All change at Sauber as they strive to build on best-ever season

2013 F1 season preview

Nico Hulkenberg, Sauber, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013Sauber enjoyed is best season as an independent squad last year. But a welcome change of livery is only the most superficial change to have taken place at the Swiss outfit over the winter.

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

Nico Hulkenberg, Sauber, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013Hulkenberg starts his third F1 season with his third different team. Sauber only out-scored his former team by 17 points last year but arguably showed more unexploited potential.

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

Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013You couldn’t fail to notice Gutierrez’s potential in his two years of GP2 but nor could you overlook his propensity for mistakes.

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 C32

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.

1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Championship position 7 8 7 7 7 6 8 8 4 5 6 6 8 7 6
Wins 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

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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49 comments on All change at Sauber as they strive to build on best-ever season

  1. LoreMipsumdOtmElor said on 10th March 2013, 23:20

    This is the first year since I started watching in 94 that I won’t cross my fingers for Sauber. Exchanging Kamui for the astonishingly overrated Hülkenberg must be punished. I really hope they fail this year.

  2. BasCB (@bascb) said on 11th March 2013, 16:52

    a slight mistake slipped into the driver names (The team bade a sad farewell to Kamui Kobayashi but in Nick Hulkenberg have a driver of greater potential, ) @keithcollantine

  3. Shimks (@shimks) said on 11th March 2013, 20:16

    As a Brit living in Switzerland, Sauber is my home team. Although I by no means know the whole history of the team, I think the C31 was by far the best racing car the team have ever produced. Peter Sauber is well known for having an eye for exciting young talent but the shame is that Sauber seem to cash-in on their talent rather than hanging on to them. The decision to part ways with Kobayashi is a very strong indicator that Peter Sauber and Monisha Kaltenborn didn’t feel that this driver delivered on expectations, regardless how fondly I and many of you think of him. It was a real surprise to read today that Kamui has joined Ferrari, albeit not in F1, and I’m very happy for him. He seems like such a nice guy. I’m rambling.

    I think The Hulk is an exciting fast driver and Gutierrez is said to be no slouch, but regardless of the driver talent or the car, I think Sauber will take a step or two backwards this year. Two new drivers in a team does not usually create instant magic. I hope I’m wrong, of course.

    As for the car livery… well, pretty uninspiring, isn’t it. I’d like them to try something like HRT’s “THIS COULD BE YOU” design. Some one call Daniel Simon for them, please.

    (The Dove adverts are incredibly annoying.)

  4. Lin1876 (@lin1876) said on 11th March 2013, 21:42

    I expect Sauber to lead the midfield pack and occasionally give the big teams something to think about. Podiums are not out of the question if the cards fall their way, neither is a freak victory, but I think they will struggle to beat last year’s 6th place over a full season. If they do, it would be a story of a big team underperforming rather than Sauber overachieveing.

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