Sauber is often unfairly regarded as F1's invisible team, but that is to do the plucky little Swiss minnows a great disservice – and in 2011, they may just show why.
One of the sport's staunchest devotees over the past couple of decades, Sauber looked to be down-and-out when BMW unexpectedly pulled the plug on its ownership and manufacturer backing at the end of 2009 – prompting Peter Sauber himself to step back in, somewhat against his better judgement, to rescue the outfit he had brought into F1 in 1993 from total collapse.
With no sponsors and precious little budget over the winter, last season was unsurprisingly one to be endured rather than enjoyed, but there were nevertheless a number of bright spots along the way – the vast majority of them provided by Kamui Kobayashi.
Sauber has developed a reputation as a keen talent-spotter over his years in the sport, and Kobayashi is undoubtedly another extremely promising discovery. The young Japanese ace might still be somewhat rough around the edges – probably always will be, to be fair – but therein lies his appeal, and his gung-ho approach to racing and never-say-die aggression out on-track earned the 24-year-old a whole legion of fans during 2010. Not many people, after all, boldly get the better of double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso in the closing stages of a grand prix on the Spaniard's home turf…
Alongside Kamui in 2011 will be Mexican rookie Sergio Pérez, and all the expectations are that the former British F3 and GP2 Series front-runner will turn out to be every bit as exciting as his team-mate. It is a dynamic line-up for Sauber this season, and add into the mix a car in the Ferrari-powered C30 that has looked rather potent during testing, and the paddock's most 'invisible' resident could just be set to surprise.
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