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GP Week : Issue 151
when you look at their resources compared to some of the bigger teams.” But there’s no denying it’s been an incredible season for the team so far, much as it’s been an incredible season for the sport as a whole. What made the first four races of 2012 so remarkable was the sheer amount of opportunity they presented for a variety of teams to show off their skills. Four winners from four teams in four races is an impressive statistic, but the action behind the leader has been equally impressive this season, and has allowed teams like Sauber to show just how tight the field really is. “W ith all of this [positive attention] we shouldn’t forget that the gap between the teams is so small – we saw that at the last race [in Shanghai],” Kaltenborn said. “You have to be so careful to get everything right, which doesn’t happen always. That’s why you have to stay extremely focused on your own development plan, really make sure that you meet your targets.” And in such a tight field, every millisecond counts. “What’s happening this year is that that [2011’s] Q2 group has now become a Q3 group, so the performance between 16 or 17 cars is so close together,” Hembery explained. “What that means is that tyre management becomes really, really seriously important, because tenths count at that point. I think you’ll find that the teams that manage their tyres extremely well during this period where the teams are so close together will get results.” So what has given Sauber the edge in such a competitive field? The C31’s light touch on tyres has certainly helped, while Sergio Perez’ supernatural ability to one-stop at seemingly every circuit has also given the team an advantage on track. According to Kaltenborn, Sauber’s secret is the combination of a well- balanced car and two young, hungry, and talented racers behind the wheel. But despite early success, the Swiss team is too prudent to waste time resting on its laurels. “Last year, we certainly had a lot of issues with warming up the tyres, so with this year’s car it was one of the targets that we overcome those difficulties, which I think the team has done very well,” she said. “But we should always be careful that these are just the first few races. People who have seen now that they are having issues with the tyres are going to put a lot of effort into overcoming that issue. “I think it’s too early to say we have the right car for all the races, because people will not stop their development,” Kaltenborn continued. “We will not stop our development. Up to now, we can see that the car has done well on very different tracks, under very different ambient conditions. But we know that our competitors are catching up, are already very close, so we should not rely on this kind of advantage.” Hembery says that Sauber’s successes so far are about more than just good tyre management. Rather, the Sauber’s aero balance is the secret, as a well-balanced car generates less wear and tear on the tyres. “The car, clearly, is well designed and well-balanced for the tyres,” Hembery said when GPWEEK inter viewed him in Shanghai. “Last year, that enabled them to do one pitstop less than the other teams during the season. It seems that this year, they’ve got the speed as well. So if they can combine the two, it’s a pretty potent combination. “The drivers are young and hungry, they clearly have some good equipment to work with at the moment, and you can see from the results of qualifying here in Shanghai that they’re a force to be reckoned with. They’ve already shown in two races and now in qualifying in Shanghai that [their pace] is not a joke, that it’s real. I think the paddock’s really excited.” The cause of that pace, Hembery says, is linked to their aero balance, which enables both Saubers to maximise their tyres. “In Formula One, a lot of things come from aero balance; the aero’s so important,” he emphasised. “They have a very good aero balance, the car has a very good natural balance. “What we mean by that is that it’s not overtly understeer balanced and not overtly oversteer balanced. It has a good balance, which allows the drivers to maximise the performance of the package over a long period of time. “In Formula One, one of the big challenges for any team is trying to find speed in fuel load, so with 140kg on board, and then in qualifying when they’re lighter fuelled. That’s very difficult to find [a balance] because it’s quite easy to focus on one or the other, but trying to get both together is very difficult. Sauber have been very good at managing that, particularly from a tyre point of view.” The 2012 F1 season had hardly begun when we met with Hembery in Shanghai, but the Pirelli motorsport director was confident the strong performances we’d seen in Melbourne and Sepang were hardly a flash in the pan. “It’s clearly no fluke, because this is now the second season in a row we’ve seen the same result,” he said. “They’ve got a good idea of how to maximise the Pirelli tyres, and this year they’ve clearly got some speed as well. Long may it continue for them.” 28 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> FEATURE