The primary goal for Sauber in F1 2010 will be to maintain the level of performance that previous owner BMW established in 2009, the Swiss squad revealed as it launched its Ferrari-powered C29 at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia today (Sunday) – a car that is the result of stoic determination and hard work in the face of sheer adversity.
When BMW announced that it was pulling the plug on its F1 involvement last summer – four years on from entering the top flight as a manufacturer in its own right by taking over Peter Sauber's eponymously-named outfit – it looked as though the popular team had reached the end of the road, with an initial bid to secure its future ultimately unravelling when it emerged that behind it was a convicted fraudster.
However, after 66-year-old Sauber himself stepped back in to re-assume control, the wheels were set in motion for 2010, and Toyota's subsequent withdrawal freed up a vacant slot on the starting grid, that was officially granted to the Hinwil-based concern a few weeks later.
Star 2009 debutant Kamui Kobayashi and long-time McLaren-Mercedes test driver Pedro de la Rosa were recruited to provide a counter-balancing blend of youth and experience on the driving strength – and now, exactly six weeks prior to the curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir in mid-March, the team is on-track. A formidable effort, by any standards.
“The last few months have been very intense for us,” acknowledged team principal and owner Sauber. “First we had to battle to secure the survival of the team, and then we focussed on putting a strong set-up in-place for the future. The technical preparation of the 2010 car has continued uninterrupted and according to plan since the spring of 2009, despite all the turmoil.
“We have a long tradition of bringing together an up-and-coming youngster and an experienced campaigner as a driver combination – and it's an approach that has brought us a lot of success. Pedro has been working at the highest level technically for many years and for a top team, and we can benefit as a team from his experience. Young Kamui also has a lot to offer us, and last year he impressed me particularly in Abu Dhabi.”
BMW ended the 2009 campaign placed sixth in the constructors' title standings, and as Sauber eyes a fresh start in 2010 – albeit still with the Bavarian marque's name on the car – it is a much leaner operation than lined up this time twelve months ago.
The reduction in manpower has been necessitated by the lower budget imposed since the parent company's departure, but having regained its erstwhile status as a plucky independent once more, technical director Willy Rampf explains that creative thinking and increased efficiency were very much the watchwords regarding the conception of the C29 – a longer car than its predecessor to accommodate the larger fuel tank needed this season, with a highly intricate raised nose and extremely long undercut at the transition from chassis into underbody to ensure optimum airflow to the double-diffuser.
“The development of the BMW-Sauber C29 has seen the team build on the experience gained last year and the improvement in performance over the final third of the season,” revealed the German, who is due to celebrate ten years in his role in April. “However, the new regulations banning refuelling during the race and stipulating a reduced width for the front tyres have required significant changes to the car's design.”