Monisha Kaltenborn Q&A: Sauber shooting for P5 03 Aug 2012
Sauber have been through a lot in recent years, but in 2012 they have definitely been punching above their weight, despite one of the youngest driver line-ups on the grid in Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi. The Hinwil team are realists, but with two podiums and 80 points from the first 11 rounds, P5 in the constructors championship could become more than a dream. They may have to take risks to get there, but thats just part of the game, as CEO Monisha Kaltenborn explains to Formula1.com
Q: Monisha, Formula One is heading into its summer break: how satisfied are you with what has been achieved so far in 2012?
Monisha Kaltenborn: I am really happy with how it went so far. During the winter tests it showed that we might head into a hopeful season. And we did. Our parameters were to build on last years car - to eliminate any shortcomings - and I think that the team, together with the drivers, has taken it pretty far. We now have a car that works and is competitive on almost all tracks, under any possible conditions. Our two guys do deliver as well - always remembering that neither has too many seasons under his belt. Under these conditions mistakes do happen, but that is part of the learning process.
Q: And what about the sweet idleness of some time off?
MK: Ha, sweet idleness is not my thing! (laughs) And if you have small children doing nothing is out of the picture anyway. Relaxing, though, for sure. We will stay for the holidays in Switzerland and enjoy quality time together.
Q: If you had to give an interim report on your two drivers, what would it look like?
MK: I would put on record that both show a good development curve. Never forget Kamui is in only his third season, and Sergio only his second. They have established a good communication line to their engineers and to the whole team, and are always very welcome in the factory as their input is held in high regard. Actually, my impression is that both like to come to Hinwil - to get a better picture of the birthplace of their cars. That is really welcomed by the engineers as they can see that they want to be close to every development step that is made. I also think that both are behaving well. Of course tempers can sometimes run a little wild, but thats because they are young. So the interim report reads satisfactory.
Q: Why is Kamuis performance dipping in comparison to Sergios? Is it a car thing or something mental?
MK: I am not sure if it is really the case that his performance is dipping against Sergio. I think that the results do not show the whole picture. Kamui has shown good performances, but yes, he was a bit struck by misfortune. Twice in qualifying there were some hiccups with the car - only his car - and on the other hand the very risky strategy Sergio was running on in Malaysia bore fruits and catapulted him into the spotlight. So I would say that some factors played for Sergio - and some simply didnt work out for Kamui. But as we still have half the season to go, Kamui can go out and copy Sergio.
Q: You just mentioned the risky strategy you ran with Sergio in Malaysia, which got him on the podium. Is it essential for a team like Sauber to take more risks if they are to succeed?
MK: Well, I dont think that this risky business is anything specific to Sauber. If qualifying went wrong but you know that you have a car that belongs closer to the front, then you have to look for ways and means to make it happen. But I think any team would do the same - going risky - if you theoretically have the tool.
Q: Okay, risky strategies are born from unsatisfying situations. But arent you then just settling for the next best option - or can making risky strategies work be learned?
MK: To settle for the next best risky strategy would never help. What you do once you realize that youve botched qualifying is to sit down with your team to make simulations of different scenarios until you come to a point where you think you know what could be the best way to bring you in front in the race. It doesnt always work, as the field is so close together - sometimes between P1 and P15 on the grid theres only one second - and others try to be tricky, too. (laughs) One thing I can say is that we have exceptionally experienced people in the team who know how to handle risky strategies.
Q: How long do you think you can keep Checo (Sergio Perez) from the lure of another, bigger team?
MK: We make our driver line-up for a whole season, so from that point of view there will be no changes. We are not worried. And we are in the middle of a season that hopefully will be a successful one for us - at least all indications point in that direction - and our drivers have to focus solely on this season. Regarding the future, we are not under pressure and I am laid back about it.
Q: Sauber want to take on Mercedes in the second half of the season. What makes you convinced it will work?
MK: Stop! We have never said that. These words were put in our mouths. We said that our target is to move forward, independent of who is in front of us. Right now we are in P6 in the constructors championship, but even now we are cautious about this as we learned last season that with still so many races to come, many things can get in your way. 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. If we want to move forward we have to concentrate on ourselves and our efficiency, to enhance it even more.
Q: So P5 - regardless of who holds that position and has to move over - is your target?
Q: You have been promoted to shareholder of the team. What does that mean for you - and what is in for the team?
MK: For me personally it is a huge demonstration of trust from Peter Saubers side. With this step he has signalled that he wants continuity for the team. Peter founded the team 40 years ago in Hinwil and took it all the way to the top of motorsport - in a very respected manner. This is a huge responsibility that I feel every day. And for the team? Continuity. We are all very much aware that we are a special brand - a brand that was very much created by Peter. We are a Swiss team with a strong international flair and we want to continue to convey that image to the world.
Q: You said back in Malaysia that Sauber has an agreement with the commercial rights holder for next year. Several months later and theres still no final word on an agreement involving all teams. Is that annoying?
MK: I am very relaxed. Of course it would be better having these things sorted out, as we definitely do have other priorities - namely to deliver good races. My relaxed manner stems from the fact that weve seen situations like this before - just look at the last Concorde Agreement. (laughs) In the end a consensus has always been found and life goes on, the show goes on. It would be great if the matter could be solved without hoopla. We all know what we want: we all want to compete here. So it would make a lot of sense to solve it, put it in the drawer and do what we are here for - racing. Stability is a huge asset. We are facing so many obstacles - together with the rights holder - that we have to solve: we see competition from other sporting series; we see that some tracks are running into problems, so we venture out to new destinations; but we also see that there are some tracks who make the heritage of Formula One, so we have to find the right balance. And we definitely cannot expect the commercial rights holder to be pulling rabbits out of a hat to satisfy our financial needs. So we have to move closer and get things sorted out together, because this is not the land of plenty - we have to meet the challenges of the global economic situation. We also have to see that the complex rules and standards are a slimmed down a bit to make them more understandable. It is not good - neither for the teams nor the fans - that regulations are changed almost on a yearly basis. But as I just said, I believe in consensus, so there will be an agreement - as anything else would be damaging for the sport.
Q: You are still the only woman in such a high management position in a Formula One team. The FIA is encouraging women to come into motorsport, but what do they need to bring with them, aside from occupational skill a thick skin?
MK: Qualifications and competence. You have to be good to work in Formula One, but that goes for both sexes. As a woman you have to have a good portion of self-confidence - to know that you are good. What I see missing right now are chances. You have to build up girls as you do with boys - no matter if it is girls in the cockpit, or girls at the design desks, or as engineers. Women somehow do not apply. If I were to ask the human resources department at Sauber how many women have applied for an engineering job, the answer would very likely be none. So encouragement is what is needed. Last weekend we invited a female race engineer from Audi, so this does happen in motorsport. We at Sauber would welcome female applicants with the necessary qualifications. I think that it would actually be a gain for all the teams in the paddock.
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