Sauber CEO Monisha Kaltenborn has revealed that F1 2011 rookie Sergio Pérez surprised even his own team with his ability to complete the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne a fortnight ago on only two sets of Pirelli tyres – asserting that he and team-mate Kamui Kobayashi 'deserved to keep the points' of which they were subsequently deprived.
Pérez – who had not so much as even sat in an F1 car prior to last November's Abu Dhabi young driver test – stunned observers Down Under, not only by taking the chequered flag a superb sixth on his grand prix debut, but also by doing so as the sole driver in the field to complete the race having made just a single pit-stop. It was, admits Kaltenborn, quite staggering.
“We also were very surprised by his driving, to be honest,” confessed the sport's first-ever female MD, after the young Mexican conceded that the Ferrari-powered C30's pace in Australia was 'a very positive surprise for us' [see separate story – click here
], “but it is too early to say how his driving style is – that was just the first race, and we still have the entire season to go. He definitely can handle tyres in such a condition, we could see that, but it is just too early to make a final call on that.”
What's more, the young Mexican outperformed highly-rated team-mate Kamui Kobayashi on his F1 bow around the streets of Albert Park, with the pair crossing the finish line respectively sixth and seventh – but both were later excluded from the results over a rear wing discrepancy, costing Sauber ten points that Kaltenborn acknowledges 'could be' significant indeed in terms of prize money come season's end.
“Of course, the weekend was a very disappointing one for the team,” she reflected. “If you look at the performance, I think the team did an excellent job. The drivers produced a great performance – especially with Sergio having that one-stop strategy – and they deserved to keep the points. With all that, if you are penalised in such a way, it just feels very, very harsh.
“We were by a few millimetres not in conformity with the technical regulation concerned, so we just had to make sure that the radius fitted into the FIA template. It wasn't really much to do – we focussed on what we had to do to get it sorted out, which wasn't a big issue as such. We evaluated the whole process, we reinforced it, we added a few measures. We do have a procedure which worked and proved to be right but, of course, with people mistakes can happen and it should have been caught.
“All it was, was a minor error. It was an annoying mistake as it cost us ten points, but we looked at our entire legality check procedure to make sure that this doesn't happen again. Ten points is quite a lot for us – but we are still confident that we can manage to make that up.”