Adrian Sutil has revealed that Sauber has yet to run its new Ferrari power unit to its full potential as teams continue to find their way in F1's new technical era.
Speaking on the eve of the 2014 season's first official practice session, the German – who moved to Sauber from Force India over the winter – conceded that so much time had been spent working on reliability that out-and-out performance had still to be realised.
Sauber was able to complete over 2500 laps across the three pre-season tests in Spain and Bahrain, although Sutil and team-mate Esteban Gutierrez sat in the lower reaches of the timesheets at BIC.
“It's the first time [coming into a season with so many unknowns] and it really feels different,” the German conceded, “Normally, you have good testing and, in Barcelona, we could usually do a performance run but, this year, its different - there are so many new systems and it was only on the last day, for half a day, that we could finally concentrate on the driving side of the car and see how it is.
“It's a very, very different feeling, but I find it quite interesting - everyone is unsure and I think it makes the sport more exciting.”
Asked whether that final run had allowed him to fully open up with the new Ferrari turbo V6, Sutil admitted that that was something still to come.
“Full power? Not yet...,” he confirmed, “I think there is more to come. I hope so!”
There is still a lot for the Sauber team to discover with its C33, even though its reliability has been generally good, and Sutil sees the Australian Grand Prix as more than just an early opportunity to score points.
“Reliability could be okay, but we are not sure,” he noted, “We had an issue one day, then the next it went wonderfully and we did a lot of laps. But this is the interesting part at the moment - no-one knows where they are and, even if you're fast, it doesn't mean anything. You have to survive, get over the whole race distance and then you can say 'okay, we made it'.
“There is a long way to go and, on single lap performance, I don't know where we are. There's a lot of work to do, but it's nice, it keeps us all busy. There are a lot of improvements to be expected. It's most important to finish the race here, to do a lot of kilometres - the more kilometres you do, the better you will be in the next race. You have to think in advance. Yes, it's a race, but it's also a lot of testing, a lot of mileage and a lot of information.”
Despite revealing that he had yet to fully stretch the Ferrari powerplant, however, Sutil admitted that he was quite happy with the way the new generation of F1 cars performed.
“They're still fast and, in a straight line, we have increased our top speeds compared to last year,” he announced, “In the corners, they are a little bit slower, but we'll make big steps forward in downforce in the windtunnel and, over the year, the car is going to pick up a lot of speed.”