Nick Heidfeld, Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber, Suzuka, 2010

Kobayashi stars as Sauber recover in 2010

2010 F1 season reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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

Browse all 2010 F1 season review articles