Kobayashi: lack of diffuser development held Sauber back

2011 F1 season

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Kobayashi said Monaco was one of his best races

Kamui Kobayashi says Sauber began to struggle from the British Grand Prix due to the team’s development priorities.

Kobayashi said: “We struggled due to the decisions made about the rules and our own technical development.

“We didn’t follow the direction of the off throttle exhaust blown diffuser any further.

“Instead we worked hard on the direction of development we had decided to go in, but we could not make up for the disadvantage that came from not having the same technology as the other teams.”

Sauber came close to losing seventh place in the constructors’ championship to Toro Rosso. The place was salvaged by Kobayashi’s points haul in the final two races.

“I can be happy that I still scored points in the final two races,” he said. “This was a good achievement under the circumstances.”

Kobayashi added that being in the role of team leader taught him a lot as a driver:

“It wasn’t easy for me. I needed to improve a lot in various areas. Not only in driving, but also in making decisions with the engineers.

“The fact that we had to deal with the new tyres from Pirelli, which were different in character compared to what we had before, was challenging for me.

“It was important to find out what was best for the race and how to handle qualifying. There was a big difference in performance between Saturday and Sunday.

“I think I came to understand many things during this season, and I have got a clearer picture for next year.”

Kobayashi named the Monaco and Canadian Grands Prix as his highlights of the season: “In Monaco I qualified 13th, which wasn’t very strong.

“However, in the race we had a good strategy and in the end I finished fifth after what was a very difficult weekend for the team.

“In Canada we had a very good performance in the wet. When the track dried out I wasn’t able to defend second position and eventually finished seventh.

“Actually a bit more rain would have helped us, but I still regard it as a good race.”

2011 F1 season

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Image © Sauber F1 Team

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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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17 comments on “Kobayashi: lack of diffuser development held Sauber back”

  1. It’s a shame that Sauber didn’t develop their diffuser and the car enough. It would have been great to see Kobayashi and Perez battle the Mercedes drivers, Kobayashi vs. Schumacher would have been interesting.

  2. maybe this is true in the first half of the season Sauber managed to get 35 points but in the second half they only managed to get 9 points comparing to Force India,who Sauber claim they gained a second per lap from continuing their off-throttle development, scored 20 point in the first half and 49 point in the second half

  3. maybe they made right choice to let go of OTBD, this meant they pursued other areas which will be relevant for 2012 season too… maybe that experience can push them further up the field.

    1. I hope so! Because if we look solely at 2011 it turned out to be quite a mistake. So lets hope they can make up the lost ground in 2012 with a good base from this years car.

    2. That’s what I’m thinking. I don’t really recall them developing an awful lot, or looking like they were. Let’s be optimistic!

  4. The fact that the car remained competitive in the mid field without the blowing indicates the chassis is very sound and much will have been learnt about the performance of the car on the Pirellis without off throttle blowing which could help next year. Sauber have effectively had a year long test session with a car that is more closey related to next years regs than any other mid field team. It could pay dividends, James Key does seem a very capable designer.

  5. I had forgotton about Kobayashi being P2 at the restart in Canada! I’m sure Schumi was up there as well but they both didn’t have the pace to stay right at the front.

    It’s a shame about Saubers development because it made both Kobayashi & Perez somewhat anonymous in the second half of the season, cruising round outside the points and occasionally picking up the odd 10th place isn’t going to get you that much TV coverage.

    It’s nice to see Kamui fighting the big guns at the front, i remember at some point in 2010 rating Kobayashi in my top 5 drivers in F1 but he seems to have gone off the boil since then..i hope we see some proper Kobayashi overtakes next year with a decent Sauber under him that can deliver points consistently.

    1. I rated Kobayashi 5th at the half way point this year, since he was delivering points on a regular basis, ran very highly in Monaco and Canada, and was convincingly beating Sergio. Sadly he and the team trailed off in the second half of the season, and he missed my top 10. I hope Sauber can be better next year, and the top team performance deviates like it did in 2008 and 2009.

      1. When Sauber lost pace, their strategies went from extremely wise to extremely dumb. The other cars were too fast to battle with them doing one stop less. I guess Kamui and Sergio were still driving at their best, but the fact they rarely entered the top 10 might lead us to consider their driving in the second half of the season as inferior to that of the first half.

        1. Well said. Looking back, I wonder how I’d find their driving. I do recall thinking Perez did a good job keeping it together despite the strategy several times during the last half of the season. Kobayashi was less visible for me (or was that thanks to FOM’s directing?), although of course in SPA he was doing well until he met Hamilton, for example.

  6. I hope the 2012 Sauber will be a competent car and their decision not to develop the EBD this season will pay dividence next season, when they’re al banned.

    Kobayashi has been a bit anonymous lately, after becoming one of the more interesting drivers to watch. No more ballsy overtakes, but in all fairness has had a very solid season in this car, even if he’s not doing too well in qualifying compared to his teammate.

    It’s also been too long since we’ve had a new GP winner in F1, Webber in 2009 was the latest first I think. I’m still hoping Kobayashi will be the surprise next one. :)

  7. I think they suffered from the same issues as Ferrari seeing as they’re running the same engine and rear end. The off throttle ban at Silverstone helped Ferrari and Suaber (incidentally, they were the only two teams to protest when the rules were set to revert back to original), and the rear end package which helped tyre degradation also prevented them from building up enough heat into them (same as Ferrari). I think they had a great Chassis and would have moved up the rankings if the Silverstone ban had not been overturned.

    1. @Cacarella That’s a good point, I was thinking similar thoughts myself.

      But how to Toro Rosso fit into this? They’ve also get Ferrari engines, but they had an EBD upgrade in Suzuka which clearly boosted their performance.

      1. Guess one could look for some engineering input by Red Bull engineering @keithcollantine and @Cacarella, but it could also be that since STR had some EBD knowledge from last year (maybe?), and their car was built to really use it, they had better means to pursue it, and would suffer more in not doing so, so they put a lot of effort in that area.

        STR also did have a RBR derived rear suspension and gearbox layout, rather than the elongated push-rod set-up the other two teams seemingly semi-independently ended up with, perhaps that did have some effect on how well they could use EBD?

  8. How much they must be ruing that disqualification in Melbourne. Mathematically they’d still be behind FI, but it would have been a much tighter fight till the end. But in the end 6th or 7th seems to be the usual finishing place for Sauber.

  9. Then again, why waste millions on developing a decent blown difuser if they are going to be banned in 2012? Worth remembering that Sauber don’t have pots of money to put into their cars like McLaren and Red Bull do, so my hope is that Sauber have put their dough towards the 2012 car instead. The midfield and backmarker teams can only spend so much before they have to think about next years car.

    1. And FI had it “for free” (well, with the engine, if they could afford the exhausts and designing the layout)

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