Sauber team is hoping that the form it showed at the Belgian Grand Prix
at the end of August will carry over into the final European race of the 2009 Formula One season, at Monza, this weekend.
The Hinwil/Munich based operation was the only one to get both its cars into the points at Spa-Francorchamps, as Robert Kubica
and Nick Heidfeld
secured its best result of the season in fourth and fifth places, and drivers and management alike are confident that the similarities between the Belgian venue and Monza should see another strong performance from the slowly-improving F1.09.
"The result at Spa-Francorchamps represented confirmation for the whole team," Head of engineering Willy Rampf commented, "It was important for all involved to see that our huge efforts over the preceding weeks had paid off. Of course, now we want to take this upturn in form with us to Italy and post another strong result at Monza.
"This is the last genuine high-speed track left on the calendar. The four long straights mean that keeping the drag level low is crucial, so we run the cars with less downforce here than anywhere else during the season. This involves using a modified front wing and a new and extremely small rear wing, although there is an additional challenge for the drivers and engineers in order to give the cars a set-up which ensures good braking stability and allows the kerbs to be taken aggressively."
The revitalising effect of the team's strong performance at Spa has boosted spirits ahead of the visit to Monza, despite the threat of closure and redundancies still hanging over it. As the teams prepare to Asia and South America after Monza, for the four remaining races on the calendar, work continues on securing the future of the Hinwil factory.
"We are aiming to build on our good results from Spa-Francorchamps, where we were competing at the front of the field for the first time in a long while," team boss Mario Theissen admitted, "Our strong performance in Belgium gave the whole team an extra shot of motivation for the next races, and we are confident that we are getting back into the fast lane once again."
For Kubica and Heidfeld, the remainder of the season will continue to serve as an audition for 2010, with each having been connected to alternative possible rides for next season. The Pole continues to be linked to Renault
but, in the event that Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen
completes a swap deal with Fernando Alonso, is also understood to have fielded overtures from Toyota
and Brawn, amongst others.
"The Monza track is a very special one," Kubica admitted, no doubt recalling his 2006 podium there, "As it is the quickest track on the calendar, the car's downforce level will be reduced even more compared to Spa-Francorchamps but, traditionally, our cars are quite quick on low downforce tracks and our performance was already good at Spa. I have a good feeling for Monza."
Heidfeld, meanwhile, is being talked of as a possible member of a changed Williams
line-up in 2010, but does not expect to be able to take a maiden F1 win to any future talks that may follow Monza.
"The speed we had at Spa-Francorchamps with lower downforce gives us hope that we could do even better at Monza with even less downforce," he admitted, "However, the cars equipped with KERS will probably have a considerable advantage over the long straights."