Veteran F1 team owner Peter Sauber has attributed the Swiss squad's upturn in form over the second half of 2010 to the arrival of new technical director James Key from Force India.
The Briton replaced long-time Sauber employee Willi Rampf at the Spanish Grand Prix, and gradually turned the team from being a point-less also-ran into a regular fixture in the top ten. Having languished at the bottom of the charts with newcomer teams Lotus, Virgin and HRT for the first few months, Sauber was delighted to see his eponymous outfit re-establish itself in his first year back at the helm.
“[The start of the season] was tough, no question," he admits, "The car was not only too slow, it was also unreliable, which is extremely unusual for this team. And then, as so often happens in sport, we also had a fair amount of bad luck. That wasn't just annoying, it also made negotiations with potential sponsors pretty much a non-starter."
With no major backer supporting the team following its divorce from BMW, an improvement in form was vital for Sauber, not only in terms of credibility, but also in order to potentially secure its long-term future. Key's arrival was thus a welcome shot in the arm.
“In April, James took over as technical director and achieved a great deal in a short period of time," Sauber enthuses, "He and his team identified the weaknesses of the C29 and laid down a clear roadmap for improvements. These ideas were quickly put into practice and had a positive effect. After collecting just a single world championship point in the first eight races of the season, we added another 36 over the next eight GPs – plus seven in the final three races.
"Added to that, James also implemented a series of organisational changes. Our success in finding a way out of such a difficult situation over the course of the season represents a fine advertisement for the quality and spirit within the team.”
Sauber also admitted that, while a tough decision, replacing Pedro de la Rosa for the final five races of the year was also a move he would not hesitate to repeat in future.
“We were in a situation where we didn't know how far we had come in terms of performance," he said, reflecting on the initial tandem of de la Rosa and rookie Kamui Kobayashi, "Both drivers were new to the team, we didn't know them very well and we didn't know how good the car was. What we were missing was a reliable benchmark. We know Nick well after working with him for many years, and that allowed us to gauge the progress of various elements.”