Midway through 2009 BMW announced their withdrawal from Formula 1 and put their team up for sale. Problems with the sale meant a last minute rescue deal by former owner Peter Sauber to ensure that the team stayed on the grid for 2010.
Using the car that was still being developed during BMW’s control of the team, Sauber secured a Ferrari engine deal & signed Pedro de la Rosa to partner Kamui Kobayashi.
Quick preseason test times had everyone wondering if F1 would see a repeat of the Brawn scenario from 2009, but in reality the Sauber C29 was nowhere near the pace of the front runners.
Sauber did make improvements to the car, and were the second team to race with the ‘f’-duct at the Australian Grand Prix. Signing James Key from the Force India team to head up their technical department caused a change in fortunes, which helped in focusing the team to get the best out of the car. BMW left behind impressive facilities in Hinwil, Sauber’s wind tunnel has been online for a number of years now & BMW had heavily invested in updating the CFD capabilities at the team.
Pedro de la Rosa struggled to get back to the pace of Formula 1 after being out since 2006 and was replaced mid season by Nick Heidfeld, returning to the team he left at the end of the previous year after being contracting as test driver for Pirelli. Kamui Kobayashi impressed everyone with his 3 races at Toyota at the end of 2009 & it was enough to warrant a full time drive. Impressive results at Valencia when he overtook Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Buemi the final laps were a highlight of his season. Results were mixed though & the team suffered a lot of engine failures with the Ferrari powerplant.
The car was devoid of sponsorship during 2010, with only a handful of race by race deals being present. This would have had an effect on the budget of the team, which in turn would have hampered development during the season. Keeping the BMW name was important, as it meant that the team would be able to keep the prize money it had won in its former guise.
This season, Sauber go into the year with some stability behind the scenes. What they have learnt from 2010 will carry over into this year & they should have a car that sees them race around the middle of the grid. Kobayashi stays with the team after an impressive rookie year, to be joined by Sergio Perez. The Mexican brings much needed sponsorship to the team & that will no doubt help them to push the development of the car harder with the facilities they have at their disposal.
The Japanese driver joined the Sauber team after competing in 3 races for Toyota at the end of 2009. While racing for the Japanese team, he showed an aggressive nature and was rewarded with a full time drive in the Sauber team for 2010.
Early non-finishes were mainly related to reliability, Sauber suffered numerous front wing failures at the Australian Grand Prix, but with more time in the car, Kobayashi ended the season with eight points finishes.
An aggressive strategy helped Kobayashi finish 7th at Valencia, where he overtook Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Buemi while on fresh tyres in the closing stages of the race. Following that with a 6th place at the British Grand Prix was the best result Kobayashi gained through the season.
With his rookie year behind him, and Sauber pushing to improve the new C30, which includes using Ferrari KERS, should help the young Japanese driver to achieve more points finishes. Inexperience in F1 development may hamper him and the team to push on as they chase the teams around them, but his aggressive nature and commitment to overtaking will keep driving the team forward.
The 21 year old Mexican comes into Sauber for the 2011 season after competing in GP2 in 2010 and finishing 2nd in the standings with 5 wins through the season. Signing for Sauber also opens up much needed sponsorship opportunities for the team in 2011, but it is not the main reason they have signed Perez.
Taking part in the post season young drivers test, his times were fairly comparable to those of Kobayashi through the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. He also took part in the post season Pirelli test to give him a better understanding of the new tyres as he gears up for his debut.
In his rookie year, the Mexican must try and carry his form and pace from the post season tests into 2011 in order to keep up with his team mate. If he can start the season close to Kobayashi’s pace and maybe even qualify and finish ahead of his team mate, this would be seen as a good season for Perez. As with Maldonado, he would have to prove that he is in Formula 1 on merit, and not just due to the money that he is bringing to the team.