This team endured a torrid season as BMW in 2009. Until a late update to their car brought them within touching distance of the leaders in the final races.
Now back under the control of Peter Sauber, will they revert to their midfield role of the pre-BMW days, or get back on the upward curve which put Robert Kubica in contention for the title two years ago?
The Sauber C29 owes much to its predecessor, the F1.09. It also draws heavily on several popular design trends: high nose, shark fin and cutaway engine air intake.
After successive years of progress the team went down a blind alley with its 2009 development, wasting a lot of time on KERS. But by the end of the season the F1.09 had been licked into shape and Robert Kubica drove it to second place at Interlagos.
BMW had already canned its F1 project by then but the early performance of the C29 suggests that might have been a poor decision. In testing the car appeared to have good baseline speed, no major reliability concerns and is kind to its tyres.
The team has excellent resources at its Hinwil base but the almost total lack of sponsorship on the C29 does make you wonder if they can afford to use them to the full in the year ahead. They may not quite be the Brawn of 2009, but look for Sauber towards the front of the midfield where they stand a chance of grabbing the points that get the sponsors.
With Kubica off to Renault and Heidfeld not being retained, Sauber have a brand new driver pairing in 2010.
Pedro de la Rosa hasn’t raced since 2006 but his development abilities are first-rate – McLaren are disappointed to have lost him. With track testing very limited and more work being done on simulators, de la Rosa’s experience will be a boon for the team.
In Kamui Kobayashi Peter Sauber has made another of his characteristic gambles on a promising young talent. Kobayashi’s GP2 performances didn’t mark him out as a star of the future (although he did win the GP2 Asia title) but the ease with which he took to F1 with Toyota last year hinted at his potential.
His drives in Interlagos and Yas Island mixed desperation and inspiration but Sauber has proved a good environment for slightly wild young drivers to mature into race winners – like Felipe Massa.
The car looks strong and the team have an excellent technical base. Although technical director Willy Rampf is moving aside he’s handing over to James Key, who did great things with Force India’s aerodynamics last year.
An unproven driver line-up with one race-rusty driver and one rookie. How much development work can they get done on their budget?
Poll: championship position
In the past three seasons they’ve finished second, third and sixth. Where will the team finish as Sauber in 2010?
See all the articles in the F1 Fanatic 2010 Season Preview
2010 F1 season
Images (C) BMW Sauber F1 Team