Kamui Kobayashi has suggested that Sauber's consistent form will be the key to maintaining its position in the constructors' championship, despite growing pressure from Force India in the past few weeks.
Vijay Mallya's squad has out-scored Sauber 20-2 over the past three rounds, leaving just three points between them heading into the final European round of the 2011 F1 season, but Kobayashi remains confident that sixth place can be preserved heading into the six 'flyaways' that close out the year.
Sauber started the year strongly, despite losing a double-points finish at the Australian Grand Prix to a technical irregularity, and had scored at every round bar Valencia until its recent slump. With nothing added to the team's tally in either Hungary or Belgium, the term 'slump' has been bandied about, but Kobayashi refuses to believe that Sauber's season is on the slide.
"Pace-wise, it's been a bit difficult with the mid-season [blown diffuser] rule change that was then changed back," he admitted to the official F1 website, "We were very strong at the start of the season but then suffered because of the change. And, unfortunately, even though this change was revoked, we haven't been able to reclaim our initial strength.
"This back and forth was quite irritating and has made us struggle a lot, [but] I think we are now on the way to stabilising our performance and regaining the pace we had at the start of the season. I know that we have a huge amount of potential and when we fully understand the issue we will be able to fix it.
"[Scoring two points from the last five races] is a big problem for us - not just for me. We scored a lot of points at the beginning of the season but, lately, we've been struggling a lot because of that rule change. I still believe that we will have the chance to fight again in what I call 'the second group' of teams in the championship and get good results. We might not be the fastest of these teams - but we are a very consistent team - and that is a very important quality."
While attention, especially for those teams out of the title fight, often now focuses on next season, Kobayashi remains hopeful that Sauber will continue to bring new developments to the C30 to help keep the team ahead of its rivals in the 'division two' battle.
"This weekend [at Monza], we have only a couple of updates, but more is to come in the future and I hope these updates will help us regain our initial pace," he mused, "I think we will be fine if we avoid making mistakes and optimise our potential in the race.
"To be honest, this is not one of our favourite tracks," he said of the Italian autodromo
, "Force India were fast at Spa and my guess is that we will see more of the same here. Of course, that doesn't mean we are giving up, but there are definitely tracks that suit us better, like Suzuka for example. I also don't think the Singapore track will be a Force India track. My guess is that we could do better there. But I think that Monza will be good for them - like Spa was. I think we need to find better pace this weekend and then I think we will have it in our hands to fight with them for P6."