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Monaco GP: More aero updates for Sauber, team aims to qualify stronger

By Berthold Bouman

Monaco GP: More aero updates for Sauber, team aims to qualify strongerSauber is also looking forward to round six of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Monaco Grand Prix, an iconic race staged in the streets of the Principality’s capital, Monte Carlo. Pirelli will bring the soft and super soft tyres to Monaco, and it is expected drivers need several stops to complete the race.

Tom McCullough: We have some further updated aero parts

Sauber’s Head of Track Engineering, Tom McCullough, explains the difficulties of the famous street circuit, “The circuit in Monaco is a real challenge for the drivers and the team. The track improves throughout the weekend and it’s important to give the drivers a set-up that gives them confidence as the barriers are very close.”

Sauber will focus on the tyres, said McCullough, “This will be the first race of the season where we use both the soft and super-soft tyres. We have some further updated aero parts to add to the package we took to Barcelona. Coming off the back of our better race pace in Barcelona, our aim is to qualify stronger, as this is particularly important in Monaco where overtaking is so difficult.”

Hulkenberg waiting in the garage - Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Hulkenberg waiting in the garage – Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Nico Hulkenberg: In terms of performance, I’m quite positive

For Nico Hulkenberg, the circuit is not only a challenge, but also a joy to drive, and he said, “I’m really looking forward to the Monaco Grand Prix. The circuit along with the backdrop of the principality are just fantastic, and the atmosphere is one of the best in the season. The track is one of a kind with extremely narrow streets that will punish every little mistake.”

And he added, “This is a great challenge between me, the car and the track, and I always have a lot of fun driving there. In terms of performance, I’m quite positive. We’ve seen that the softer tyre compounds suit us quite well, which gives me confidence we’ll have a good weekend.”

Esteban Gutierrez - Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Esteban Gutierrez – Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Esteban Gutierrez: Management of the rear tyres will be crucial

Esteban Gutierrez is also looking forward to race, but he has never driven a Formula One car on the streets of Monaco, and the Mexican said, “Driving on the limit through the narrow streets of Monaco is something special that I am really looking forward to. It’s one of my favourite tracks. I’ve driven there in GP2 twice and competing there in a Formula One car will be even more challenging and interesting.”

About the track itself he said, “It’s a high down force track with a lot of slow corners, and management of the rear tyres will be crucial. After the positive race in Barcelona, I am focusing on building on my performance there.”

The Swiss Sauber outfit is currently in eighth place of the Constructors’ Championship with five points. Hulkenberg is 14th, and Gutierrez is 16th in the Drivers’ Championship.

Also read:

• Red Bull Monaco GP Preview
• Ferrari Monaco GP Preview
McLaren Monaco GP Preview
• Lotus Monaco GP Preview
Mercedes Monaco GP Preview
Sauber Monaco GP Preview
Force India Monaco GP Preview
Williams Monaco GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Monaco GP Preview
Caterham Monaco GP Preview
Marussia Monaco GP Preview

Spanish GP: Sauber to bring several aero updates to Barcelona

By Berthold Bouman

Spanish GP: Sauber to bring several aero updates to BarcelonaLike all other Formula One teams, Sauber are also looking forward to race on European soil again. The Swiss outfit will bring several new aero updates to the Circuit de Catalunya, including a modified rear wing.

Tom McCullough: Our target is to finish in the points

Sauber’s Head of Track Engineering Tom McCullough thinks that, not only the updates, but also the tyres will be the key to success this weekend, “Although Barcelona is a track we know well from winter testing, the higher temperatures do change how the tyres perform, so we have to adapt to that. The option tyre will be the medium compound and for the prime Pirelli are re-introducing the 2012 hard compound for this event.”

And he added, “We have some further aero updates, including a modified rear wing, and we will be evaluating these during Friday practice. Qualifying is particularly important here as overtaking can be difficult in the race. Our target for the race is to finish with both cars in the points.”

Nico Hulkenberg - Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Nico Hulkenberg – Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Nico Hulkenberg: We know the Circuit de Catalunya well

Nico Hulkenberg is pleased to race in Europe again, and said, “I’m looking forward to the Spanish Grand Prix because it kicks off this season’s European races. Barcelona is a nice city where you can get a real feel for the Spanish life style. We know the Circuit de Catalunya well, of course, from the winter tests.”

“However,” the young German said, “Since winter testing many things have changed and also the climate will be different from the one we had in February, which you have to take into consideration.” Asked about the circuit characteristics he commented, “The circuit is diverse. The first two sectors are fast with fast, long corners, which require good down force and a well-balanced car, whereas the third sector is quite technical.”

Esteban Gutierrez - Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Esteban Gutierrez – Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Esteban Gutierrez: Tyre management will be crucial here

Esteban Gutierrez got his first taste of a Formula One car at the Circuit de Catalunya during pre-season testing in February this year, and is looking forward to race on the demanding track. He also thinks the tyres are important this weekend, “The track is quite demanding, especially the last sector. Tyre management will be crucial here, and, especially during a qualifying lap, you need to nurse your tyres in the first two sectors in order to get a clean third sector.”

And he further explained, “You must make sure the tyres still have good grip when you approach the final corners of the lap, including the chicane. We have to wait and see if the updates will help us to catch up with the guys further up the field.”

For Sauber it has been a difficult start of the season, they have so far only scored five points — courtesy of Hulkenberg — which gives them the right to eighth place in the Constructors’ Championship; Hulkenberg is currently 14th in the Drivers’ Championship, while Gutierrez is 18th.

Also read:

Red Bull Spanish GP Preview
Ferrari Spanish GP Preview
McLaren Spanish GP Preview
Lotus Spanish GP Preview
Mercedes Spanish GP Preview
Sauber Spanish GP Preview
Force India Spanish GP Preview
Williams Spanish GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Spanish GP Preview
Caterham Spanish GP Preview
Marussia Spanish GP Preview

Bahrain GP: Sauber optimistic despite grid penalty for Gutierrez

By Berthold Bouman

Bahrain GP: Sauber optimistic despite grid penalty for GutierrezSauber also left Shanghai with mixed feelings; rookie Esteban Gutierrez has a five-place grid penalty as he crashed into the back of Adrian Sutil’s Force India, and Nico Hulkenberg only scored one point for the Swiss outfit after a promising start of the race.

Tom McCullough: We know what has to be done

Just like other teams, Sauber is still working to make the C32 faster, and looking back at the race in Shanghai, Tom McCullough, Head of Track Engineering, commented, ”From a technical point of view, China was a successful weekend for our team. We had taken some measures before that race, which proved to be effective. We now have a direction, and we know what has to be done. The Bahrain circuit is dominated by several long straights with mainly slow and medium speed corners. This places high importance on an efficient aero package and a car with strong low-speed performance — in particular traction.”

Bahrain is a very demanding circuit, and McCullough said, “The circuit layout is very demanding for the brakes. The desert environment results in quite a dusty track — especially when the wind builds up. The chance of rainfall is low, and the typically high ambient and track temperatures make it a real challenge for the cooling level of the car and management of the tyres.”

Nico Hulkenberg - Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Nico Hulkenberg – Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Nico Hulkenberg: The brakes will play a significant role

Nico Hulkenberg has good memories of the desert circuit, as he started his first Formula One race there in 2010. He reckons the brakes will play an important role, “I like the track, and there is always a One Thousand and One Nights atmosphere in the paddock. Other than high temperatures, the brakes will play a significant role. There are a couple of long straights where we drive at over 300 kph and then we need to brake very hard into the corners, so it will be the usual balancing act between downforce and top speed.”

Grid penalty for Gutierrez - Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Grid penalty for Gutierrez – Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Esteban Gutierrez: Penalty doesn’t change my approach or my motivation

A five-place grid penalty won’t make things easier for Gutierrez, but he has learned from his mistakes and is looking forward to another race. “The penalty doesn’t change my approach or my motivation,” Gutierrez said. “China also had a positive side to it, the engineers took several technical measures, which saw an improvement. Bahrain is another hot place on the calendar.”

He thinks the tyres will also play an important role, “The conditions are not as humid as in Malaysia, but you still have to be in good shape to cope with the heat during the race. I know the track from my time in GP2, and I think it’s a nice one with challenging corners. It’s a very demanding track for the tyres.”

Sauber is currently eighth in the race for the Constructors’ Championship, while Hulkenberg and Gutierrez are 13th and 17th respectively in the Drivers’ Championship.

Also read:

Red Bull Bahrain GP Preview
Ferrari Bahrain GP Preview
McLaren Bahrain GP Preview
Lotus Bahrain GP Preview
Mercedes Bahrain GP Preview
Sauber Bahrain GP Preview
Force India Bahrain GP Preview
Williams Bahrain GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Bahrain GP Preview
Caterham Bahrain GP Preview
Marussia Bahrain GP Preview

Chinese GP: Sauber to test new parts at Shanghai

By Berthold Bouman

Chinese GP: Sauber to test new parts at Shanghai - Photo: Sauber MotorsportAfter a short break, Sauber is heading for China for round three of the FIA Formula One World Championship: the Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai International Circuit. The Swiss outfit spent the weeks after the Malaysian Grand Prix analysing data, and have developed new parts for this weekend’s race.

Tom McCullough, Head of Track Engineering: We will bring several test parts to Shanghai

Tom McCullough describes the Chinese track from a technical point of view, “The Shanghai circuit has a good mix of low, medium and high-speed corners. The track has several technical sections where corners lead straight into further corners requiring a good car balance and precise driving. The smooth track surface and typically low track temperatures have a significant impact on how the tyres perform — especially at the start of the race weekend whilst the track is cleaning up.”

Sauber will also bring some new parts to China, and they will be tested during the free practice sessions. “We analysed the data that we collected in Malaysia and found interesting directions for the development of the car, therefore we will bring several test parts to Shanghai. Having secured our first points of the season in Malaysia, we are eager to add to them as soon as possible,” McCullough said.

Nico Hulkenberg - Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Nico Hulkenberg – Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Nico Hulkenberg: Tyres and strategy will be very important

German Nico Hulkenberg admitted Shanghai is not really his favourite track and said, “The circuit in Shanghai is not particularly one of my favourite tracks, nevertheless it’s a demanding one, especially the first few corners and the corners before the back straight. Tyres and strategy will be very important during the weekend.”

As he wasn’t able to start the Australian Grand Prix due to issues with the fuel system, the Malaysian Grand Prix was his first race with the Sauber C32. “I have a better feeling now I have driven my first race in the C32, especially because we were able to collect a lot of information. In Malaysia we scored points and that is also my goal for China.”

Esteban Gutierrez and his engineer - Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Esteban Gutierrez and his engineer – Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Esteban Gutierrez: My goal is to improve

The Chinese track is new for Mexican Esteban Gutierrez, and he commented, “I don’t actually know the track yet, so it will be an interesting challenge again to learn the circuit and then to develop confidence throughout the practice sessions.”

And he added, “Learning a new track all depends on the approach you take. You can learn a lot through video footage, your engineer’s advice on the right gears in different parts of the track and, most important of all, the more confidence you have in your car the easier it is to learn a new one. My goal is to improve and I’m looking forward to that.”

Also read:

Red Bull Chinese GP Preview
• Ferrari Chinese GP Preview
McLaren Chinese GP Preview
Lotus Chinese GP Preview
Mercedes Chinese GP Preview
Sauber Chinese GP Preview
Force India Chinese GP Preview
Williams Chinese GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Chinese GP Preview
Caterham Chinese GP Preview
Marussia Chinese GP Preview

Malaysian GP: Sauber targets to finish both cars in the points at Sepang

By Berthold Bouman

Malaysian GP: Sauber targets to finish both cars in the points at Sepang - Photo: Sauber MotorsportAfter a dismal performance during the Australian Grand Prix, Nico Hulkenberg couldn’t even start the race due to a fuel-system issue, the Swiss Sauber team is now looking forward to the next race at the Sepang International Circuit near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Tom McCullough, Head of Track Engineering: Target to finish both cars in the points

“The circuit is technically challenging as there are also two long straights that require an efficient car and also several low-speed corners,” said Tom McCullough, Sauber’s Head of Track Engineering.

“The circuit’s characteristics and typically high temperatures are also a real challenge for the tyres, which is why Pirelli will bring the medium and hard compounds. The weather can also play a significant part during the race weekend as late afternoon rain showers are common.”

Asked about Sauber’s target he said, “Our target for the race is to finish with both cars in the points.”

Hulkenberg hoping for better result at Sepang - Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Hulkenberg hoping for better result at Sepang – Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Nico Hulkenberg: Malaysia totally different track

“Compared to Melbourne, the track in Malaysia has different characteristics. It’s a fast track with long high-speed corners, which should suit our car well,” said Nico Hulkenberg, who still hasn’t driven a Grand Prix for Sauber, as he couldn’t start the race in Melbourne.

He’s of course hoping for improvement, but the Sepang track is very demanding due to the high temperatures in Malaysia this time of the year, “For the drivers Malaysia is always a challenge because of the high temperatures and the humidity. Lastly there is always a chance of rain, which can be interesting, especially at the start of the race.”

Esteban Gutierrez: Looking to improve performance

Mexican Esteban Gutierrez finished his first Formula One race ever in 13th place, and he is aiming to improve his performance. “With the experience of an entire race here in Melbourne, I can now look at where I can improve as a driver and where we can improve as a team. Sepang is a good track, which I know from GP2. Now I’m looking forward to driving the track in a Formula One car,” the youngster said.

Also read:

Red Bull Malaysian GP Preview
Ferrari Malaysian GP Preview
McLaren Malaysian GP Preview
Lotus Malaysian GP Preview
Mercedes Malaysian GP Preview
Sauber Malaysian GP Preview
Force India Malaysian GP Preview
Williams Malaysian GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Malaysian GP Preview
Caterham Malaysian GP Preview
Marussia Malaysian GP Preview

Australian GP: Sauber ready for challenging season opener in Melbourne

By Berthold Bouman

Australian GP Sauber ready for challenging season opener in Melbourne - Photo: Sauber MotorsportThe Sauber team completely renewed their driver line-up for this season, Nico Hulkenberg left Force India and joined the Swiss outfit, while rookie Esteban Gutierrez replaces his compatriot Sergio Perez, who joined McLaren.

Tom McCullough, Head of Track Engineering: The C32 has performed as expected

Head of Track Engineering Tom McCullough was pleased with the test results earlier this season, “Nico and Esteban have quickly settled into their new working environment and have already established strong working relationships within the team, which is very important.”

He was encouraged by the pace of the C32, ”You never know exactly where you sit compared to the other teams during winter testing, but importantly the C32 has performed as expected which is encouraging.”

An unknown factor this season are the new Pirelli tyres, and McCullough said, “It will be interesting to see how the new generation Medium and Super Soft Pirelli tyres perform at a track with less high-speed corners than our two test tracks.” And he added, “Overall the whole team is confident and looking forward to getting out there and starting the 2013 racing season.”

Nico Hulkenberg, Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn and Esteban Gutierrez - Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Nico Hulkenberg, Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn and Esteban Gutierrez – Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Nico Hulkenberg: Albert Park challenge for drivers

Hulkenberg now has plenty of experience, and he too is looking forward to the first race of the season. “I’m really looking forward to this race, as Australia is always one of my favorite Grands Prix, and Melbourne has a very special atmosphere, so I’m keen to be there. I also like the track which is not a permanent circuit. We are driving around a lake in a park and, especially during the drivers’ parade, you feel very close to the fans,” said the German.

“The track itself is very challenging for the drivers. It has got a lot of bumps and you have to know how best to deal with them,” he added. He admitted Sauber has a few technical issues to sort out, but he’s confident his team is in good shape, “In terms of competitiveness, the final Barcelona test showed we are quite well prepared but still have some homework to do, and that we still have room for improvement in certain areas. But I’m confident the baseline is  good.”

Esteban Gutierrez: Formula One the next step in my career

Rookie Mexican Gutierrez will make his Grand Prix debut in Melbourne and said, “Melbourne will be my first race in Formula One and I’m sure it will be very special. It’s a track that I don’t know, but I’m confident I will be able to learn it quickly in the free practice sessions.”

About his goals in his rookie year he commented, “Competing in a Formula One race is the next step in my career, and that’s what I need to focus on. One of the things that I need to do is feel natural and relaxed in my surroundings so I can focus on the most important elements during the weekend.”

“I feel I have a good base for the start of the season, but, of course, I will keep on working as I have areas were I can improve. My goal is to exploit the car’s potential and finish consistently within the points.”

Also read:

Red Bull Australian GP Preview
Ferrari Australian GP Preview
McLaren Australian GP Preview
Lotus Australian GP Preview
Mercedes Australian GP Preview
Sauber Australian GP Preview
Force India Australian GP Preview
Williams Australian GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Australian GP Preview
Caterham Australian GP Preview
Marussia Australian GP Preview

F1 2013 preview — Part 2: McLaren, Lotus, Mercedes, Sauber and Toro Rosso

By Berthold Bouman

F1 2013 preview - Part 2 McLaren, Lotus, Mercedes, Sauber and Toro RossoTeams, drivers and fans are looking forward to the first race of the year: the Australian Grand Prix at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne. After 12 days of pre-season testing the status quo of the 11 teams is still somewhat nebulous to say the least, one thing is certain, the Pirelli tyres will be different from last season, and the Italian tyre manufacturer has predicted at least two pit stops per car this season.

In today’s preview: McLaren, Mercedes, Lotus, Sauber and Toro Rosso.


5. Jenson Button
6. Sergio Perez

Last year Lewis Hamilton left the British team, and this year Jenson Button will be the number one driver, while Sergio Perez will replace Hamilton. Mixed results for McLaren during testing, but it seems the MP4-28 needs more development before it will be a real title contender.

While it has the right speed, the MP4-28 seems to have serious understeer problems, and to add to McLaren’s problems, the car is very harsh on the tyres, which results in massive tyre degradation. But McLaren is still confident about the 2013 season, as there is plenty of room to develop the car.

Plenty of testing problems for McLaren - Photo: McLaren

Plenty of testing problems for McLaren – Photo: McLaren

Button refused to make any predictions for this season. “This year, I don’t think any team really knows or understands the competitive order, it’s been an extremely hard-to-read winter but that’s part of the game,” he told the BBC. “You can have a terrible winter of testing, then turn up at the first race and be competitive. Equally, you can look impressive in winter testing and be nowhere in Melbourne.”

Team principal Martin Whitmarsh admitted his team encountered many problems during winter testing, “At Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, we’ve faced a challenging few weeks prepping our new MP4-28 for the 2013 season.”

“The often cold and sometimes wet conditions we experienced during pre-season testing in Barcelona and Jerez made it difficult to operate the tyres consistently within their optimal performance window. That issue, combined with a handful of typical testing setbacks, gave us a few headaches.”

But he confidently added, “We’re still working tirelessly to bring more pace to the MP4-28’s performance envelope, and I believe we’ll arrive in Australia in decent shape. the MP4-28 is a new and uncompromising design, and I have great confidence that our design, development and engineering teams will work tirelessly to shave tenths off its lap-times for Melbourne, and for Sao Paulo, and for everywhere in between.”

McLaren’s launch story and photos


7. Kimi Raikkonen
8. Romain Grosjean

Lotus also decided not to change their driver line-up, star driver Kimi Raikkonen will stay for another year, and despite his on-track escapades, Romain Grosjean has been given another opportunity to impress his manager and Team Principal Eric Boullier.

During testing Lotus encountered many reliability problems, and both drivers spent a considerable amount of time in the garage. “For sure, we haven’t completed all the laps we wanted during pre-season, but that is often the case. We’ve found a few issues and we have solutions for them, which is positive,” Raikkonen said after the last test day.

Romain Grosjean gets a second chance in F1 - Photo: Lotus F1

Romain Grosjean gets a second chance in F1 – Photo: Lotus F1

Grosjean, who was fastest on his final day of testing, is confident ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, “The E21 feels good in all conditions, which is very promising for the season ahead. Of course, I wish I could have more time in the car before the season starts, but if we’re in the same position on the monitors when we get to Australia I’ll be very happy indeed!”

Also Boullier admitted Lotus had problems during testing, “Pre-season testing was not perfect for us but we are confident in what we have seen from the E21. We had glitches and we didn’t complete as many laps as we wanted, yet we still completed most of the assessments we required and have a good platform heading to the first race of the season.”

And the Frenchman added, “It’s certain going to be a highly competitive season but I’m confident that we’ll be right in the battle at the front.” And indeed, although Lotus has encountered several technical problems, the times they produced were consistent, and the black and gold Lotus was always in the top five.

Add Raikkonen’s magic, and the Lotus E21 can become a real winner this season, while Grosjean has shown he is certainly fast enough for a podium place, all he now has to do is make sure he gets to the finish line.

Lotus’ launch story and photos


9. Nico Rosberg
10. Lewis Hamilton

Also Mercedes encountered technical issues that kept the car and drivers in the garage during testing, but there is certainly no doubt about the pace of the new car.

Nico Rosberg scored an impressive fastest lap during the last test day at Barcelona, but team mate Hamilton warned there’s still a lot of work to do. “It is important to bring everyone back down to earth and realise we still have a lot of work to do,” he said.

Lewis Hamilton joined Mercedes - Photo: Mercedes Benz

Lewis Hamilton joined Mercedes – Photo: Mercedes Benz

“It’s everything to play for still. We won’t know until the first race but don’t be surprised if we get to the first race and were not at the front. We have got through everything and we are not in deep, deep trouble. We’re going in the right direction.”

Rosberg agreed with his team mate and said, “I have the general feeling that we are in a better position than in the second half of last year but this is testing not racing, of course. The conditions in the first race will be completely different to here as it will be much hotter in Melbourne and Sepang so we need to wait and see.”

Team Principal Ross Brawn was pleased with the progress the team has made, “We have achieved our objectives for the test programme and the mileage that we have been able to complete has been very satisfying.”

With only one week to go Brawn commented, “We now have one final week back at the factory to complete our preparations; both drivers will be at the factory this week and, as always, there is a lot of work to do in a short space of time. We’re realistic about our performance here and our position once we get to Melbourne, and we look forward to the challenge of a new season ahead.”

Mercedes’ launch story and photos


11. Nico Hulkenberg
12. Esteban Gutierrez

Two new drivers at Sauber, Nico Hulkenberg left Force India and will be their number one driver, while rookie Esteban Gutierrez will make his Formula One debut for the Swiss team this season. Sauber didn’t produce any spectacular results during testing, and like the other teams, they had their share of technical problems during testing.

Nico Hulkenberg - Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Nico Hulkenberg – Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Hulkenberg is a very talented driver who has won all the series he has participated in, and there is no reason to doubt the young German’s abilities. After the last test day he commented, “We have some potential left with the balance of the car and some homework to do before Melbourne. But I think that we found some interesting directions, and overall I’m quite satisfied.”

About the new Pirellis he said, “I’m satisfied with the pace we had in dry conditions, however, we need to do more work on the intermediate tyres, where we have definitely more potential to exploit.” Gutierrez agreed with Hulkenberg’s assessment and added, “It was important for us to work with the intermediate tyres, which seem to be the most difficult ones for us. We had to change quite a lot of things to make them work better.”

Last year Sauber was the surprise of the season, they had a fast car straight out of the box, it will be difficult to repeat that this season, but Hulkenberg is a skilful driver, he confirmed that during the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix, perhaps he will be the one to give Sauber their first victory ever.

Sauber’s launch story and photos

Toro Rosso

18. Jean-Eric Vergne
19. Daniel Ricciardo

The last team on the list, Toro Rosso, also continues with the same driver line-up, both Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne will represent Red Bull’s Italian sister team in 2013. No spectacular test results, but the STR8 is a stable and reliable car, however, it needs some more development and set-up work to make it a top ten finisher.

Jean-Eric Vergne - Photo: Toro Rosso

Jean-Eric Vergne – Photo: Toro Rosso

Laurent Mekies, Toro Rosso’s Head of Vehicle Performance said after completing 12 test days, “As the STR8 is fundamentally a new car, with plenty of crucial changes for example on the suspension, on the aero side and in terms of the architecture of the car, we had a very big work load to tackle this month in Spain.”

Also Toro Rosso struggled to understand the Pirellis, “Apart from our car, the other new element was the Pirelli tyres, which have different characteristics to last year’s. Getting a full understanding of how the new rubber works is something that will take longer than we had expected.”

Ricciardo is of course looking forward to his home Grand Prix, “I’m still very happy to be in Formula One, but it’s not enough now. I want to get as much as I can out of it, so the confidence I have now is higher and for those reasons I really believe I can make the results and I put a lot of pressure on myself to do that. If I’m just racing but not doing anything spectacular it’s not enough.”

And he added, “If we can consistently finish in the points that would be a good start. In the points you are really racing for something and when you’re racing for 15th and 16th for sure it’s not as fun. When there’s a prize on the line it makes it more exciting!”

Toro Rosso’s launch story and photos

Part 1 of the 2013 preview: Red Bull Racing, Ferrari, Force India, Williams, Caterham and Marussia

Alonso quickest for Ferrari on day three of Barcelona testing

By Berthold Bouman

Alonso quickest for Ferrari on day three of Barcelona testing - Photo: FerrariFernando Alonso was fastest today at the Circuit de Catalunya, he lapped the circuit in 1m21.875, a time recorded on the soft Pirellis. Despite the low temperatures, Alonso was able to carry out all the tests in the F138, the focus was again on testing the 2013-spec Pirellis.

“Today we concentrated on a comparison of the compounds, starting with the soft and moving on to the hard in the afternoon. The track was colder than yesterday, especially in the morning, which made it harder to adapt the car and find the right grip level,” said Alonso.

And the Spaniard added, “Once again this year, the tyres will be one of the crucial aspects to manage: they are softer and quicker, but also less consistent and they degrade rapidly with every lap. We will have a lot of work to do to understand how best to balance the car, but that applies to all the teams.”

Second was Nico Hulkenberg in the Sauber C32, he put a time of 1m22.160 on the clock after completing 92 laps. “It was a positive day. We got a lot of testing done with just minor problems,” said Hulkenberg. He too tested the soft Pirellis, and commented, “I ran the soft tyres in the morning here in Barcelona for the first time to get a feeling for those, which was interesting. The car is performing pretty well, and I‘m as happy as I can be.”

Romain Grosjean on third spot today - Photo: Lotus F1

Romain Grosjean on third spot today – Photo: Lotus F1

Romain Grosjean was on duty for Lotus today, and he again confirmed the potential of the E21 by conquering third place. After completing 119 laps he said with a smile, “I think I’m ready for a sleep after so many laps in the car! It’s good to see reliability today to add to the pace we’ve already seen in the car. We’re still at an early stage of development so it’s really promising to see where we are.”

About the Pirellis he said, “The 2013 tyres certainly feel different from last year’s but already we’re starting to understand them. I hope it’s dry tomorrow so we can get some more laps under our belt.”

Fourth on today’s list is Nico Rosberg in the new Mercedes, he too experienced problems due to the low temperatures, “We didn’t have a perfect morning and it was tough out there with the low temperatures. They were causing a lot of tyre graining, which made it difficult to do much useful testing. It was a few degrees warmer after the break and that gave a completely different picture. In general, I’m pleased with what we’ve achieved this week — I did a lot of mileage and the team has done a good job over the winter.”

Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas shared testing duties today, Maldonado was fifth and Bottas sixth, the difference between the pair was just 0.151s. Bottas again showed he is very competitive and the Finn said, “We started the afternoon with some shorter runs but we still haven’t seen the full potential of the FW35. I have been able to improve some things in my driving since yesterday, but there are still things I can work on compared to Pastor.”

Not much to write home about for McLaren and Jenson Button, yesterday Perez set the fastest time, today Button was seventh, almost a second off the pace. After the lunch break McLaren decided ‘to carry out some larger mechanical changes’, which meant Button had to wait until 15:00hrs local time before he could resume testing.

Adrian Sutil finally back in a F1 car again - Photo: Force India

Adrian Sutil finally back in a F1 car again – Photo: Force India

Adrian Sutil made his return to Formula One today and after 108 laps in the Force India VJM06 landed eighth place, not bad considering he hasn’t driven a Formula One car for almost 18 months now. A happy Sutil said, “I found that I was able to get back up to speed quickly and set some good times before lunch. In the afternoon we did some long runs and also introduced the hard compound tyre, which feels quite different to the soft and mediums.”

Sutil had never tried the new Pirellis and said, “We started off by doing some aero work this morning when the track was quite cold and green. Later on we moved to some performance work and tyre testing, and feeling all the different Pirelli compounds was something quite new for me.”

It was Mark Webber’s turn to drive the Red Bull RB9, he too put in a lot of laps, this time without any reliability problems. “We had a pretty good run today, we’re learning plenty, so a positive outing for us,” said the Australian. “Overall the car ran smoothly and once again we amassed a huge amount of data for the guys back at the factory to go through.”

Asked who has the fastest car during pre-season testing he said, “As usual at tests, the question of the pecking order comes up all the time but, honestly, I have no idea.” He thinks the new tyres make it difficult to make any predictions, “There are a few quick cars out there, but in winter testing it’s so hard to say if anyone’s better than anyone else, especially with the tyres going off the way they are — you’re losing four or five seconds over the course of a stint — so figuring out who’s doing what is pretty difficult.”

Behind the wheel of the Toro Rosso STR8 was Jean-Eric Vergne, the Frenchman took tenth place, while Max Chilton took 11th spot for Marussia.

KERS problems for Caterham today - Photo: Caterham F1

KERS problems for Caterham today – Photo: Caterham F1

Dutchman Giedo van der Garde was twelfth and last today, after completing 93 laps in the Caterham. “We had a technical issue in the afternoon which meant we were running without KERS for the whole session after lunch but despite that we were still able to try a number of different set-ups that give us more to work on tomorrow and several options to work through at the next test.”

Rain has been forecasted for tomorrow at the Circuit de Catalunya, and although teams would rather like to test in dry conditions, the rain could also provide valuable information about how all new Formula One cars perform in wet conditions.

Barcelona testing Day 3 – February 21

Pos   Driver                  Team            Time       Gap       Laps
  1.  Fernando Alonso         Ferrari         1m21.875              97
  2.  Nico Hulkenberg         Sauber          1m22.160   + 0.285    91
  3.  Romain Grosjean         Lotus           1m22.188   + 0.313   119
  4.  Nico Rosberg            Mercedes        1m22.611   + 0.736   108
  5.  Pastor Maldonado        Williams        1m22.675   + 0.800    79
  6.  Valtteri Bottas         Williams        1m22.826   + 0.951    68
  7.  Jenson Button           McLaren         1m22.840   + 0.965    71
  8.  Adrian Sutil            Force India     1m22.877   + 1.002    78
  9.  Mark Webber             Red Bull        1m23.024   + 1.149   108
 10.  Jean-Eric Vergne        Toro Rosso      1m23.366   + 1.491   106
 11.  Max Chilton             Marussia        1m25.690   + 3.815    58
 12.  Giedo van der Garde     Caterham        1m26.177   + 4.302    93

Sauber drivers Hulkenberg and Gutierrez talk about the 2013 season

Interviews conducted by Sauber

Sauber drivers Hulkenberg and Gutierrez talk about the 2013 season - Photo: Sauber MotorsportSauber launched its 2013 contender, the Sauber C32-Ferrari, today at their Hinwil headquarters, time to ask both drivers, Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez about their expectations of the 2013 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Interview with Nico Hulkenberg

Nico Hülkenberg, the start of the 2013 Formula One season is approaching. Is the adrenaline pumping yet?
Not yet, no. The moment before the first race in Melbourne will definitely be the one to quicken the pulse!

Nico Hulkenberg - Sauber MotorsportHow did the winter preparations go?
Very good. It was the ideal combination of a 2-week training camp and intensive fitness training.

What are your expectations of the Sauber F1 Team?
We need to build on the solid basis of last year and reach some good results. But it is a whole new season: New game, new luck! We really have to wait and see what happens when we hit the track for the first time. And then we’ll take it from there.

Do you appreciate the close relationships the Sauber F1 Team nurtures with its fans?
Fans are an essential part of sport in general. If you receive so much fan mail, it does touch you personally. I am really trying to answer everything.

Tests involve a lot of hard graft. How do you prepare yourself?
Physical fitness and intensive work with the engineers. But actually I am just looking forward to finally sitting in the car.

How long does it actually take to adjust to a new car?
It is a mix of different factors. It takes a couple of days until every detail is right. Usually the adjustment process is completed when the first race is about to start.

How well do you actually know your team-mate?
We have not got to know each other very well so far, but we met in the paddock every now and then and I value him as a team mate.

What will be the greatest (sporting) challenge of the upcoming season?
To show a consistent good performance at every single race.

Interview with Esteban Gutierrez

Esteban Gutierrez - Sauber MotorsportEsteban Gutiérrez, the start of the 2013 Formula One season is approaching. Is the adrenaline pumping yet?
Not really, as I feel very calm at the moment. My goal is to focus on the most important things in my preparation, and then before Melbourne I’m quite sure we will all have the adrenaline pumping to the maximum.

How did the winter preparations go?
The winter preparations went really well. Apart from all my training back home, I also had the chance to spend very good days in Austria in December and January concentrating on my physical preparation, mainly based on winter sports like CrossCountry skiing, climbing through the snow, etc.

What are your expectations of the Sauber F1 Team?
With the progress the team has made in the previous years, I expect that as a team we will keep going in this same direction in order to reach our goals.

Do you appreciate the close relationships the Sauber F1 Team nurtures with its fans?
Yes definitely, I think that to share all experiences, both failures and victories, with the fans is the way to make sure all the energies coming from our supporters are positive.

Tests involve a lot of hard graft. How do you prepare yourself?
Mainly by keeping my mind clear for the tests so I can give my best feedback to the team, as it is a very important development stage in preparation for the races.

How long does it actually take to adjust to a new car?
In the beginning the most important task is to solve all the car’s reliability issues so we can put in a lot of laps in the tests. Then, of course, another important factor is to get to know the car in race and qualifying conditions, which mainly comes with experience during the first races.

How well do you actually know your team-mate?

I know that Nico has a similar working mentality to mine as prior to making it to Formula 1 we have raced in the same teams for a similar amount of time in the lower categories.

What will be the greatest (sporting) challenge of the upcoming season?
Gutiérrez: To be consistent at a good competitive level.

Sauber present C32 in Hinwil, team well-prepared for forthcoming season

By Berthold Bouman

Sauber present C32 in Hinwil, team well-prepared for forthcoming season - Photo: Sauber MotorsportToday Sauber became the fifth team to present their car for the 2013 FIA Formula One World Championship. Drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez unveiled the Sauber C32-Ferrari as is the official name of the car.

Last year Sauber had four podium finishes and scored 126 World Championship points, and the Swiss outfit is looking to build on their 2012 success this season. The new car will make its track debut at Jerez in a few days time, asked about the roll-out in Jerez Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn said,” I’m very excited. The roll-out of a new car is a very special moment every year. It’s something you’ve been working towards for almost a year and then you get your first impressions of how good a job you’ve done. Everyone in the team is excited about this moment, because everyone has played their part in it.”

Sauber Team Principal Monish Kaltenborn - Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Sauber Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn – Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Asked about Sauber’s expectations for this year she commented, “What I can say is that we’re well-prepared, that we’ve got the new car finished in good time and that we’ve met the performance targets we set ourselves internally. That puts us in a confident frame of mind. But we’ll only really find out what it all amounts to at the first race of the season in Melbourne.”

And she added, “We put some good foundations in place last year. And now we want to build on that base and continue to improve as a team.”

Last year Sauber finished in sixth place of the Constructors’ Championship, what is the aim for 2013? “We’re not saying we want to finish in this or that position in the standings, as ultimately other factors will also come into play that are outside our control. What we can be clear about, however, is that we want to continue on our upward curve,” said Kaltenborn.

All Photos: Sauber Motorsport

Jenson Button and Sergio Perez talk about the 2013 season and new McLaren MP4-28

By Berthold Bouman

Jenson Button and Sergio Perez talk about the 2013 season and new McLaren MP4-28 - pHOTO: McLarenJenson Button: “This year’s car is the best we’ve ever made.”

After McLaren unveiled the new 2013 contender, the McLaren MP4-28, it’s time to see what drivers Jenson Button and Sergio Perez think about the 2013 season and the new car.

For Button, it will be his fourth season with McLaren and he now understands the ins and outs of the McLaren team. The biggest change for the 2009 World Champion is his new team mate, Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez.

“It’s always interesting and inspiring to begin working with a new face, and it already feels like a very positive working relationship,” Button said about the Mexican driver. “I know from personal experience that it can feel initially daunting when you walk into the McLaren Technology Centre for the very first time, but I also remember how quickly I was made to feel at home and how welcoming I found the whole McLaren family. I’m sure Checo already feels very much at ease here.”

Jenson Button and Sergio Perez - Photo: McLaren

Jenson Button and Sergio Perez – Photo: McLaren

Button admitted McLaren were strong last season, but not strong enough to race for the ultimate goal, the 2012 crown, won by Sebastian Vettel. But this season it will be different, the Briton said.

“I’ve seen just how closely everybody has been working together on this car, and I think we’ve got the basis for a very strong season,” he said, adding, “We’ll be working extremely hard during the pre-season to ensure we go to the first race with bullet-proof reliability. Operationally, too, I think we’ve learned and developed from last year, and that will help us run a much smoother and stronger campaign.”

Although he hasn’t driven the MP4-28, has absolutely no doubts about the performance of the new car, “This year’s car is the best we’ve ever made — I know the engineers have left absolutely no stone unturned in wringing every ounce of performance from every available area. I cannot wait to get behind the wheel and attempt to carry forward the incredible legacy that lives beneath the skin of every single man and woman who works at McLaren.”

Sergio Perez: “I am fully aware of the steep slope ahead of me.”

Perez is not a rookie anymore after a two-year stint with the Swiss Sauber team, but driving for McLaren is quite something else he reckons. “For me, this is a great day. In fact, every day this year has been great: I’ve been working hard with my new team to get everything ready for the start of the 2013 season — and it’s been an incredible journey to get to know this incredible organisation.”

He still has a lot to learn he admitted, “Of course, I am fully aware of the steep slope ahead of me: it has already been an intense couple of weeks, getting to grips with a new team, meeting my engineers and mechanics, learning new ways of working and, of course, learning all about a brand new car — something I’ll need to do with just six days of on-track testing. It’s a big challenge!”

But he also said he will need some time to adapt to his new team and car, “Although I’ve been racing in Formula One for the past two seasons, every racing car is different and it always takes a little time to adjust. Firstly, I’ll need to understand the different characteristics of the car; secondly, I’ll learn how to best work with my engineers to make the car suit my personal driving style. It’s going to be an interesting and exciting journey.”

Pre-season testing will start on February 5 at the circuit of Jerez in Spain.

Jenson Button and Sergio Perez during the launch of the McLaren MP4-28

Kobayashi thanks his fans, aims for Formula One return in 2014

By Berthold Bouman

Kobayashi thanks his fans, aims for Formula One return in 2014 Ex-Sauber driver Kamui Kobayashi has given up his attempts to conquer a seat for the 2013 season, he reported on his website. The Japanese driver lost his seat to Mexican Esteban Gutierrez, but was still hoping to find a competitive team for next year. Thanks to his fans he gathered 8 million Euro to support his bid, but apparently ran out of options.

“I was in the position to bring a budget of €8 million at least,” said Kobayashi on his website. “If you could imagine the time I had, it was an overwhelming reaction and it shows there still is a great potential from Japanese companies.”

And he added, “Unfortunately, the time was still short and I am not able to secure the seat with a competitive F1 team for 2013. I have to admit that it is very sad and [I] feel sorry for [the] fans and Japanese companies who supported me. But I am still confident to make it happen in 2014.”

Kobayashi has stopped his donation program for now, and he will use the money to get a seat for the 2014 season. “I would like to stop the donation for now and while I will save all the money for 2014, I start to look what is the best option for 2013 and also 2014. My main priority is to secure the competitive F1 seat in 2014,” he told his fans.

“I have no interests to race any other categories. I will make an announcement as soon as I make a decision for 2013. So, please wait and really looking forward your support for coming year, too.”

Kobayashi finished in 12th place in the 2012 Drivers’ Championship, as he earned 60 points. He celebrated his biggest success in his native Japan, where he took third place for Sauber in front of a home-crowd.

They only options left for a drive in 2013 were Caterham, Marussia and Force India, but somehow it didn’t work out for Kobayashi, who made name and fame with his aggressive, but fair driving style, and his daring overtaking manoeuvres.

Kamui Kobayashi and Monisha Kaltenborn - Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Kamui Kobayashi says goodbye to Sauber Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn

Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Norbert Haug to leave after 2012

By Berthold Bouman

Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Norbert Haug to leave after 2012After 22 years Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Norbert Haug will retire at the end of this year. The Mercedes-Benz company reported the 60-year old German will end his career ‘with mutual agreement’. Haug actually started his career as a motorsport journalist, not without success, as he in 1988 became deputy chief editor of the German Auto, Motor und Sport magazine, the German authority on motorsports worldwide.

Haug joined Mercedes in 1990 when he became head of the Motorsport Division; his task was to revive Mercedes’ credentials in motorsport as they had abandoned all motorsport activities after the 1955 Le Mans drama which cost Mercedes driver Frenchman Pierre Levegh and 80 spectators their life.

Haug made Mercedes successful again in Group C racing, DTM and several international touring car championships. Formula One was still on Mercedes’ to-do list and they started to supply engines built by Ilmore to the Sauber team in 1993. But at the end of 1994 Peter Sauber switched to the Ford Zetec engines, and in 1995 Mercedes became the engine supplier for the McLaren team, a relationship that still stands today.

In 2010 the  mother company Daimler bought together, with investment company Aabar, the Brawn GP Formula One team, and turned it into the as yet not very successful Mercedes GP team. A few weeks ago Daimler purchased the remaining shares from Aabar and now fully owns the Mercedes Formula One team.

Nico Rosberg, Norbert Haug and Michael Schumacher - Photo: Daimler

Nico Rosberg, Norbert Haug and Michael Schumacher

Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars and CEO of Daimler AG praised Haug for his work at Mercedes. “For me, he put his stamp on a whole era and, as a highlight, he was responsible for the successful comeback of the Silver Arrows to Formula One. In the name of the Board of Management and the whole motorsport family, I would like to thank Norbert for his extraordinary commitment to the three-pointed star,” he said.

Haug commented on his leaving, “I would like to thank the best car company in the world for more than 22 years, which never had a single moment without passion for me. I particularly wish to thank the Board for the trust and freedom they have always given me with all my activities. Since 1991, we had tremendous achievements and wins, for which I want to thank all of my colleagues.”

About the lack of success of the Mercedes Formula One team Haug said, “Unfortunately, with one victory in 2012 since founding our own Formula One works team in 2010, we couldn’t fulfil our own expectations. However, we have taken the right steps to be successful in the future. Our team and our drivers will do everything to achieve these goals.”

Sauber signs Gutierrez as race driver, Frijns test and reserve driver

By Berthold Bouman

Sauber has signed Mexican Esteban Gutierrez as their 2013 race driver, and he will be racing alongside Nico Hulkenberg who will leave the Force India team at the end of the season. The 21-year old Mexican will succeed his compatriot Sergio Perez who will move to McLaren in 2013.

Gutierrez will drive for Sauber in 2013

Gutierrez was already test and reserve driver for the Swiss outfit, and Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn summed up his career, “Esteban has already been part of the team for a long time and we have followed his career very closely. In 2010 we signed him up as an affiliated driver, and in 2011 and 2012 he was our test and reserve driver. We mapped out his path to Formula One step by step. Esteban has great talent and now he’s ready to take the leap.” And she added, “We are in no doubt we have a strong driver pairing in place for the 2013 season with Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez.”

Gutierrez thanked Sauber for giving him the opportunity to become a Formula One driver, “After three years working with Sauber I feel very grateful for all the attention I have received from everyone in the team and for all their input, which has allowed me to develop into a Formula One driver in a very progressive way.”

“Now, after experiencing other categories of racing as an introduction to Formula One, this is the start of the real challenge to succeed at the pinnacle of motor sport,” he added. About his team mate Hulkenberg he commented, “It will be a great pleasure to be racing in the same team as an experienced driver like Nico Hulkenberg. He will be a good reference point for me and will push me to adapt quickly to F1 competition so we can develop the car together with the team in the best way.”

Gutierrez last drove the Sauber C31 during the Young Driver Days at Abu Dhabi, and so did Dutchman Robin Frijns, who has now been promoted to test and reserve driver. Frijns is actually just a few days younger than Gutierrez, and also has an impressive race C.V.

“Monitoring Robin’s racing career“, said Frijns’ team boss Kaltenborn, “makes it easy to spot his potential. This was the reason we gave him the chance to drive the Sauber C31-Ferrari at the Young Driver Days in Abu Dhabi. He managed this very well. We will now carefully guide him to Formula One. This is a long way, but Robin has got the skills to do that successfully.”

Frijns, who also tested for Red Bull at Abu Dhabi, said, “I’m very happy the Sauber F1 Team has given me this opportunity. I would like to thank Monisha Kaltenborn and Peter Sauber for their belief and trust in me by signing me to join their team as a test and reserve driver.”

Of course the young Dutchman is already looking forward to the 2013 season, “With this opportunity I will try to help the team as much as possible and get the chance to learn how Formula 1 works in an extremely professional environment. I am already very much looking forward to getting the 2013 season started and working together with the team.”

Unfortunately this announcement also means Kamui Kobayashi will have to find a new race seat for 2013, and Kaltenborn thanked the Japanese driver for his time with the Swiss team, “This has not been an easy decision for us to take, but we have committed ourselves to a new beginning and our time with Kamui will come to an end after the final race of the season. We wish Kamui all the best for the future.”

Robin Frijns, Sauber’s new test and reserve driver

Force India thinks Sauber’s sixth place in Constructors’ Championship is out of reach

By Berthold Bouman

Force India has officially given up on taking sixth place from rival Sauber in the Constructors’ Championship, as Vijay Mallay’s Team is now 29 points behind the Swiss outfit. Asked a bout the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Mallya said, “I have mixed feelings because we extended our run of points finishes, but on the other hand our two main rivals were ahead of us and scored well. With two races to go Sauber are almost out of reach and Williams are just 22 points behind us.”

Paul di Resta, Force India

Which means Force India has to be careful not to lose that seventh place to Williams, but said Mallya, “Without the problems at the first corner, I’m convinced we could have been up there fighting for some bigger points.” Mallya is looking forward to the first visit of Force India to the United States, “It’s such an important market for the teams and the brands associated with the sport so it’s a very welcome return to the calendar. It will be the first time Sahara Force India has raced on American soil and the whole team is excited to be going there.”

Also driver Paul di Resta thinks he could have scored more points in Abu Dhabi, “In terms of race pace the car was strong, I overtook a lot of cars and without the puncture we could definitely have had a stronger day.”  Like his team boss, the Scott also thinks Sauber’s sixth place is now out of reach, “I think under normal circumstances you’d probably say Sauber are out of reach. Williams looked good in Abu Dhabi, but I think we’re in a strong enough position to defend from them.”

But di Resta is adamant the Circuit of the Americas will suit the car, “Austin will be an unknown but it’s a new track so it’s likely to be similar to Abu Dhabi with new tarmac and a smooth surface. So there’s every reason to believe we can be competitive there.”

Force India TV – Nico Hulkenberg on the United States Grand Prix

Nico Hulkenberg visits Codemasters to try out the new Formula 1 2012 video game and gets his first taste of the brand new Circuit Of The Americas. He talks about the game then takes the virtual VJM05 for a lap of the track.