Sauber face tough midfield competition in 2012

2012 F1 season preview

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Sauber are entering their third season since returning to independent team status following the departure of BMW.

They moved up the order in 2011 but face a challenge to continue their progress this year in the face of stronger midfield opposition.

Continuity in their driver line-up will help their cause, with Kamui Kobayashi remaining alongside Sergio Perez.

Car 14: Kamui Kobayashi

In his second full season last year, Kobayashi shook off his reputation for wildness yet continued to distinguish himself as one of F1’s best wheel-to-wheel racers.

Heading into his third season of Formula 1, Kobayashi’s future prospects are limited by how far he can take the Sauber – or whether he can attract the attention of a front-running team.

The problem is, he’s up against another driver in the same team who’s trying to do exactly the same thing. And towards the end of last year Kobayashi found it increasingly difficult to contain his ever-improving team mate.

That will make for an intriguing contest between the two this year.

Car 15: Sergio Perez

A dreadful crash in Monaco disrupted Sergio Perez’s rookie season. He later admitted the after-effects of the crash stayed with him longer than the two races he missed,.

Even so, despite the occasional wild moment, he had a very strong rookie campaign. Ferrari have shown serious interest in Perez, who is on their development programme and had a test in their F2009 last year.

He has even been tipped as a potential replacement for Felipe Massa in 2013.

Competition for the seat will be fierce but displacing Kobayashi as team leader would be the best way for Perez to mark himself out as a legitimate candidate.

Sauber C31

Sauber have a reputation for starting championships in better form than they finish them, one which is generally deserved.

Peter Sauber said the team need to perform more consistently this year: “We’re aiming to start the new season as strongly as we did in 2011, but then also to maintain this level of performance throughout the year.

“Our goal is to finish regularly in the points so as to put ourselves in a significantly better position in the world championship.”

Last year the team lost ground mainly because they couldn’t make the exhaust-blown diffuser concept work as well as their closest competitors could. They ended the season under serious pressure from Toro Rosso.

Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber, Barcelona, 2012

The loss of technical director James Key three days before the launch of the Sauber C31 is a setback. However Perez believes the team are heading into the new season in better shape than they were in 12 months ago.

He told Autosport yesterday: “I think we know our car a lot better than we did last year at the start of the season.

“We know of course that Melbourne will be a surprise for everybody, it was like that every day [in testing] I think, but we more or less know where we are going to be and how competitive we are.”

The C31 is outwardly similar to their 2011 car. Key differences include more tapered sidepods, tighter packaging at the rear of the car, and of course the near-ubiquitous stepped nose.

It remains to be seen whether, like its predecessor, it will be similarly kind to its tyres – which could prove useful given the softer compounds being used this year.

In a tight midfield contest, Sauber’s slightly more experienced driver pairing, compared to rivals Force India and Toro Rosso, could count in their favour.

Sauber’s championship form

Sauber raced as BMW-Sauber between 2007 and 2010 (they retained the name in the final year despite BMW’s departure at the end of 2009).

Championship position78777688456687

Sauber in 2012: Your view

Do you think Sauber will make progress in 2012?

Who will come out on top between Kobayashi and Perez?

Have your say in the comments.

2012 F1 season preview

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Image © F1 Fanatic/Jamey Price

Author information

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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33 comments on “Sauber face tough midfield competition in 2012”

  1. New season, new opportunity.

    I think retaining both their young, exciting drivers for a second season will be of great help to them. A team like Sauber need to be thinking long-term, I believe, and having that continuity in their driver line-up should hopefully be a big help for them.

    Like you mention, the team have trouble with in-season development and that is the absolute critical issue in F1 these days if you really want to compete strongly. I hope things go well for the team, I’d love to see them take the fight to Force India and push for that 5th place. (But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?)

    1. Do you think Sauber will manage to retain Perez next year or will he move to Ferrari?

      1. I think that completely depends on the health of one Robert Kubica.

        1. if perez leaves esteban gutierrez would replace him.

    2. Fully agree with that MAG, especially Perez who had a few races to recover from that Monaco crash last year, and I hope that Kobayashi will be able to show his nack for overtaking more often this coming season as well.

  2. On testing performance I think they will be fighting Ferrari for 6th place but will lose out because of Alonso.

  3. I want Kamui to go to a big team more then any other driver so I seriously hope he has a good season.
    I also hope Sergio has a good season and I would love to see him at Ferrari!
    Lets see if they achieve a podium!

  4. So the Enstone outfit get the Lotus results up to 1994, but Sauber aren’t the same team as BMW Sauber? I don’t really have a problem with the decision going either way, but this seems to be one going each way which is a bit odd. I’d have said “Team Lotus”, “Lotus Racing” and “Lotus F1 team” aren’t substantially more similar than “Sauber”, “BMW Sauber” and “Sauber F1 Team”.

    1. @ilanin My reasoning is consistent – you can read it here.

      To take the FIA’s entry list for 2010 as an example, under ‘constructor’ we find a team called Lotus and a team called BMW Sauber, and no team called Sauber:

      For 2011 we have Lotus and Sauber:

      And for 2012 we have Lotus (the previous Lotus having become Caterham and Renault having become Lotus) and Sauber:

      1. So Fernandez Lotus = Proton Lotus?

      2. @keithcollantine AHHH my brain! It burns! D:

      3. But keith the Lotus we have now isn’t “Team Lotus” is just “Lotus”. Fernantes team run one year as just Lotus and another as “Team Lotus”, strangely enough they ain’t the same team because “Team Lotus” is actually a different lapel.
        So no achievement of “Team Lotus”(all the old lotus years and last year’s Caterham) should count for this Lotus. The “Team” is there as an importand part of the name to show that is not the same name.

        1. @solo

          But Keith the Lotus we have now isn’t “Team Lotus” is just “Lotus”.

          That’s not the case, and again I refer you to the official entry lists (links above).

          Last year there was a team entered as Team Lotus with the constructor name of Lotus.

          This year there is a team entered as Lotus F1 Team with the constructor name of Lotus.

  5. You have to feel a bit sorry for Kamui. Not so many years ago he would have been swept into a team on a wave of cash and engine deals from the likes of Canon, Panasonic, Honda and Toyota – purely for being Japanese. Then along comes, possibly, the most talented driver Japan has ever produced and he gets stuck in an able, but low budget team, with only a couple of NEC stickers on his car. This guy can actually drive, so where’s the cash!?

    1. On the other hand, it makes it easier to appreciate his talent for what it is – more so than some previous Japanese drivers who kept getting a bite of the F1 cherry but only ever in Japanese-engined cars.

      1. Yeh I think if anything it’s almost the opposite, isn’t it.

        I think the Japanese drivers were shoved in to F1 before they were ready/perhaps didn’t quite have the talent, because they were purely Japanese and the big companies/sponsors wanted a Japanese driver representing the country.

        Now Kamui is there because of his raw talent, rather than his nationality.

        1. OmarR-Pepper (@)
          8th March 2012, 13:21

          @ecwdanselby Takuma Sato had talent and podiums for BAR (later Honda), and then came Nakajima who was an acceptable driver, so I don’t buy that one of “not ready” Japanese drivers. Probably Sinji Nakano, but that’s like 2 generations ago.

      2. That is very true. I wish it was always the case but, without sounding too dramatic, the Japanese have been steadily loosing interest in F1 for years. So if he were to lose his seat to a pay driver that could potentially spell the end for their involvement in F1, which would be horrendous. No more Suzuka, no more Honda engined marvels (their engines used to be great, their cars… were a work in progress.)

        A worst case scenario, I know, but once those pound signs flash up in Bernie’s eyes who knows what will happen.

        1. the Japanese have been steadily loosing interest in F1 for years.

          I’d amend that to read, Japanese companies, and it’s probably due first to Japan being hit hard by the GFC and now all the problems they are having.

          1. I’d amend that to read, Japanese companies

            Not at all. The viewing figures for F1 in Japan have more than halved in the past 20 years.

            Japan being hit hard by the GFC

            Don’t forget the one they had in 1997.

          2. I’d amend that to read, Japanese companies

            Not at all. The viewing figures for F1 in Japan have more than halved in the past 20 years.

            Which Kobayashi says is at least partially down to it not being available free to air any more.

          3. It doesn’t really matter why they have fallen, just that they have.

            It’s difficult to make a case for people being interested in a sport they are not watching.

            There is a still a free to air F1 show, it’s just not live, and their viewing figures have fallen dramatically too.

    2. And to think, he was one piece of slightly more secured ballast from not getting the chance to race at all.

      I can’t imagine his GP2 exploits (or lack thereof) would have been enough to convince Sauber to take him on.

  6. Two exiting drivers, hard to split them.

    I think it will me tough for sauber to make any progress this year, Lotus and Force India both promising in testing.

  7. This years car isn’t as kind on it’s tires as last years. They’ve changed the suspension to help get heat into the tires for qualifying, which has done the trick, but it means they use their tires faster. Personally I think this is good for Kobayashi and Perez as it will force Sauber to play attacking strategies instead of the boring 1 stop long games they were trying to pull at every opportunity.

    1. Given that Pirelli have shaken things up with the tyres and made them softer still, I expect that it’s going to be difficult to draw too many conclusions about how teams react to the new compounds until we’ve got a few races out of the way.

  8. I love both of these drivers. Love their style. In fact it reminded me that I don’t really hate any one driver anymore… Everyone is friendly and nice, even schumacher for Pete’s sake! And none of the drivers despise each other either, even Alonso and Hamilton get on. If only Webber and Vettel were in different teams!

    I don’t want to sound like I’m preaching hate or something, but F1 really could do with a few bitter rivalries to add a bit of spice. Massa and Hamilton showed promise I guess but its no Prost-Senna, Hill-Schumacher, etc…

    Gone are the days of Frentzen stealing Schumi’s wife, or was it the other way around? Sorry gone off topic.

    1. Yea we need a rivalry maybe Vettel vs Button this year
      Or we can have a suprise this year the cars look close
      this year in preseason testing

    2. Don’t worry. The Mclaren looks stronger this year so Lewis is gonna be up there and wreck someone important this year instead.

  9. I think Perez is a great prospect. Remember he missed the two races where Sauber were strongest (Monaco and Canada), and didn’t bounce back fully until they were on the downhill later in the season. This kid is special, mark my words.

    Feel sorry for Kamui, though. His battling skills have less of an effect in this DRS age, and the top is so tight that I don’t see him going much further up. I think Perez will beat him to a Ferrari seat (purely because of his links at Maranello), and Red Bull will always go for one of their own. I think he just has to sit back and hope for a great Sauber to come along one of these years. He’s still young yet, so that’s always a possibility.

    1. So right about the regulation. The more sensitive tyres, full tanks and DRS take away a big advantage from hard racers and good overtakers. Actually i believe that’s a big part of the reason drivers like Hamilton and Kamui had problems with their teammates.

      Since Red Bull are going for drivers in their program and Ferrari don’t seem to have much appetite for him then he can only wish that ether Button or Lewis decide that they don’t like Mclaren. As i see it the only ones from the top teams that might give him a little serious thought if they find themselves with an empty seat is Mclaren.
      There is also Mercedes that will definitely improve as it goes but they have Di Resta and the Hulk to choose so yeah nothing from there ether.

  10. Well, Kamui certainly seems to be the best driver to come out of Japan for quite a while… I just hope Sauber keeps being top dog on the midfield…

    As for Rivalries…. well, I do believe Massa-Hamilton was quite a good one last season, although I doubt they will continue it in 2012. I know Lewis is just much better than Massa and I think they probably won´t bump into each other that much in this season.

    As for what @F1 98 said, I honestly don´t see that as a good rivalry… Vettel is supposed to be the best… why would he have an ongoing rivalry against a 1 time champ and all in all, an average driver? The only thing I see Button going on for himself is his smoothe style of driving. He can really manage his tyres or at least that is what they want us to believe but, honestly… there are far more exciting drivers in the grid than button. Just look at his team mate… Lewis is a far superior driver than Jenson… He just had some bad luck and some crappy calls by MW on the wall….
    I believe any other driver like Hamilton, Alonso, Webber and even Schumi would make for better rivalry… Button is just plain in my eyes…. But hey… lets see what happens this season.
    The way they “scripted” last season´s end… Button seems to be the succesor…. Mark my words! And not because he is good, it´s because of something else… too long to write… but yeah… I believe you probably will get that rivalry this year… as boring as it may be….

  11. Pretty disappointing end of the season for Sauber in the end last year. Melbourne seemed to sum it up for them really!

    If they can deliver on the tyres front as well as they did at the beginning of lats year and can keep up with development pace they should have a stronger year. They’re two big if’s though.

    Fortunately I think they have a pretty solid driver line-up. I do hope we get to see Kobayashi display some of his late-2010 flare. I think he probably thought there was little point in over-taking as well as he can, if his advantage was only going to be negated by DRS.

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