Keeping the faith - Exclusive Q&A with Peter Sauber 14 Feb 2012
Sauber team principal Peter Sauber is a no-nonsense type of guy. He knows that Formula One racing is a difficult environment for smaller teams, with its rapid technical development invariably accompanied by equally rapid spending. But over the years his ambition has never diminished, and this season hes confident his team can improve on their below-par 2011 showing. With a young and talented driver line-up in Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez, and the new C31 looking strong at the opening pre-season test, he may not be disappointed
Q: What do you want to do better this season?
Peter Sauber: Well, 2011 was divided into two very different parts. We had a good first half and a difficult second one. This year we will have to allot our development resources in a way that will help us improve over the whole course of the season and help us keep and defend our position.
Q: The much talked about James Key effect seemed to only work in the first half of the season. Why was this? And why did your technical director leave prematurely?
PS: James joined us in a phase when we had to undergo the painful transformation from a manufacturer to a private team, and he was one of the key factors behind returning stability to our squad. In the phase that followed it became more and more obvious that the cooperation was not working as both sides had hoped. So to walk separate ways again was the only logical conclusion.
Q: Your driver line-up remains the same this season. You must have been happy with their performances last year
PS: Yes, indeed. But what I expect on the technical side, I also expect from the drivers - and thats progression. And I am convinced that this progression will materialize, as both are still very young and both have one more year of experience under their belt. Both will be able to bank the experience and use it to their advantage.
Q: It seemed that positioning Kobayashi as the teams number-one driver in 2011 put a lot of strain on him. Will he be able to cope better this year?
PS: Kamui had a very good first half of the season with considerable results but couldnt carry that momentum into the second half. But it would be wrong to put all the blame on him, as the performance of the car was nowhere near what it had been in the first few months. When it got towards the end of the season and we were defending our position from Toro Rosso, Kamui was right there again and proved he could be depended on.
Q: Perezs crash in Monaco seemed to affect him more than he himself had expected. Is he completely over it now?
PS: It took longer than we all had anticipated. It showed that such a concussion has longer after-effects than we all thought. Its true that his lap times were already good [at his first race back] in Valencia but he still didnt feel 100 percent well. He later confessed that it took until after the summer break to be back to normal again.
Q: At the start of a season expectations are very often flying high, but are then cut down by reality soon after. What are your expectations for this season?
PS: Well, as I said before, 2011 was a split season. We had a good start and a disappointing end. This season we want to have the same start as last year but we want to keep that level of performance throughout the whole season. If we are able to do that then the final count will look more pleasant.
Q: Saubers decision to leave FOTA came as a surprise. Why did you depart?
PS: We have informed FOTA about our reasons. We see this as an internal affair and dont want to discuss it openly in public. We are in constant contact with all the other teams and discuss any important issues, like the RRA (Resource Restriction Agreement), and we will also stick to the agreed factory closing dates in August.
Q: Did the RRA ever have a real chance? Has it become easier for smaller teams to compete with the big boys?
PS: No, it definitely has not become easier for the smaller teams. To cut costs in Formula One is a very difficult and thorny issue. The RRA was a step in the right direction, but now other steps must urgently follow.
Q: Youve been a team owner for decades. How different is the sport now to times past?
PS: The technical development over the past 20 years has been breathtaking. In the areas of aerodynamics, electronics and power train there have been huge leaps forward and that has led to an explosion of costs. It must be the foremost task of all responsible parties to bring these costs down to a reasonable level.
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