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Exclusive Q&A - Sauber’s Monisha Kaltenborn 27 Sep 2013

Monisha Kaltenborn (AUT) Sauber Team Prinicpal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Italian Grand Prix, Practice, Monza, Italy, Friday, 6 September 2013 Esteban Gutierrez (MEX) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd13, Singapore Grand Prix, Qualifying, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Saturday, 21 September 2013 Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin visits the Sauber factory, Hinwil, August 20, 2013 Monisha Kaltenborn (AUT) Sauber Team Prinicpal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd13, Singapore Grand Prix, Preparations, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Thursday, 19 September 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd13, Singapore Grand Prix, Practice, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Friday, 20 September 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber.
Formula One World Championship, Rd13, Singapore Grand Prix, Preparations, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Thursday, 19 September 2013 Esteban Gutierrez (MEX) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 23 August 2013 Esteban Gutierrez (MEX) Sauber.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Italian Grand Prix, Practice, Monza, Italy, Friday, 6 September 2013 (L to R): Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing, pole sitter Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing and Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber celebrate in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 7 Septe Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32 is followed by Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Italian Grand Prix, Race, Monza, Italy, Sunday, 8 September 2013 Monisha Kaltenborn (AUT) Sauber Team Prinicpal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd13, Singapore Grand Prix, Preparations, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Thursday, 19 September 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, British Grand Prix, Practice, Silverstone, England, Friday, 28 June 2013

Heading to Korea last year, Sauber had scored 116 points. In 2013, they have managed just 19 to date. Their car has been largely uncompetitive, rumours have surrounded the team’s financial stability, and their lead driver is set to depart after just a single season. Team principal Monisha Kaltenborn, talks about what’s gone wrong, what’s going right, and what relevance Sauber’s situation has to the future of Formula One racing generally…

Q: Monisha, there are a lot of rumours surrounding the Sauber team at the moment. Can you explain the real state of affairs?
Monischa Kaltenborn:
Well, the situation is that in the summer we announced a partnership with Russian partners. I know that we did not provide that much information - and that certainly led to a lot of rumours which then took on a life of their own - but we have that partnership, and we feel that it is a partnership which will allow the team - indeed has allowed the team - to start an upward trend again. Of course, we knew that with that partnership we are laying a base - and the partnership then gives us the opportunity to work on that base. And that’s what we’ve been doing - step by step - and we also clarified that funds have been received by the team.

Q: Sauber are willing to take a chance on a rookie Russian driver. How is his development progressing?
MK:
We have Sergei Sirotkin under contract and it is our intention that in 2014 he will be one of our drivers. We are convinced by him: he is a young and talented driver. Of course, to say now how he will really do on the track would be mere speculation, but we feel that from the ingredients he brings - and from what everybody could see in Monza - the basis is good. With all this we have a good feeling about preparing him for his super license and then to get him in.

Q: We are talking about a full drive, not just a reserve role…
MK:
…he is meant to be our race driver.

Q: With a Russian race coming to the calendar next season it does seem to make lot of sense. Was that part of your considerations?
MK:
Yes. It is a big puzzle - and you have a lot of pieces. Clearly the interest from the Russian side was because of that Grand Prix. We have seen that for a race to have a successful start and then establish itself, you don’t only need the right market conditions from an economic perspective, you also need the right track on the sporting side, and above all you need some personal link to it. We have seen in that past that if you have that, it makes it so much easier for Formula One to establish itself in a new territory. So that has to be a target in such an important market.

Q: So much was expected of the Sauber-Nico Hulkenberg combination, but the honeymoon period didn’t last long and now it looks like Nico wants to move on for 2014. Can you sum up the situation from the team’s perspective?
MK:
When you look back to when we announced the partnership, we saw Nico’s performance which impressed us. At the same time I assume he saw the team’s performance, which was somewhat different to what it is this year. Based on this - and, of course, we are all aware of the risks in Formula One - and keeping in mind that the rule changes were not that big for 2013, we both entered our cooperation with high expectations. And not just of each other, but of ourselves - we also had high expectations for us. Unfortunately those expectations were not fulfilled. We know more or less where we went wrong, but unfortunately it is a situation where you cannot simply implement what you want. We know that what we have done so far has moved us in the right direction, so if we could have done this before who knows what would have happened with our season? But that is, of course, pure speculation. Keeping that in mind I think we both adjusted to the situation. I must be very fair and say that the performance Nico has shown so far is always been absolutely good. There is nothing in that respect where we as a team could say we were disappointed. The potential that the car had, Nico always brought it out.

Q: But is there not disappointment that Nico has seemingly called time on his Sauber career so soon? F1 racing is a team sport where you win together and lose together - and when you are losing you work together to turn things around. Did Nico not want to wait that long?
MK:
Well, we’ve had these situations before and I don’t think that there are any hard and fast rules. Drivers come, drivers go. Hopefully the team stays and - in our case - remains the fourth oldest.

Q: What about Esteban Gutierrez? Has he delivered what you expected from him?
MK:
Absolutely. He went through a rough ride at the beginning, but he has come out of it very well. He has matured over the course of the races - on the technical side too - but the unfortunate part is simply that the results don’t actually reflect his improvements and his level of performance. That’s maybe one point where we as a team have to somehow help him - and if you put it all together he can do that.

Q: So will he stay with Sauber?
MK:
Well, we will announce our driver line-up - which we always do for one year - when the time is right.

Q: Could Jules Bianchi be part of an engine barter deal with Ferrari?
MK:
Nothing to it - and we don’t comment on rumours anyway.

Q: Up until Monza the car was a bit of a disaster. Was the Monza result - and more recently in Sinagpore Esteban’s Q3 qualifying and Nico’s two points - down to luck, driver skill, or a genuine turning point?
MK:
We have seen that the Monza result was not a one-off. We have understood where we went wrong - mainly at the rear with the aerodynamics - but due to our situation we could not implement everything. But whatever we could do, we have been doing. The understanding of the glitches and the analytical approach to it will help us for the rest of the season.

Q: What have the Monza and Singapore results done for team morale? When you finish nowhere for a number of races, finally grabbing points must feel like a godsend…
MK:
It is, of course, a fantastic feeling - especially because we had quite a number of great results last season. So yes, having that feeling of success back was very welcome. It gives a bit of a boost to the team. In a way, where we were last year was unexpected, but you start liking that warm feeling of success, so it was equally unexpected where we ended up this year.

Q: Bringing the costs of F1 racing down must be a burning issue for Sauber. What is it that you would accuse the big teams? Negligence for the interests of the sport?
MK:
It is a bit that way. We understand that the big teams have the big brands, their own brands, which are of course important for generating income in F1, along with the sport, the drivers and the other teams. But in my view you cannot do without the other teams. It’s give and take - and that asks for a different kind of balance. You don’t have to put everybody at an equal level. I don’t believe in that at all, because after all we are a competition, so we don’t have to have the same things for everyone. What has to be the same is the field we are playing on, and there has to be stability, as this will bring the costs down. That you know. The next five years we are looking at that direction. If you look back (at car development), nearly every year somebody comes up with an idea which you know there and then will be banned for the following year, but everybody goes for it, fearing that if they don’t it will mean a setback in performance for them. At the end of the day it was a waste of money. So you don’t need these kinds of developments to have the engineering challenge that high. This brings us to a cost cap where you can mark out a field with its boundaries. Within that the engineers’ challenge can be as you choose - but within that field. Clearly there is no need to have equality at every point, because every team makes a different contribution to the sport and has a different value. But in the entire value of the sport, everybody plays a role. So it’s not only about costs. You also have to look at the technical stability. And never forget, we all need each other! You can differentiate - but it should be clear how.

Q: Regarding bringing down costs down for the sake of the sport, your McLaren couterpart Martin Whitmarsh suggested recently that the teams are not good at planning for the future, but are only good at reacting to catastrophes. Isn’t catastrophe just around the corner for some teams?
MK:
First of all, ‘catastrophe’ is a big word. But yes, it is true that we don’t have a good track record on either being proactive on things, or reacting quickly. So I think it is not only about whether we can we agree on a common goal, which I think we should be able to, as we are all in this sport and in the same boat. It’s more an issue of how strong can we be about it when you are all actually positioned at different levels. But if nothing happens and if teams drop out, I am convinced that the teams that are left will not be able to provide this kind of a show to the fans. And that might mean that you don’t get this kind of income, as the ones that are left will very likely have similar costs. So how are you going to make that work?

Q: 2014 will bring with it even higher costs, at least initially. How will that work for the big teams and the small teams?
MK:
We teams have in theory known for a long time what 2014 is going to mean regarding costs - and actually no one has reacted. So I think it is our own fault if we are in that position today, as it will be a very cost-intensive year. That’s where I still have my hopes that our federation will take up this topic and will implement sensible measures very soon, as I think it is the job of a federation to give the whole step credibility.

Q: Will the teams follow?
MK:
If your federation does that, you need to follow.

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