Peter Sauber has reflected that he had been hoping for a rather different return to F1 as a team principal than the one that saw both of his cars underwhelm in terms of performance and ultimately retire from the curtain-raising 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir at the weekend.
After qualifying respectively just 14th and 16th in the desert kingdom – a far cry from the impressive and even giant-killing pace displayed during pre-season testing – experienced grand prix returnee Pedro de la Rosa and highly-rated 'rookie' Kamui Kobayashi would both take early baths on race day with similar issues, though the former maintained afterwards that battling for points had not been altogether out of the question.
“I actually had a good start, but then lost positions when I had to go off the track to avoid colliding with other cars,” explained the Spaniard, at 39 the second-oldest man in the field behind fellow comeback star Michael Schumacher. “On the grass I lost acceleration and some cars were able to pass, so when I arrived at Turn Four I had lost several positions. Then I felt we had a car that was good enough to fight for points, and there still was a chance to achieve this when I was called into the pits on lap 29 because of a hydraulic problem.”
“Unfortunately, it was a short race for me because on lap twelve I lost the power steering and from then on I wasn't able to shift anymore due to a hydraulic problem,” added de la Rosa's young Japanese team-mate. “I had quite a good start when I made up four positions, but then I flat-spotted a tyre and, in hindsight, I also believe it would have been better to start on the softer compound. Pedro was faster on them.”
It was, all-told, a somewhat trying way to begin the campaign for the former BMW operation – which toiled hard over the winter to regroup following the Bavarian manufacturer's withdrawal, and is still lacking significantly on the sponsorship front compared to many of its immediate rivals – and Sauber admitted that there is now even more work to do in order to move up the grid.
“I obviously had different hopes for how I would return to Formula 1 as a team principal,” acknowledged the 66-year-old team owner of the eponymous Swiss outfit, “particularly after our promising winter testing – but even before the race, our grid positions were disappointing. The race itself was okay from a performance point-of-view, with both drivers fighting for positions before they stopped with hydraulic problems. We have to analyse and solve this problem very quickly.”
“The race pace was okay,” concurred the Hinwil-based concern's technical director Willy Rampf. “Pedro drove an intelligent race and managed his tyres really well. Kamui, who was on the harder compound, was forced to stop before his first scheduled pit-stop, therefore there is not much to say. Neither car finished the race due to a hydraulic problem which we have to analyse.”