Both of last year’s drivers have departed, along with the man who designed the highly effective C31 – a car that was a potential race-winner.
With Sergio Perez off to McLaren, fellow Escuderia Telmex driver Esteban Gutierrez arrives in his place.
The team bade a sad farewell to Kamui Kobayashi but in Nick Hulkenberg have a driver of greater potential, who came close to winning last year’s season finale.
Errors by team and driver allowed a potential win to slip through their fingers in Malaysia part year. If the C32 is as effective as its predecessor, Hulkenberg has to be a candidate for podiums or better.
The car with its striking new colour scheme (a vast improvement on last year and chosen as the best on the grid by F1 Fanatic readers) features an unconventional sidepod treatment, inspired by the heavy side impact Perez suffered at Monaco two years ago. The jury’s out on whether it will produce the gains the team are hoping for.
The C32 has run reliably in testing, allowing Sauber to cover the most mileage of any team. But that might partly be a consequence of the team not having a simulator to work on the car with during the season. That could hold them back as the development race wears on later in the year.
Car 11: Nico Hulkenberg
As the experienced driver in the teams line-up, it falls to Hulkenberg to ensure fewer points are left on the table than the team gave up last year.
It’s worth remembering that Hulkenberg was returning after a year away last year season. After playing himself in the second half of his campaign featured some great performances, culminating in that memorable race in Brazil.
If he can carry that form into the new year he could produce some surprises.
Car 12: Esteban Gutierrez
However as he prepares to start his first season in F1 he is making all the right noises about staying out of trouble: “It doesn’t make sense to do a 120% risk when you are not fighting for something yet,” he said of his upcoming debut.
“Of course I’m looking into consolidation, I’m looking to create a good pace and my confidence and everything to then push the limits a little bit.”
Gutierrez said he expects the hardest part of his first weekend to be “the psychological point of view, I think, and qualifying. I think this will be the biggest challenges.”
His place at the team may be partly thanks to the backing of Telmex but his form in junior categories shows he has as F1 potential. He is certainly not the first driver to reach F1 with Sauber amid questions over whether he has enough experience – and Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa turned out alright.
Sauber championship form
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Sauber’s F1 debut, when they scored points for fifth place on their debut. They competed as BMW-Sauber from 2006 to 2010, and are now an independent team once more.
Sauber in 2013: Your view
Will Sauber improve on their strong 2012 season this year? And how will Hulkenberg fare with his latest team?
Have your say in the comments.
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Images ?é?® Sauber