The Belgian Grand Prix had looked good for the Sauber team until about 30 seconds after the lights had gone out, leaving the Swiss team to lick its wounds and hope for quick change of fortune as the European F1 season comes to a close at Monza this weekend.
With Kamui Kobayashi qualifying on the front row alongside Jenson Button at Spa-Francorchamps, and Sergio Perez lining up directly behind his team-mate on row two, the omens were good for a double points finish - and perhaps even a return to the podium following the Mexican's top three finishes in Malaysia and Canada - but the dream turned sour at turn one as both drivers became caught up in the accident precipitated by Romain Grosjean's ill-advised move on Lewis Hamilton.
Perez was out on the spot after being collected as Grosjean's Lotus vaulted over the cars immediately in front of him, while Kobayashi collected collateral damage as Fernando Alonso's Ferrari was forced over the Sauber. While the Japanese ace was able to continue, he did so at the tail of the field, and eventually managed just 13th place at the finish.
Unsurprisingly, Sauber wants to pick up from where it left off in qualifying rather than the race and, adopting a 'take a deep breath and carry on' mentality', is already making the 800km trip south to Monza.
“Monza is definitely a stand-alone track in the season due to its very long straights and a limited amount of corners," head of track engineering Giampaolo Dall'Ara commented, "However, they are interesting corners as two of them are low-speed chicanes requiring very good braking stability and then traction out of them. The rest, basically Lesmo and Parabolica, are very interesting high-speed bends that become even more challenging with the low downforce levels we run there - which is also stand-alone in the season.
"The track is an old-fashioned one with bumps, a regular surface and high kerbs, especially in the chicanes. The car will be updated with a low downforce package which, like in Spa, is not a real development step. We will have different wings on the front and rear, plus some normal tuning, and the expectation is to have a good weekend.”
Having secured his first front row start in the top flight, Kobayashi remains in confident mood as he returns to familiar surroundings.
"My early racing career started in Italy, [and] Monza is one of my favourite circuits," he explained, "I have a really good feeling for it, so I want a good result there."
Perez, too, has particularly good memories of racing in the royal park, even though he spent the majority of his junior career racing in UK-based series.
“The track at Monza is another favourite of mine, and I have had some very good races there," he confirmed, "In F3, I qualified 14th and then went on to win both races.
"I always enjoy the atmosphere in Italy, and the tifosi
are just great. The circuit is obviously a true high-speed track, but I have a lot of faith in the low downforce package which we have in place. When I look at our performance at Spa, which is also a fast track, the C31 should be strong at the Italian Grand Prix.”