Despite a scoreless weekend in Korea, the Sauber F1 team is still pursuing its goal of wresting fifth place in the constructors' standings from the works Mercedes squad.
The two teams are separated by 20 points with four grands prix remaining between now and the end of November and, although the gap has fluctuated from race to race as the rivals from Hinwil and Brackley take turns to reap the bigger score, Sauber appears to have the better car heading towards the conclusion.
Neither team scored in Korea, with Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi
being independently affected by separate first lap incidents, although the Mexican eventually came within tenths of a second of stealing the final point from Lewis Hamilton. By contrast, Kobayashi's impression of an unguided missile accounted for Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, while Michael Schumacher could not better 13th spot, resulting in championship stalemate between the two teams.
Despite that frustration, Sauber's new team principal, Monisha Kaltenborn insists that 2012 has been good for the Swiss squad – and can still yield its best championship position for some time.
“With four podium places and 116 world championship points, we can certainly be proud of our achievements as a private team,” Kaltenborn commented, “Of course, there have been races where things didn't go to plan and we forfeited valuable points, [but] the Sauber C31-Ferrari is a great success and has proved competitive on virtually any kind of circuit.
“Some describe it as one of the best cars on the grid, [but] now it's a matter of carrying that impetus forward into the remaining four races. Our ambitious goal remains to finish fifth in the constructors' world championship, and I have the utmost confidence, both in our team at Hinwil and in the crew at the track, along with our two drivers.”
Kobayashi, who could still find himself out of the running to retain his Sauber seat for 2013, provided the personal highlight of the season so far for Kaltenborn who, having taken off her 'sober, objective hat for a moment', admitted that it had been 'just so emotional when Kamui finished third in Japan'.
With Perez's move to McLaren
next season having helped set off the annual drivers' 'merry-go-round', there are rumours that Sauber will replace its entire line-up by signing current reserve Esteban Gutierrez and Force India's Nico Hulkenberg
to race contracts for 2013, but Kaltenborn refuses to be drawn on the identity of either driver, preferring to focus on the forthcoming Indian Grand Prix and the team's pursuit of Mercedes.
“I really have to distinguish between the professional and the private side,” the Indian-born Austrian admitted, “From the sports point of view, as far as the Sauber is concerned, the Indian GP is a race like any other, with the same meticulous preparations and the same aspiration to achieve the best possible result. From a personal point of view, it's rather different….