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GP Week : Issue 167
XXXXXXXXXXXX ABOVE: Monisha Kaltenborn, Sauber Managing Director speaks with Alex Sauber and Sergio Perez BELOW: Perez crosses the finish line in second place at Monza 26 GPWEEK.com // 26 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> FEATURE H istory is on their side. No less than twenty seasons and 233 grands prix ago (only eight teams have survived for more races), the Sauber team stepped into Formula One and instantly raised eyebrows when they ran fourth and fifth at the end of the opening lap of their debut, in Kyalami in 1993. Times have changed, but three things have survived throughout the years – together with the team itself, of course: Sauber's status as a small, mid-grid squad; their tendency to amaze the paddock with their performance; and their die-hard Swiss pragmatism. The team has taken three podiums already from 2012. Last winter, not even their CEO Monisha Kaltenborn would have bet her team would prove a serious contender for a win: "I think expecting something like this would have been too much,” she confesses to GPWEEK. “We were hoping, before we started winter testing, that the directions we took on developing the car were the right ones. And the first confirmation we got, at the winter test itself, was that the car appeared to be quite good. Then, if you look at the way the season evolved, we got more and more confirmation that the car is very competitive, because it was really working on most of the tracks, under very different conditions. “We then also managed to show it in the results which we achieved, with the three podiums and things like that, but also very often we had a lot of bad luck. So I think we cannot say we expected it but, yes, the way the season evolved – we definitely hoped for it." Already more than doubling their points' tally since last season (100 versus 44) with seven races still to go is a remarkable result for any team. But this becomes nearly a miracle for a team with modest resources (with the days of BMW ownership firmly in the past) and now capable of battling for fifth place in the standings against a giant constructor like Mercedes: "Of course we have our restrictions on personnel and on our funding, but we try to compensate that through our efficiency,” Kaltenborn explains. “It doesn't always work, and sometimes it's bad luck, like in Belgium, but I think that's the way we have to go. Clearly it is a risk if you do that, if you put too much up front, because then you have nothing left for the end. So you have to evaluate very carefully what is the advantage you are getting and how you invest your money." This result probably wouldn't have been possible, if it wasn't for this Austrian lawyer of Indian origins, who worked for the United Nations before becoming Formula One's first female team manager (and owner of a third of the outfit itself). But don't ask her that: "I don't know that and for me it is also not important. I am responsible for the team and it is my job to set out the parameters and to give people whatever I can to help them do their work. Since our name includes the word 'team', I think that's what matters." A very open but simple person, Kaltenborn doesn't like to speak in first person, even if she has personally changed the way the team works since her appointment in early 2010: "That's very difficult for me to judge, because I have my way, and that's the way I will be doing it. Maybe others can better judge what has changed. What has clearly improved a lot is the communication between the different departments, because it is important for your efficiency and the time you need to bring something on the track that the communications are quick and short. We have created a very transparent atmosphere, where you also get them confident. If you give people the confidence, that you believe in them and trust them, I think that provides the healthy environment and lets people really grow." This environment set out the possibility for the team slowly to rebuild itself after the BMW era and develop throughout the last seasons, she recalls: