Sauber hold off Toro Rosso for seventh overall

2011 F1 season review

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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12 comments on Sauber hold off Toro Rosso for seventh overall

  1. magon4 (@magon4) said on 13th December 2011, 9:57

    Sauber needs to improve if they don’t want to fall back to 8th next season. I see Toro Rosso and Force India stronger, at least if the last races were any indication… and who knows, maybe even Williams can come back to some extent.

  2. This was the first full season of James Key with Sauber, least one expected them to finish ahead of Force India which has had exodus of technical staff… but thats not how it turned out. The team needs to figure out how it lost out the battle at the top both from car designing perspective & from race strategy point of view. They can’t always hope to do do one less stop than others hoping that tires will perform well.

  3. ajokay (@ajokay) said on 13th December 2011, 10:18

    I love Sauber (even with their Ferrari engine supply), and am happy top see them back from the BMW stranglehold that took away the reason that I loved them – the privateer spirit that they always had.

    If only they could claw their way back to where they were 10 years ago, 4th or 5th by the end of the season (their best outside of the BMW years), it would be brilliant to see. Trouble is it’s so close at the front now that it’s such a tough club to break into.

    With a brilliant start to the year (DSQ’s not withstanding… they still scored those points in my mind) I thought that this may have been it, with Kobayashi within spitting distance of a podium in the closing stages of a couple of the races. Shame the development too a turn for the worse.

    I really hope for better things next year. The drivers are obviously capable, and they seem to have a decent team behind them who have had a benefit of a year working together now.

    A better livery wouldn’t go amiss neither.

    • Totally agree, love the team and its drivers and glad they finished well in the season.

      Next year will be tricky, with Renault, Force India and STR all being part of the pack, and potentially Williams still being part of the fight and just maybe Caterham as well. I hope they do well, they seem like a nice bunch too, and have 2 exciting drivers to watch.

      A better livery would be a bonus, but I fear black & white will be on the car again. If thats the case, they need to make it more vivid then it has been.

    • If their decision not to develop the blown diffuser will help them next year, I’d love to see them battling with Force India and Renault. And possibly Mercedes if they don’t reach the top teams.

  4. Magnificent Geoffrey (@magnificent-geoffrey) said on 13th December 2011, 10:23

    I think Sauber have been unlucky this season. The DQ in Melbourne, Checo’s crash in Monaco and the blown diffuser ruling really put them on the back foot. I think that they also kept trying to force the ‘stop less than everyone else’ strategy too much after it worked in Melbourne and Kobayashi’s qualifying let him down near the end of the year. But I’m pleased they were able to hold off Toro Rosso in the end.

    I still think they have the most exciting, and easily the most likeable, young driver pairing on the grid and I’m encouraged that they’ll be able to build on a solid, stable foundation for 2012. Part of me can’t help but to have this nagging fear that Checo’s being groomed for Ferrari in 2013 and I will be gutted if that happens, but I would like nothing more in F1 than to see Sauber really get up there next year. And not just in 2012 either, I would love to see the team be able to work their way up to the front long-term. Sauber are a great team and they deserve success.

    • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 15th December 2011, 13:19

      @magnificent-geoffrey They certainly do. I really like them as a team. They have a nice balance of likeable drivers, a decent technical structure and history. It would be a little disconcerting to see Perez go to Ferrari but perhaps it’s one of the biggest compliments Ferrari can give to Sauber? Didn’t that happen with Raikkonen too?

  5. coefficient (@coefficient) said on 13th December 2011, 12:22

    Sauber are my jointl 2nd favourite team, tied with Williams.

    I really hope that both of these teams can make progress towards the front next year. Sauber certainly have the facilities at Hinwil, shame they can’t afford to exploit them to their full potential.

    James Key seems to produce very effective cars on a relativlely small budget, I wonder how he would fair with a Ferrari sized budget. Perhaps if he’d been present when BMW were in control they would have done really well.

    A James Key designed car with an extra $100m to spend on development could have brought the long awaited spoils of victory to Hinwil perhaps. Shame we’ll probably never know unless they can find a Red Bull-esque backer.

    Mind you, a couple more years of producing cars that punch above their weight and I’m sure the big teams will come knocking on his door.

  6. Joey-Poey (@joey-poey) said on 13th December 2011, 15:21

    I was reading up a bit on their history and I’m noticing a trend in their performance: great starts to the season only to drop off later on as they “spend time to focus on next year’s car.” I feel like this continues to bite them again and again. Like @ajokay I love their privateer spirit and dammit, how could you not enjoy a couple characters like Koby and Checo? But I want to see them straighten themselves out when it comes to development. With the right focus, they could continue to climb in points and finish higher in the final standing. Which means better funding and a bigger reward at the end of the season -which would only serve to help them. They can’t always be about next year. Sometimes you gotta stay in the now.

  7. TonyZZZBZ said on 14th December 2011, 16:51

    I totally agree with you about the livery.
    In general I think F1 teams should give more importance and consistency to their liveries. It would help them create a strong image and “brand”… Mclaren seem to have understood this and even after “West” left as a sponsor they sticked with the same colors.. Making a strong livery and a strong brand not only would help them sell and commercialize stuff, but would also increase the value of the team itself… Only the “brand” by itself its a great percentage of many companies value (Ferrari its a great example)…

  8. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 15th December 2011, 13:44

    A really, really promising start for Sauber this year. Australia was brilliant. I do agree that rules are rules but they just seemed on it from the word go. The got the tyres spot on and really took advantage where others didn’t or couldn’t.

    I would have liked more from Kobayashi and his audacious over-taking but perhaps he saw little point late in the season, given that the car wasn’t up to scratch. Respect to Sauber for not pushing the EBD. I’d like to think that they focussed their attention on 2012 and we can have another brilliant season opener from them.

    Perez did well, the best rookie of the season. Like I said in a previous comment, I really admired him for admitting when he wasn’t up to the job. In the all too fickle world of F1 you could be forgiven for thinking that your seat might be in jeopardy unless you’re there 100% of the time, regardless of your health.

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