Peter Sauber has said that his eponymous team is already excited for the 2013 F1 season, having put together an intriguing new driver line-up.
Despite having failed to depose Mercedes from fifth place in the constructors' standings, the Sauber outfit was comfortably clear of Force India, which had finished sixth overall in 2011, and Williams in the final reckoning, but faces a winter of adapting to new faces after signing Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez to replace Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi for 2013.
While the Mexican's promotion from the role of reserve was expected once it was clear that Kobayashi didn't have the financial clout to retain his seat, landing Hulkenberg is something of a coup for Sauber, the German having been a target for several other teams, despite being passed over in favour of Perez by McLaren. Sauber is particularly keen to see what the former Force India driver can do in one of his cars, and admits that he cannot wait for testing to begin early next year.
“I'm very confident, as far as the C32 goes,” he wrote in his column for Swiss publication Blick
, “Because the technical rules are unlikely to change, we can build on the C31. We are currently on schedule with the production of the new car and I am convinced that we can put a fast car on track on 5 February at Jerez.
“I'm also looking forward to our three new drivers. I don't need to say much about Nico Hulkenberg, as his results this year speak for themselves. However, he especially impressed me by dominating his highly-rated team-mate, Paul di Resta, in the second half of the season - and his performance in the race in São Paulo inspired us all.
“Esteban Gutierrez has already been connected with our team for several years and, in that time, we became convinced of his talent, otherwise we would not have put him under contract.”
Sauber was also praising of Gutierrez's replacement as reserve, reigning World Series champion Robin Frijns - who he claims has great potential and 'could continue the tradition of successful young drivers in our team' – and is confident that all three drivers will contribute to a successful campaign.
“The season just ended was marked by numerous highs, but also some lows,” he reflected, “After a first race in which we achieved very good results, we targeted fifth place in the constructors' championship, which was a very high goal and one we ultimately did not quite reach. However, we can still be proud of what we have achieved.
“If you look at the statistics from 2010 and 2011, we were only able to score 44 championship points, and [this year] it was 126. We also captured four podiums, and this is a clear indication of the jump we have made in terms of performance.
“But we also know that we still have much more to achieve, because our car was among the fastest in the field, but too often lacked the efficiency and consistency [it needed for better results]. The reasons were varied, but the majority of points were lost through no fault of our own. I am thinking, in particular, of Spa-Francorchamps, where Kamui and Sergio - from positions two and four on the grid – were shot down at the first turn.
“You can not change anything in those situations, but it is therefore important that we apply pressure wherever we can influence the lever.”