Nico Hulkenberg has been buoyed by his eighth place finish in the Malaysian Grand Prix and believes the 'potential is there' now for Sauber to go forward.
Hulkenberg had to sit out the season opener in Australia due to a fuel system failure, and so last weekend's race at the Sepang International Circuit, the second round in the 2013 F1 World Championship, was in fact his first grand prix with his new team. The ex-Force India and ex-Williams man went well too, and despite starting eleventh, came through the pack to take eighth place and two championship points, much to his delight – and the team's, as both have now opened their account for 2013.
“I feel quite well rewarded going home with four points after my first race of the season in a new team and with a new car,” said the German. “I am quite happy with how it went, especially at the start of the race when we were quite quick on the intermediates.
“But then I was stuck in traffic and couldn't find my way past other drivers. I think eighth was well deserved, considering I had to fight and push a lot today.
“I think the potential is there, and now we have to work on a few details [in order to go forward],” he added.
Team-mate Esteban Gutierrez meanwhile finished twelfth in the sister Ferrari-powered C32, one place higher than he managed in Melbourne. The Mexican was disappointed not to score, but like Hulkenberg, also thinks the signs are promising for the coming races.
“P12 is an okay result, but ideally we would have liked to finish in the points,” said the F1 rookie. “At the end of the race we lost time because we stayed on the same set of tyres for too long.
“We tried to change the strategy and I did my best. That was all we could do at that stage. Overall the weekend is a step forward and we need to keep working and put everything together to achieve points.”
Sauber team principal, Monisha Kaltenborn and head of track engineering, Tom McCullough, agree that the squad learned a lot over the Malaysian GP weekend.
“We are happy about this result, because we had an unexpectedly difficult weekend. However, we were able to improve step by step. We now have a better understanding of those areas in which we have to improve. This will help us to exploit the full potential of the car,” said Kaltenborn.
“Both drivers handled the difficult intermediate conditions at the beginning of the race well, and communicated well with the engineers on the pit wall to get the right tyres at the right time. It's good to get the first points on the board," McCullough chipped in. “We've got a lot of good data to analyse now, which will help us to be even stronger in Shanghai.”