Sauber fall to seventh despite late-season surge

2013 F1 season review

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After an excellent 2012 campaign which included a best-ever haul of four podiums, and the arrival of stand-out midfield driver Nico Hulkenberg during the off-season, this year promised much for Sauber.

When the covers came off the C32 its daringly tapered sidepods commanded much attention – as did its smart new colour scheme – raising hopes the team would be genuine top-five contenders this year.

Sauber team stats 2013

Best race result (number)4 (1)
Best grid position (number) 3 (1)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other) 4 (1/3)
Laps completed (% of total) 2,063 (90.88%)
Laps led (% of total) 10 (0.88%)
Championship position (2012)7 (6)
Championship points (2012)57 (126)
Pit stop performance ranking6

It didn’t come to pass. Hulkenberg’s failure to even start the first race of the year due a problem with his car’s fuel system set the tone for a disappointing start to the season.

Eleven races in Sauber had just seven points to show for their efforts, all amassed by Hulkenberg. Rear tyre degradation trouble was a common theme of the first part of the year.

But their fortunes changed for the better in the second half of the season, beginning with a superb qualifying performance by Hulkenberg in Italy.

He lined up third on the grid with only the Red Bulls in front of him. The two Ferraris demoted him by the end of the race but this was still a valuable fifth place finish which immediately raised the team to seventh in the points standings – where they eventually finished.

Hulkenberg went one better in Korea, keeping Fernando Alonso at arm’s length and making an opportunistic pass on Lewis Hamilton to claim a brilliant fourth place. Sauber briefly looked set to chase down the struggling Force India, particularly after Esteban Gutierrez contributed his first points of the season in Japan, though they ran out of races to catch their rivals.

What was behind their mid-season transformation? Monisha Kaltenborn, in her first full year as team principal, credited their Hungaroring aerodynamic upgrade as “a big step for us”.

Though she maintained this accounted for more than half of the gains they made, Kaltenborn conceded Pirelli’s mid-season tyre alterations had also aided their cause. “We benefited maybe more than others from it,” she said, while pointing out the reverse had been true during 2012.

It was a challenging year for Sauber off the track as well. The team’s financial problems became public after it emerged they had fallen behind on payments to Hulkenberg. He has since confirmed a return to Force India next year.

The need for a cash injection has led the team to arrange a new deal with Russian backers. However this may require them to place the somewhat inexperienced Sergey Sirotkin in one of their cars next year.

Sauber drivers 2013 race results

Nico Hulkenberg810121511101011135946191468
Esteban Gutierrez131218111320141414131211715131312

Sauber’s 2013 season in pictures

2013 F1 season review

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Images © Sauber

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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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9 comments on “Sauber fall to seventh despite late-season surge”

  1. Dropping Kobayashi for Gutierrez has to go down for me as one of the worst driver trades made by a team in recent memory.

    1. Just one of the prime examples of pay drivers I’m afraid! I do miss that midfield flare, we’ve only really got that from Hulk this year (end of the season) and with Bottas throwing in a few dandy efforts here and there. When you have RBR leading the majority of laps through out the season a lively top 10 cars always keeps me keen to watch a predictable RBR win.

      1. Gutierrez replaced Perez my friend…Hulk replaced Kobayashi, not such a bad move from Sauber I reckon…

    2. The ideal would have been a Hulkenberg-Kobayashi pairing. But unfortunately, they say Gutierrez needed to replace the money brought in by Perez, so it was Hulkenberg who was really swapped in for Kobayashi.

    3. Gutierrez replaced Perez my friend…Hulk replaced Kobayashi, not such a bad move from Sauber I reckon…

  2. Seeing Sauber come back at the end of the season was one of the highlights for me! Kinda kept me coming back and kept me interested in 2nd half. Don’t get me wrong I was awe struck by Vettels dominance but the fun and excitement element was definitely generated by Hulk and his revived Sauber.

    1. @kartingjimbo – “Seeing Sauber come back at the end of the season was one of the highlights for me!”

      Likewise here. It was quite gratifying to watch Hulkenberg show what he could do with a decent car. My hope for 2014 is to see the good mid-pack teams have cars competitive enough to give their drivers a chance to show what they can do on any given Sunday.

  3. If they want a Russian how about someone experienced like Petrov?

  4. I wonder if we’ll see those daringly tapered sidepods return next year. If the new cars can be similarly packaged then this innovation might be applied by a few more teams.

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