Sergio Pérez will race a completely new Sauber C30 chassis in this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai following the damage incurred in a bizarre incident in last weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.
Pérez was forced out of contention on lap 24 in Kuala Lumpur when his car was hit by a 6kg piece of loose ballast that had flown off the Scuderia Toro Rosso of Sébastien Buemi ahead of him, with Sauber team manager Beat Zehnder telling Swiss newspaper Blick
that the impact was like 'a bomb', confirming that the FIA have been informed due to the safety issue.
“The chassis looks pretty bad,” Zehnder confessed, alluding to the extent of the damage and adding in an interview with Auto Motor und Sport
: “Now there's a hole in it. For China, Sergio will have a new one. So far, we've only been unable to repair one chassis, [which] was [Heinz-Harald] Frentzen's after he crashed in Monaco in 1994...”
One key attribute to the C30 would appear to be its kindness towards its Pirelli tyres, with Pérez stunning on his F1 debut in Australia last month as the sole competitor to complete the race-distance on just a single-stop strategy, whilst team-mate Kamui Kobayashi pitted only twice in Malaysia, despite the high rate of degradation there. Both drivers are palpably fired-up to succeed in Shanghai.
“The circuit is quite a challenging one, and I would say similar to Sepang,” mused Pérez. “I know it from two races I competed in – an A1GP race back in 2007 and a round of GP2 Asia in 2009. I especially like the very fast straight with its hard-braking point at the end.
“I hope I can do better there in qualifying than I did in Malaysia, but my main goal is to learn and get more experience. I enjoyed my times in Shanghai a lot, I'm looking forward to my third visit there and I can't wait to take the F1 car around that circuit!”
“For me, it is an exciting track and I have always had good results there in whatever I have driven,” reflected Kobayashi, who officially broke his F1 2011 points duck at Sepang after being stripped of his seventh place Down Under. “Last year, though, it was not brilliant as I was the innocent victim in an accident immediately after the start.
“However, I hope this year we will have a good performance in qualifying and the race. China is a very big country and it is close to Japan. I like the food, so I always enjoy going there and I find it interesting. The circuit is very big, and it is a shame it is so far away from the centre of Shanghai. I would not be confident to drive on their roads, as I a little bit scared of their driving!”
For a man whose reputation is that of a fearless warrior out on the racetrack, that is a revealing admission indeed, but the overall sense inside Sauber in the early stages of the season is one of optimism, as it endeavours to distance itself from its pursuers in the battle over fifth spot in the constructors' standings.