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Exclusive Q&A with Sauber's Monisha Kaltenborn 16 Nov 2013

Monisha Kaltenborn (AUT) Sauber Team Prinicpal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Korean Grand Prix, Race Day, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday, 6 October 2013 Sauber's Sergey Sirotkin gets his first taste of a Formula One car, Sochi, Russia, September 27,2013 Monisha Kaltenborn (AUT) Sauber Team Prinicpal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 11 October 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Practice, Austin, Texas, USA, Friday, 15 November 2013 (L to R): Monisha Kaltenborn (AUT) Sauber Team Prinicpal and Tom McCullough (GBR) Sauber Head of Track Engineering.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 11 October 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, USA, Texas, Saturday, 16 November 2013 Monisha Kaltenborn (AUT) Sauber Team Prinicpal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Korean Grand Prix, Practice, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Friday, 4 October 2013 Esteban Gutierrez (MEX) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Practice, Austin, Texas, USA, Friday, 15 November 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Practice, Austin, Texas, USA, Friday, 15 November 2013 Monisha Kaltenborn (AUT) Sauber Team Prinicpal..
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, 19 April 2013

After the highs of 2012, the 2013 season has been a bitter bill to swallow for Sauber, with trials and tribulations both on and off the track. With the 2014 driver market in turmoil, the Swiss squad still don’t know whether they will be able to retain star driver Nico Hulkenberg - or whether their plans to put a Russian rookie in the car for next season will come to fruition. We caught up with team principal Monisha Kaltenborn in Austin to get the latest…

Q: Monisha, the last time we spoke in Singapore it was a sure thing that Sergey Sirotkin would drive for Sauber next year - now there are suggestions that he and the group supporting him are not such a sure thing anymore. What happened in between?
Monisha Kaltenborn:
There is not really any change regarding the target that we have, which is to bring him into Formula One. But what we always said is that one should not underestimate the challenge of getting a Super License. People have compared him with the other rookie drivers, which I think is not right as they are coming into the sport in very different ways and all have different racing records. But we also don’t have any need to hurry. Our initial plan was to implement the activities primarily after the season - and then let’s see how it goes.

Q: So there is a chance that Sergey coming into Formula One racing won’t happen in 2014…
MK:
This chance was always there, right from the beginning. So we do have flexibility there.

Q: Then what is the state of affairs with your 2014 driver line-up? Suddenly Nico Hulkenberg can imagine staying again - but could you imagine keeping him?
MK:
Ha, I have a broad imagination, so I can imagine a lot of things.

Q: Aside from the poor start to the season, one reason Nico called it off in the summer was that he was not paid on time. Now you hear reports that he would also be willing to drive without salary. What do you make of that?
MK:
Fact is that we had a tough start into the season. Nobody would have expected that from our 2012 performance so yes, both sides had different expectations. But we overcome that situation. And I am very careful about commenting when I read certain things, because you never really know what’s been said and what’s not been said.

Q: From the outside it was rather surprising to see that at one point money was an issue - and then suddenly that issue disappeared when available drives became scarce…
MK:
We never comment on financial matters and the only thing that is important for the future is that the communication between the team and the driver is right.

Q: Were you ever asked by Lotus if Nico could replace Kimi Raikkonen for the last two races, as was the rumour? Before they chose Heikki Kovalainen…
MK:
We have never been asked or contacted.

Q: How much will your 2014 driver line-up depend on what Nico does? And will you wait that long?
MK:
It always takes two sides to make a decision. No side is forced to do something by the other. From the team’s perspective I can say that everything will depend on what our overall situation is and the degree of comfort that we have - we also have to look at other factors, namely our sources of income. We have to make sure that we are where we want to be - and then we can decide on our drivers. And to be very fair to drivers who bring support along, these are all good drivers that we are talking about, because otherwise they wouldn’t be where they are. We have 22 Formula One drivers a year - out of thousands of drivers in the world - so please, more respect. In the last two seasons we have always been criticized as our drivers have often been labeled as pay drivers, which is very wrong. The moment they show performance that label quickly falls away as at the end of the day it is all about performance

Q: The majority of the Formula One teams are under pressure to take drivers who come with financial support. Would your driver line-up look significantly different without that compulsion?
MK:
Not necessarily, because you have to look at who is on the market and available at that time. And the drivers that we had: we’ve always believed in their talent. So first of all you look at the driver - and we have always done that. And it always worked out in the right way for us, that the people we have chosen were not much later seen as very good drivers. So first you clearly look at the talent and at the capability of the driver - and then you look at other factors.

Q: Sauber showed a late burst of form in Korea and Japan, giving hope that you might eventually catch Force India. But the last two races have been difficult again and P6 now looks almost unachievable. What happened in Korea and Japan?
MK:
The basis for this performance change has certainly been the update we brought in in Hungary. And from then on things did develop. It didn’t materialize right away into points, but we could see that we were getting more and more competitive and closing the gap to the teams ahead of us. Then the points kicked in. I think we maintained that level in India - we just had bad luck - and in Abu Dhabi we had some issues in the race. But the level of competitiveness is still there - we just couldn’t materialize the potential in the last two races.

Q: But that ‘bad luck’ means that P6 in the constructors’ championship is gone…
MK:
Nothing is gone, but it will be very tough. Hope is always there. And from what we’ve seen here it looks pretty promising and we are ready to grab every piece of opportunity that comes along.

Q: You are one of the strongest advocates for a budget cap in Formula One racing. Do you see that anything is moving in the right direction?
MK:
Well, I hope that a new initiative is coming up soon, because it is high time that we really react. Formula One needs the diversity of teams for the show. We also have to make sure that Formula One is not always in the media because of financial issues. It might also scare off possible sponsors. We have to bring the focus back to the sport. Fact is that we have never suggested that everybody has to be the same - not at all. It’s diversity that we live on. But we need a bit more of a level playing field.

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