JANUARY 31, 2011
Launch feature: Sauber C30
The launch of the new Sauber C30 at Valencia is, the team hopes, the beginning of an upturn cycle after a difficult 2010 after BMW withdrew from the sport at the end of the previous season. Although team principal Peter Sauber says that the 2011 budget is "similar" to last year, when BMW is understood to have supported the team, he also said that "a second year with a white car was not possible."
The C30 will use a Ferrari engine, gearbox and drive train and the team will benefit from the Mexican Telmex investment, which comes along with Mexico's Sergio Perez and third driver Esteban Gutierrez.
Technical director James Key, who arrived at Hinwil after the C29 had already done four grands prix last year, has had the opportunity to lead a co-ordinated programme on the C30, taking advantage of Sauber's impressive wind tunnel and CFD capability, a legacy of the BMW days.
New signing Perez is also a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy. CEO Monisha Kaltenborn, 39, F1's first female business operations head and formerly a lawyey with Fritz Kaiser Group, explained: "He is part of that programme and it can only enhance his capability and gain him experience because he comes into F1 and can't prepare himself really well, so any chance he can get on the simulator can only enhance his capability and compliment his development as a driver.
Peter Sauber, Key and Kaltenborn were all on hand in Valencia to give their thoughts on Sauber's season ahead:
Q: What were the biggest challenges you faced with the 2011 car?
Key: The biggest challenge was on the aerodynamic side with the new diffuser. It changed the way the car worked in many respects because the old diffusers were very powerful. The installation of KERS was a challenge too, but possibly the biggest one is trying to predict what the tyres will do.
Q: Why will KERS be more significant in 2011?
Key: In 2009 only two teams ended up using it full time and there were two drawbacks. First, it was very early technology for F1. Second, there were installation drawbacks. We had completely different aero regulations and so it wasn't easy to concentrate on one of those projects at a time, which is not the case anymore. And there were also packaging and weight distribution implications. This year it's a bit more performance neutral with KERS on the car. There's a weight increase of 20kgs over last year and a weight distribution regulation as well, which was primarily for the tyres. Ours is a Ferrari KERS and it's a user-friendly design for a customer team and hasn't really affected too much of the architecture of the car, which we looked at from May onwards with KERS in mind.
Q: How significant have Sauber's wind tunnel and CFD facilities been?
Key: With the rear wing we needed to use the wind tunnel and CfD extensively and the tunnel especially was very useful for that. The Sauber tunnel is at a very high level and when it comes to something like the moveable rear wing, it's good to have those tools.
Q: What is the thinking behind Perez? Is it primarily money?
Key: We spotted that he was doing very well in GP2 in just his second season and we had a very good experience with Kamui last year, who showed talent. It's tough as a rookie though and very close between teams, so a big challenge. He's trained a lot, is very keen to get in the car and we've made it plain we're here to support him. By the Bahrain test we need to be in a position where he feels comfortable. He also has a good reference with Kamui that is going to be useful for him.
Q: What are the goals for 2011?
Sauber: To score points as often as possible and improve our position in the constructors' championship.
Key: To reflect on what Peter said, also to try and make a step forward on where we left off last year. We also want to continue some trends which we pursued in 2010 but weren't able to complete with C29. We want a more useable and mechanically more stable car and try to take us on to regular point scoring.
Q: What's the thinking behind another grey car?
Kaltenborn: We call it graphite and not grey, which is important to out team principal!.
Q: How do you feel about a 20-race season?
Sauber: For me it's a maximum. Maybe it's too much. It's only one race more, 5%, and I think nothing will change, but it's a lot. Not only for the mechanics, I have to go to 20 races as well!
Q: Will the moveable rear wing solve F1's overtaking issues?
Key: It's difficult to tell. I don't think there's any single solution. I think it would be a dangerous thing to go too far with these things. It's down to the capability of the driver and the car at the end of the day. I think we had a good position with Kamui last year. He was a fighter and he attacked and he didn't have any devices to help him. It was down to him and the way we worked strategies. It's been discussed a great deal, how we regulate it and so there is a bit of freedom for the FIA to make it not too easy and not too difficult.
In some ways it replaces the F-duct because pretty much everyone had those by the end of last year. I guess the race craft is going to be slightly different and there's a slight compromise there because it's tempting to run a lot of draggy downforce for qualifying if potentially you have a very effective rear wing. But in the race if you are left on your own and you can't use it, then maybe there's a performance penalty. So there's all sorts of technical and strategic considerations for how we use it as teams. Whether it solves overtaking we'll have to wait and see. I think it should certainly be better and spice things up but it has to be done in a controlled manner.
Q: How much downforce has been lost with the banning of doible diffusers, and how much will teams claw back?
Key: We've lost a fair chunk because the double diffuser was powerful. I think what has been surprising is that these diffusers not quite so difficult to develop as thought, so the numbers have returned to reasonable values and I think through the season people will be going back to similar levels as 2010.
Q: How has the team progressed since you joined?
Key: The team has changed tremendously over the past 10 months I've been here. There was the process of downsizing and also last year's car had reliability issues so it was fragile, but everyone worked incredibly hard at pulling it round and having designed the C30 as a smaller group it feels a lot more gelled together and has far more of the efficient small team feel about it. Communications flow well, people are pushing hard and there's good team spirit. Several people have come to me and said the team is in much better shape now with the stability and direction we've set out for C30. It feels different - in an entirely positive way.