Team 7: Sauber

On the seventh day of Christmas, Ben Sweeney gave to me… Sauber.

(c) The Checkered Flag

Sauber are the first team that I have reviewed so far, that kept their 2011 line up. Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez took their seats in preparation for their 2012 campaign, starting off very well with a 6th for Kobayashi and 8th for Perez down-under. It was certainly a far more successful start then they had in 2011 when both cars were disqualified after the first round, for a slightly too big rear wing part.

In Malaysia, the team came heart-wrenchingly close to a win at the hands of Sergio Perez. The rising star had started the race in 10th but after a fantastic show of talent, the young Mexican was storming after Fernando Alonso in the mixed conditions. He had the win for the taking until he lost it, going wide at a corner allowing the gap to the leader, Fernando Alonso to increase, not to be decreased in the remaining few laps. Kamui Kobayashi on the other hand, retired the car when his brakes began to fail mid-race. Yet, Sauber were left with a fighting spirit going to the Chinese Grand Prix when Kobayashi finished 10th (and set the fastest lap), ahead of his team-mate in 11th.

Perez repeated his 11th place in Bahrain when he finished ahead of his team-mate in 13th. Spain saw Kamui Kobayashi finishing in a respectable 5th place while Perez was taken out of the race, a missing wheel nut to blame.

Sergio Perez was involved in a disgraceful incident with Pastor Maldonado during FP3 at Monaco. Perez was driving in front of Maldonado, not even holding him up, and moved over to let the Venezuelan through. Whatever went through Maldonado’s head led him to smash sideways into Perez, sending the Mexican into the barrier. The William’s driver then crashed just seconds after the crash due to damage, and Perez crashed very heavily in Q1 when an undetected fracture on the steering column, as a result of the Maldonado crash, failed and sent him straight on.

Luckily, Perez’s shunt was no comparison to his 2011 smash into the barriers. Kobayashi on the other hand qualified in 12th. Kamui perfected the tire-preservation by keeping the Pirelli’s off the ground. He was launched into the air following the Grosjean fueled pile up at the start of the race and had to retire with damage. Perez, starting from the back, managed to avoid the carnage and made it to take 11th, setting the fastest lap of the race on his way to the checkered flag.

He carried this pace to Montreal where, after a fantastic battle, he finished 3rd, starting from 15th! Kobayashi also made it into the points when he finished 9th, gifting Sauber with their first double points finish since Australia. Valencia saw Perez salvaging 9th while Kobayashi tested Felipe Massa’s sidepod when he outbraked himself and T-boned the unfortunate Brazilian. Kamui was handed a 5 place grid penalty for Silverstone but no fine.

In Silverstone, Maldonado spun Perez out of the race while trying to clumsily overtake him on the outside into Luffield. An angry Perez was forced to retire and lambasted Maldonado saying “Everybody has concerns about him. He is a driver who doesn’t know that we are risking our lives and has no respect at all. Just look at the last race. He ruined Hamilton’s race (in Valencia), he ruined my race in Monaco by doing stupid things. I don’t understand why the stewards don’t take a serious decision with him. With Pastor they’re not doing anything that will teach him a lesson”. Kobayashi finished 11th in the race.

Germany was a fantastic race for the team and they went on to have Kobayashi finish 4th (promoted from 5th following a penalty for Vettel) and Perez finishing in 6th but followed it up with disappointing 14th for Perez and 18th for Kobayashi in Hungary.

(c) GrandPrix.com

Sauber were probably the most unfortunate team in Belgium. A fantastic qualifying, particularly for Kobayashi who started the race in 2nd, foreshadowed a massive pile up caused by an idiotic, careless and down right dangerous manoeuvre by Grosjean which took out Sergio Perez, Alonso, Hamilton and severely damaged Kobayashi’s car, leading to the Japanese driver’s retirement from the race.

Perez spared no time and gave the team something to smile about in Monza when he finished 2nd place, behind Hamilton this time, again showing fantastic talent. It was now very strongly suspected that Perez would be at Ferrari for 2013. Kobayashi also finished in the points, albeit it down in 9th.

They were in the wars in Singapore. Perez lost some of his front wing to Hulkenberg’s Force India while Hulkenberg tried unsuccessfully to overtake Kobayashi and left the Jap without a front wing. Webber made it successfully passed Kobayashi but the Aussie was penalised for overtaking off track limits, giving Kobayashi 13th and Perez 10th.

Japan was a mixed race for the team. Perez was really flying and overtook a sleepy Hamilton into the hairpin in a fantastic manoeuvre. When he tried the same feat several laps later after a pit stop, the Mexican lost the car under braking and spun into the gravel and out of the race. Kobayashi however, was in the form of his life and finished in a fantastic 3rd place, taking his first podium at his home Grand Prix.

Perez was confirmed at McLaren for 2013 post-haste when McLaren learned of Lewis Hamilton’s shuffle to Mercedes after Schumacher retired and left a gap. He finished 11th in Korea while his team-mate Kamikazed into Jenson Button at the 3rd corner, taking himself and Button out of the race.

In India, Perez had a cold (ah, crather) and sat out both Friday practice sessions, being replaced by Esteban Gutierrez who showed no massive pace, despite being strongly linked as Perez’s 2013 replacement, helped I’m sure by the richest man in the world backing him. Perez recovered for the race but was forced into retirement when loose rubber whipped his car following a collision with Daniel Ricciardo. Kamui Kobayashi was also in the wars, giving Pastor Maldonado a puncture when the Venezuelan attempted a slightly ambitious overtake. Kobayashi managed to finish 14th, nothing to be very proud of.

Abu Dhabi saw an improvement of sorts. On one hand, Kobayashi made it to 6th place while Perez had yet another race. Seemingly, when he got his McLaren contract signed, he just relaxed and Abu Dhabi was a bad race for him. He bullied di Resta off the track, swung across the track, narrowly missed a barrier, rejoined the track, spun Grosjean who then hit Webber and forced the Lotus and Red Bull out of the race. Perez was a complete disaster.

And then when he was in Austin, he stuck his front wing up the inside of Charles Pic’s Marussia in Free Practice 3. It was one of the billion holding up incidents over the three practice sessions and it would be understandable for Perez to be angry if it was Qualifying or the Race. However, like I said, it was only FP3 and he had no business pulling a remarkably dumb move which saw both cars spinning. Both were ok but they had to return to their garages. The race was no better for the team; Perez finishing 11th and Kobayashi finishing 14th.

And so the team made its way to the final Grand Prix of the season, the curtain closer at Interlagos. It was a race to forget for Perez who made it for just four corners before being inadvertently caught up in a first lap crash with Sebastian Vettel and Bruno Senna. Not the way the Mexican would want to end his career with Sauber as his team-mate drove on to finish the race in an average 9th place.

Season in a Paragraph: 
The team started the season off with a good start, double points finish to be precise, but they were fairly inconsistent, either finishing very well or badly. Perez seemed to be right on the verge of winning on a couple of occasions, namely Malaysia and Monza. However, his return from the summer break was blighted by retirement followed by retirement and silly incident’s followed by silly incident’s. McLaren will be hoping for a better run of fortunes for the Mexican who was completely shown up by his team-mate in the second part of the season.

As for 2013, one can only guess how they can get on. They obviously have a talent in Nico Hulkenberg but Esteban Gutierrez himself admitted he didn’t think he was ready for F1. Thanks for that Gutierrez, that’ll really assure the team.

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