Sauber happy with ‘best qualifying’ of 2013
5 October 2013
Sauber put both of its drivers into the top ten grid positions ahead of Sunday's Korean Grand Prix, prompting team boss Monisha Kaltenborn to hail the squad's best qualifying performance of the year.
With a resurgent Esteban Gutierrez making the Q2 cut for the second time in as many races, and Nico Hulkenberg building on recent form to return to the final phase of qualifying after missing out in Singapore, Sauber got the drop on the likes of McLaren, Force India and Toro Rosso, who all failed to progress to the top ten shoot-out, before putting both drivers in front of Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen in the final line-up.
“This was our best qualifying result this year, and so we are very happy about that,” Kaltenborn gushed, “It confirms our strength, and our performance shows we have improved the technical side of the car. I am all the more happy about the fact this time both drivers were able to use the car's potential. A big thank you to the entire team for all the hard work it has been doing. Now we just need to keep that up and bring home some points tomorrow.”
Of course, with Mark Webber's penalty for 'hitchhiking' back to the pits in Singapore, Hulkenberg and Gutierrez move up to share row four of the grid and will be hoping to avoid the drop off in tyre performance that cost them better results in Marina Bay.
“Today went really well,” Hulkenberg reported, “Q1 and Q2 were like clockwork and my lap in Q3 was good too, but somehow it was more difficult - I was four-tenths down on my Q2 time and the grip was not the same as in the previous session.
“To start P7 tomorrow is very positive and we can look forward to the race. The car felt good during the long runs yesterday, and I feel confident we are able to hold our position tomorrow. It is so much fun driving here, however, we mustn't forget the cars in front of us are strong and also we have the McLarens behind us.”
For Gutierrez, a second appearance in the pole shoot-out generated a career-best qualifying spot, despite his pace being a couple of tenths off that of his team-mate.
“I've improved my qualifying and, once you have both cars working on a similar level, you can push yourself a lot more,” the Mexican claimed, “This is the first time I have driven here, so it is great to achieve a result like that. It is now the second time in a row I have been able to put in a good qualifying performance and that is a good feeling, because I have worked a lot to improve.”
Despite the optimism in the Sauber camp, however, the rookie sounded a note of warning linked to potential changes in the local weather.
“The race will be interesting,” he admitted, “The track temperature changed in Q3 and I had a bit of an issue with the balance of the car, and the front grip. Tomorrow will be similar to today, so we need to consider that in order to have a consistent race.”
Head of track engineering Tom McCullough, meanwhile, praised the backroom staff at Hinwil for their contribution to the Saturday success.
“This was a true team effort, as the latest updates we brought here were scheduled for India,” he explained, “A big push by the production department brought that target forward, so we have these final ones for these last six races.
“Making it into FP3 with both cars is a fantastic result for the team, and we can see clearly the car is improving. It was obvious, after FP3, that it was going to be very tight, but we knew Q3 was possible and great laps by both drivers got us there. In Q3 itself, both drivers felt there was a little bit more in the car, but as we shall be starting seventh and eighth on the grid and the long run pace of the car in P2 was strong, our target for points is realistic and this is what matters. Getting into Q3 was part one of our plans.”