Sergio Perez, Sauber, Melbourne, 2011

Sauber hold off Toro Rosso for seventh overall

2011 F1 season reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Sergio Perez, Sauber, Melbourne, 2011
A rear wing infraction cost Sauber points in Australia

Both Saubers finished in the points in the opening race of 2011.

But the two cars were thrown out of the race due to a technical infringement.

The lost points almost cost them seventh place in the championship at the end of the season.

It was a particularly harsh blow for Sergio Perez, the team’s impressive new recruit who deserved to keep what would have equalled his best finish of the year.

His one-stopping run to seventh, in a race where several other drivers made three visits to the pits, saw him voted Driver of the Weekend by F1 Fanatic readers.

Sauber team stats 2011

Best race result (number) 5 (1)
Best grid position (number) 7 (1)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other) 9 (5/4)
Laps completed (% of total) 1,975 (87.16%)
Laps led (% of total) 0 (0%)
Championship position (2010) 7th (8th)
Championship points (2010) 44 (44)
Pit stop performance ranking 8th

It’s doubtful that Sauber’s relatively minor rear wing infraction conferred anything in the way of an advantage on the two cars, but rules are rules. The team responded in the best way possible, raking in points over the subsequent races, with Kamui Kobayashi accounting for most of their haul in the first half of the year.

Perez’s season suffered a serious setback in Monaco. Having reached Q3 for the first time he lost control of his car and crashed heavily at the chicane. Though unhurt, he was unable to start the race.

He returned to the cockpit in Montreal but showed considerable maturity as he conceded after practice that he wasn’t fit enough to race, and handed the car over to Pedro de la Rosa.

Meanwhile Kobayashi racked up 25 points in the first seven races and was within striking distance of the two Renault drivers. He had an especially strong run in Canada, briefly holding second in the wet conditions before slipping back.

Sergio Perez, Sauber, Monaco, 2011
A serious crash in Monaco disrupted Perez's season

But the points dried up over much of the following races as the team slipped behind in the development race. Kobayashi explained: “We had a promising winter testing and a strong start to the season. In the beginning we had every reason to be happy with our performance.

“Later, I would say from the British Grand Prix onwards, which was the ninth out of 19 races, 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.”

The C30’s easiness on its tyres served it will in races early in the year, allowing its drivers to gain places by making fewer pit stops. But as the other teams improved their tyre use, Sauber struggled, and the characteristics of its tyre use increasingly became a liability in qualifying:

“It was tough when we knew we were struggling with our general performance due to the direction we had chosen for technical development, and especially the weakness in qualifying was not always easy to cope with,” added Kobayashi.

Sauber’s alternative strategies increasingly failed to pay off. In Valencia Kobayashi two-stopped, Perez came in once, but both finished out of the points.

Kobayashi finished out of the points for much of the second half of the season. But Perez, who admitted it took him four races to get back on top form following his crash, continued to add to his haul.

Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber, Montreal, 2011
Kobayashi had a strong race in Canada

It wasn’t all plain sailing for the rookie, who collected four race penalties during the year including two in the Chinese Grand Prix after clashes with rivals.

But he delivered a marvellous performance at Suzuka, climbing from 17th on the grid to finish eighth despite being unwell. He even played a trick on his team by telling them the car had lost power as he headed for the finishing line.

Kobayashi endured a seven-race points drought which finally ended in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. His timing couldn’t have been better, as Toro Rosso had just drawn level with the team in the constructors’ championship.

Ninth place for Kobayashi in Brazil settled the matter in Sauber’s favour, but it had been a close-run thing.

Last year was a season of consolidation for Sauber having coming to terms with the departure of BMW. James Key’s neat and effective C30 helped them gain a place over their 2010 finishing position.

Life in the midfield is not likely to get any easier next year. But with their two promising young talents re-signed for 2012 Sauber have every chance of continuing their progress forward.

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Image ?? Sauber F1 Team