Monisha Kaltenborn admits Sauber has started the season further off the pace than the team expected.

The opening race of the season in Australia saw Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez both finish outside of the points and a lap down, while both cars then failed to finish the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday. Speaking exclusively to after the race in Sepang, team principal Kaltenborn said she was encouraged by some signs of progress in Malaysia but admitted the team was starting from further back than it had hoped to be.

"Clearly we knew that we can't compare anything to the previous season, which in a way was not so bad for us although we had a good ending I would say," Kaltenborn said. "Of course we suffered a lot when it came to coping with the challenges when we entered this new era because particularly when you are - on the engine side - a customer team, and your supplier is still developing all they can, like everyone did, right until the end and maximising their time, you always have a certain delay until you get information. That's natural, it is nothing you really need to get upset about, you have to live with that and you have to cope with it.

"So we knew that it was not going to be easy for us, but yet to see how many kilometres we could still drive at the last test was not bad. Reliability seemed to be pretty alright, we were not seeing any major issues on the aero side. Yes, we saw that we have issues with the weight so we are working on that because weight reduction programmes are always the most expensive ones and now we have to go down that way.

"So I think we were hoping that the performance would not be that far off - as we saw in Australia - but you could see here already until qualifying that we had closed that gap a little bit. It's a good sign for us because we know that we are implementing little bits and pieces, and if they're going in the right direction then it's right that whatever we are planning as a bigger step, particularly for the European races, should be the right way. So that's where we are and working our way through."

Looking ahead to an upgrade after the Chinese Grand Prix, Kaltenborn said she is hopeful Sauber can find a substantial amount of lap time in one go.

"I expect a big step there. I think we have proven already last year that we took quite a big step suddenly. There also we went the same way; we started with small little bits and pieces and suddenly something came in. But it gives you the confidence that yes you are going in the right direction.

"So I do expect to take a big step. We see that if we can get these two major issues - one is powertrain related and one is of course related to our chassis - if we get our act together on that then I think we can be competitive."


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