Kobayashi stars as Sauber recover in 2010

2010 F1 season review

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Nick Heidfeld, Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber, Suzuka, 2010
Nick Heidfeld, Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber, Suzuka, 2010

Tomorrow will be one year to the day since Sauber had their place on the grid for 2010 confirmed.

It’s a reminder of the uncertain situation the team found itself in just 12 months ago. After BMW announced its withdrawal from the sport it tried to sell the outfit to QADBAK, but the deal fell through, and Peter Sauber was left to pick up the pieces and keep the team he’d founded going.

Under the circumstances the team coped well, bouncing back from a difficult start to the season and discovering a star of the future in Kamui Kobayashi.

Sauber team stats 2010

Best race result (number)6th (1)
Best grid position (number)9th (3)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other)16 (9/7)
Laps completed (% of total)1526 (67.58%)
Laps led (% of total)0 (0%)
Championship position (2009)8th (6th)
Championship points (2009*)44 (98)
*using 2010 system

Sauber started the season with a car that was neither reliable nor particularly quick. This set them back badly – out of a potential 12 finishes in the first six races they saw the chequered flag just twice.

Even at the season’s end they had completed the fewest racing laps of any team including the three new outfits.

But they had turned their performance around and racked up 44 points – enough to finish comfortably ahead of Toro Rosso and not far behind the Williams/Force India battle for sixth.

Team principal Peter Sauber credited the team’s turnaround to the hiring of James Key from Force India in February. Key’s experience of working for teams without megabucks budgets helped him channel Sauber’s resources where they were needed most

Improvements in reliability led to Kamui Kobayashi scoring the team’s first points of the year in Istanbul.

But still Sauber felt it could achieve more with a known quantity in one of its seats so Pedro de la Rosa was dropped to make way for perennial Sauber pedaller Nick Heidfeld.

This was a tough call as de la Rosa had not had a particularly bad season by any means.

He bore the brunt of the C29’s early unreliability – he was on course for fourth at Shanghai when he suffered one of a series of engine failures. Just three races before he was dropped he’d qualified ninth and finished seventh in Hungary.

But the increasingly impressive Kobayashi was the team’s star of the season. Lacking a car that could qualify regularly inside the top ten, they made a habit of starting him on the harder tyres and switching to the softer compound later in the race, putting Kobayashi under pressure to make passes to gain places.

The strategy didn’t always work but occasionally it allowed them to take advantage of unusual races. At Valencia the safety car played into Kobayashi’s hands perfectly. He resisted pressure from Jenson Button, then picked off Fernando Alonso and Sebastien Buemi to take seventh.

He was in fine form on home ground, hurling his C29 past rivals from improbable distances at the hairpin, ending up seventh again.

This went some way towards making up for his wilder tendencies earlier in the season, such as his first-lap crashes at Melbourne and Montreal. But it must be remembered this was a driver with just two F1 starts to his name before the season began.

Heidfeld didn’t get much closer to Kobayashi in qualifying than de la Rosa had, and he did the usual Nick Heidfeld thing of being a safe pair of hands that brought the car home. The only race he didn’t finish was Singapore, where he was taken out for the second year in a row, this time by Michael Schumacher.

Heidfeld is not being retained for next year as Peter Sauber has made one of his characteristic gambles on youth, this time hiring GP2 runner-up Sergio Perez.

With Perez’s countryman Esteban Gutierrez employed as third driver and backing from Telmex, the Swiss time will have a Mexican flavour as it seeks to build on its recovery in 2011.

Sauber’s season in pictures

2010 F1 season review

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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37 comments on “Kobayashi stars as Sauber recover in 2010”

  1. Sauber’s slotmags were by far the coolest wheels of 2010.

    1. I was just thinking that! They look clean and functional, yet cool.

      1. It is true.

        Give Kobayashi just a good car so that he can fight in the top 10 regularly & then watch him race.

    2. Yeah they looked particularly good with that livery too. I don’t think they would have looked as good on another car.

  2. I am very happy with Sauber, specially after the chaos at the end of last year. That they beat STR comfortably and were closer to FI and Willams by the end of the year was even more impressive. And, KK was spectacular after the initial hicups.

    Keith one thing I want to know from you is about the association between BMW and Sauber in 2010. And that BMW is removed from the name for 2011, will that hurt the in a big way?

    1. There was just the name left, otherwise BMW had nothing to do with the team. As far as I know there is a rule that a team may only change its name every five years, otherwise they’ll be classified as a new team and loose their share in the FOM money. So they had to keep the name this year but they can easily change it next year.

      1. My understanding is that it was in order to be entitled to last years prize money they had to maintain the BMW Sauber aspect of it. Its the same situation next year given if Lotus changed their name to Team Air Asia for example they would not be entitled to their prize money for this year.

        BMW Sauber Ferrari must be up there as one of the stupider names in F1 history.

        1. If a team changes its name, they lose their slice of Bernie money, unless all the other teams vote to agree to let them have it … if they vote no, the money is divided amongst them, so take a guess how that would go.

          But the last version of the Concorde agreement that someone saw, stated that a team can change its name after 5 years, without losing the cash and without requiring a vote.

          So I’d guess that rule could still be in effect … BMW joined Sauber before 2006 season, keeping the name till end 2010, makes 5 seasons.

      2. But Sauber were guaranteed a position in F1 only after USF1’s withdrawl, and got the numbers 22 and 23, whilst they would have had 11 and 12 if they had continued from last year.

  3. I don´t know why, but I really like this team. Kobayashi was just awesome this season, even though early races were truly disastrous. I am curious as to how their car will look next year, with Telmex sponsorship. any news if they are getting other new sponsors? I hope they keep the black and white motiff.

    1. bleh, really? Personally, I thought their livery was bland and uninspiring. It felt empty. I’d like to see them do something a bit more stand-out like Renault did this year.

  4. I’m glad Sauber had a strong end to the season. They are team we should be supporting in Formula 1, along with Williams and the other independents.

    I’m looking forward to watching them race in 2011.

  5. I like the way Sauber progressed in this season. And if James Key is behind it then he must be the best man. He was the man responsible for success of FI and now Sauber. We may next good car from him next year

    1. I think the lack of success at FI after he left does prove it somewhat. Although you could argue that his gains are perhaps not structural; then again, FI also lost a lot of people to Lotus around that time. The combined effect could well explain their trouble.

  6. Sauber felt it could achieve more with a known quantity in one of its seats

    It’s interesting that they have have switched back to an unknown quantity again so quickly. I’m sure the sponsorship potential was very enticing, and actually I think Perez could do well in F1 given some time, I just hope it doesn’t hurt their chances next year.

    On a more positive note, this move should hopefully ensure stability for the team in the long term. They provided some exciting on-track action this year, I wish them well for 2011 and beyond.

    1. I’m not too worried about it frankly. Kobayashi outperformed both of his team mates this year, and by know he’s likely learned all he was going to from either of them. The question will simply be if Perez can get up to speed as quickly as Kobayashi did. Even if he doesn’t I doubt they’ll be in a worse position than they were this year as I expect Kobayashi to score even more points next season as long as they can provide him with a reliable car from the start.

  7. It’s a pity that places in the top teams are all locked out at the moment. It would be wonderful to see Kobayashi in a good car, I for one certainly think that he is good enough.

    1. Someone should start an online petition to put Kobayashi in Webber’s seat for 2012…

    2. Yeah, but here’s hoping Koby can help Sauber continue to raise the bar. Look at what Senna did in a Toleman. Maybe he won’t win races in the Sauber, but he could potentially give them the needed results to grow and develop.

  8. Kobayashi is probably everyones 2nd (of just fav) Driver. His style is just wonderful and when he gets the chances to overtake he doesnt hold back, just what we want in a F1 driver, hopefully he can find himself in a quick enough car to show more of what hes capable of (either in a Sauber or not).

    With the signing of Perez and bringing Telmex onboard, it could make for an interesting season, now that Perez’s rival has signed for Williams and i’d expect be driving a car of near equal pedigree.

    And they did have a pretty 2011 car to look at. Hope that doesnt change for 2011.

  9. Kobayashi is a breath of fresh air to the sport. Is there anyone that doesn’t like him?

    He has personality and isn’t afraid to risk it for the sake of a pass. These are two main things that “add to the show”, and will make Joe Bloggs tune in again after watching F1 for the first time.

    Let the drivers be themselves (not PR machines) and for Gods sake agree on technical regulations that allow overtaking.

    Problem solved, and to think millions have been spent, working groups formed and surveys held on how to “Improve the show”…..

    1. “Kobayashi is a breath of fresh air to the sport. Is there anyone that doesn’t like him?”

      I don’t not like him but I’m not a fan of him either :P

    2. I actually hated Kobayashi early in the season as I felt his success in 2009 was more to chance than anything else. But he’s grown on me and made it to my list of drivers I like.

      I think Sauber is getting better as well. I’m hoping they can improve from this year. Maybe FI could too but I don’t know.

  10. Kobayashi is a delight to watch. I had my reservations after the disaster at Melbourne this year (spectacular crash though!) but he has really turned it round.

  11. Sauber is the perfect place for Kobayashi next year. It gives him the chance to mature just outside of the harsh spotlights, and means that whenever he drives an impressive race and mixes with the big boys, everybody notices.

    If he can manage to consistently outperform his car by the end of 2011, he might be ready to get picked up by a (sub) top team. I just have no idea which team would be the one to do it.

  12. We Want Turbos
    2nd December 2010, 14:02

    Really glad to see sauber improve towards the end of the year KK is the most exciting driver on the grid (even more than Lewis) as he just goes for it, it either comes off or it doesn’t!!! Want to see Sauber race in their original Dark blue colours(pre redbull/petronas) would be fitting!!

    1. Too much like the Williams colors, and besides, Telmex is a lighter blue: http://www.telmex.com/mx/paises/pais.jsp

      1. Wait, what? From that link, what you take away is that the Telmex colours are lighter than Williams’? Dude… Are you a dude? :p

          1. Sorry, maybe I wasn’t too clear. What I meant was, how come you’re looking to the right area of the page in that link, when clearly all the pretty is on the left.

            Anyway, sorry to take this off-topic. I was only joking around. Nothing else to see here. Carry on :)

      2. We Want Turbos
        3rd December 2010, 14:31

        If it where up to me each team would use a “racing colour” like ferrari red renault yellow/black mclaren orange etc… Would put an end to some of the monstrosities we see- Renault 08-09

  13. my favourite team :)

  14. Hope they move forward with car development. We know Mclaren, Ferrari, Red Bull and maybe Mercedes will be on another championship, but it would be interesting to see Renault, Force India, Sauber, Williams and even Toro Rosso fighting it out for the 5th spot team, and occasionally challenging the big boys, like Renault did this year or Force India last year!

    1. I’m guessing Renault will be solidly on top of the mid-fielders at the start of the season, with Williams, FI, and Sauber duking it out for sixth. Torro Rosso will be at the back fighting with Lotus, and maybe Virgin and HRT.

  15. Craig Woollard
    2nd December 2010, 22:35

    Sauber = midfield in 2011
    Kobayashi is a legend simply for overtaking Alonso in Valencia with 2 corners to go ;)

  16. We Want Turbos
    2nd December 2010, 23:25

    @US_Peter the point would be that it would be sauber colours not the corporate crap where left with these days.

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