MARCH 15, 2011
Sauber's James Key: we will see complicated and detailed strategy
Sauber technical director James Key echoed the sentiments of Ross Brawn when he said we can expect to see much more complex race strategies throughout the 2011 season.
At the centre of that will be the new F1 Pirelli control tyres.
"The characteristics are quite different to what we have been used to but I think this was by design," Key says. "The tyres certainly need managing on longer runs and in race conditions this is going to be crucial. There are various ways of dealing with them and we need to see how the strategy emerges in the first few races to optimise that.
"The rear tyres are a little bit stronger than we first thought they would be. In many ways the characteristics we expected from the tyres are there, so the balance of the car is close to what we expected. The tyres are quite peaky. The grip on the first lap is generally quite good, but then it needs managing. A good thing about them is there is a very clear difference between the two compounds, and that is something we have not seen in recent years.
"We will see more complicated and detailed strategies now. There will be more pit stops and the pit crew will be under more pressure, not just to ensure every pit stop is as quick as it can be, but also to react very quickly should the need or opportunity to change tyres comes up in a race as a much more critical part than it was before. Also, for the engineers on the pit wall strategic decisions are far less predictable. I'm sure we will learn a lot more about how to handle it in the first few races."
In some ways, an entirely new set of parameters is good news for Sauber as it means there is a relatively smaller penalty to be paid for a driver line-up comprising Kamui Kobayashi, with just one year of F1 experience, and rookie Mexican Sergio Perez. The team has covered a total of 5,841 kms in the 15 days of testing at Valencia, Jerez and Barcelona, split 2,885/2,956 respectively between Kobayashi and Perez.
"Sergio has developed very well," Key says. "His feedback has improved on a test by test basis, as has his confidence in the car. He made a good effort when we did our race and qualifying runs at the last Barcelona test. He drove the car for the first time on low fuel and new tyres, and went quicker and quicker. Kamui is dealing with his new lead role very professionally. He's got a bit of work to do in adapting to the tyres, because he is used to the tyres of the previous supplier, while Sergio isn't, so it's a little bit more difficult but Kamui but it's a pleasure to work with him."
Like much of the F1 paddock, Key is not quite sure what to expect performance-wise come Melbourne next week. Last year, Sauber initially looked very strong in testing but that did not translate in the opening races.
"I think we have been quite honest with the way we have been testing, and ran lower fuel levels only on the last two days in Barcelona, which gave us a little bit more of an idea of where the car is," he says. "It looks quite tight but it's really difficult to judge. The good news is that the fairly big update we took to the second Barcelona test for the start of the season seems to have worked the way we hoped it would. We also have some big updates planned and will bring several new parts to the second race."