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GP Week : Issue 151
H ands up those among you who – back in February,when the C31 was looking fast-ish but unreliable in winter testing – thought that Sauber would be one of the teams we were all talking about heading into the European leg of the season? No one? Us neither. On the first day of winter testing, Sauber greeted the media in Jerez with the news that they had been through a mutual ‘parting of ways’ with technical director James Key, and that they were not actively seeking to replace him. Given that Sauber had shown promise in the early part of the 2011 season, only to fall behind their competitors as the development race continued, the announcement was seen as bad news for the team. Without a technical director, the assumption was that Sauber would lose technical direction. Key’s departure does not appear to have had a negative impact, given the Swiss racers’ recent performances on track, but the real test will come as the rate of development ramps up, when Sauber have to keep improving, ideally at a faster rate than their rivals. But team CEO Monisha Kaltenborn (left) is confident that the lack of a technical director will not hamper Sauber’s progress this season. Asked about the team’s development programme in light of Key’s departure, Kaltenborn said it had been unaffected. “We had a [development] programme laid out, and there’s not much of a difference implementing that programme, because the people who were important to its implementation are the same people: we have the head of aero, the head of design, and the head of vehicle performance,” she explained. “Together with the operations director, who is in charge of the production of the car, they were the key players anyway. So in implementing the programme we have set out, there is no difference.” Kaltenborn was restrained in her comments on the team’s expectations, and she is aware that while early results can bring in a useful points harvest, it is consistency in the on-going development race that is vital – and expensive. “Generally, we said at the beginning of the season that we had high targets, because we wanted to significantly improve in the championship,” Kaltenborn said. “And for a team like ours – this is valid for most of the private teams here – if you have more money, you can develop more. And that, again, means hopefully better performance, and then you get closer to your target. So from that perspective we cannot be happy with our budget, because we always want to develop more.” Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery is also careful to point out that Sauber’s early gains could be negated by slow progress in the ongoing development race. “The rate of development is very high,” he said. “So the teams that have bigger budgets, at the end of the day, can pull through and pull away during the season. But that takes a bit of time, and clearly Sauber have a car that’s certainly podium material at the moment, and that’s a fantastic achievement 27 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> FEATURE