix?
Peter Sauber: Immediately after the race I had mixed feelings to some extent. Considering that Giancarlo (Fisichella) was able to start from position eight, perhaps I'd expected a little more than an eighth-place finish. From a certain distance, though, I must say that we have every reason to be satisfied with this one Championship point, and particularly so because we've further increased the margin between ourselves and our direct competitors, Toyota and Jaguar. The fact that Giancarlo finished ahead of David Coulthard in the McLaren-Mercedes was the icing on the cake.
Q: From the perspective of Sauber Petronas, what is your assessment of the season so far?
PS: The first few races were a bit difficult for us, but since then our performance has been good across the board. Particularly important for me is the fact that we've been able to achieve a clear improvement compared to last year. We now have 19 points - exactly the same number we had at the end of the 2003 season when the wet race at Indy had been of crucial help for us. Today, we're in a much stronger position that enables us to score points based on our own performance.
Q: Sauber Petronas have an 11-point lead over Toyota. Does this mean you've locked in your sixth place in the Constructors' Championship five races before the end of the season?
PS: No, it doesn't, and entertaining such thoughts would be reckless! We're going to put the same effort and concentration into our work as before. Our goal is to have new components from the wind tunnel in each race, and we'll stick to that.
Q: Considering that Giancarlo Fisichella won't be driving for Sauber Petronas next year, is there a risk that this will impair his commitment to the team?
PS: No, absolutely not! Giancarlo is a full-blooded racer with impeccable, professional conduct, and he's just shown that in Hungary again where he drove an excellent race. I'm convinced he'll be clinching quite a few more good results for our team before the season is over.
Q: Felipe Massa hasn't been able to score any more championship points for some time. Why haven't things been going well for him?
PS: Although this may sound somewhat trivial, Felipe has simply been struck by an incredible amount of bad luck in the last few races - Hungary included. In practice, he encountered an engine failure, and in the race a brake problem forced him to retire. Unfortunately, that's the way things are in sports at times. What counts, though, is that you don't give up. Felipe is doing a very good job with us and has proved this in Hungary as well. His third place in the pre-qualifying session - yet again - showed the speed he has, and in the race, as well, his performance was excellent until he was forced to retire. I'm sure that as soon as he has that bit of luck that's needed he'll be scoring Championship points again.
Q: What progress have you made in your search for a new driver for 2005?
PS: We're under no pressure whatsoever, that's why I'm taking my time. I've not even decided yet whether we will select a young talented or an experienced driver. One thing is obvious though: there's a huge interest in Sauber Petronas. For me this is a clear sign that we're a highly attractive team today.
Q: Obviously, the first lap performance of the Bridgestone tyres was very good in Hungary. What was the reason?
PS: Last weekend we were able to use a new tyre specification for the first time, which represents a clear step forward with regard to first lap performance. That's why Giancarlo's eighth place in qualifying was the best he's achieved in the season so far. I'd like to pay a big compliment to Bridgestone in this regard. However, because we had not tested these tyres before, we encountered some difficulties with the set-up on Friday, but then our engineers drew the right conclusions from the data analysis and improved the car's balance.
Q: Has this solved all your problems in the tyre sector?
PS: No, it hasn't. For us, this fight between two manufacturers continues to present a problem. The top teams are using roughly two thirds of their testing for tyre development, and our resources simply do not allow us to keep up with that. Because the developments have reached such extreme levels, it has become incredibly difficult to select the right tyres and to make optimum use of them during a race weekend. Track temperatures rising or falling by just a few degrees can make all your plans go awry. Last weekend, McLaren-Mercedes became a victim of this. So this can even happen to the big teams. The influence of tyres on the results has simply become too strong nowadays.