The Sauber team heads to next weekend's Spanish Grand Prix without a point o its name from the four preceding F1 rounds, but confident that changes made to its car in the three-week break since China can kick-start its 2014 campaign.
The Swiss team had high hopes for the year, coming off the back of a strong finish to 2013, but has posted five retirements in eight starts with Adrian Sutil's eleventh place in Melbourne its highest finish to date.
Admitting that it had built a conservative car for the latest technical era, Sauber has worked hard in the extended break, and both C33s will be significantly improved for Barcelona, with an extensive reduction in weight being accompanied by a major aerodynamic update.
“Both C33s will have essential revisions,” confirmed head of track engineering Giampaolo Dall'Ara, “This update consists of a modified front wing and a new engine cover, new sidepod fins and deflectors, as well as a number of other aerodynamic changes. Besides that, we will also have a software improvement, which will enable us to use the potential of the power unit in a better way.”
Despite the changes meaning that the team's two race drivers will have to get used to a 'new' car at the Circuit de Catalunya, test and reserve driver Giedo van der Garde will again be behind the wheel in FP1, with Esteban Gutiérrez only taking over 'his' C33 later on Friday.
“We expect a busy Friday at the track while tuning the set-up to the new package,” Dall'Ara noted, “Making the best use of the tyre compounds will also be a challenge, as Pirelli's choice to allocate medium and hard tyres appears to be conservative.
“We very much look forward to converting everyone's efforts into improved lap times. However, we know that all the other teams are progressing as well, so it will be interesting to see where we stand. We will certainly do our best in order to race for points.”
Gutierrez returns to Barcelona buoyed by his performance, albeit a point-less one, in 2013, and is keen to make the most of the development parts.
“I really enjoy driving on the Circuit de Catalunya, and last year was very positive for me because I did the fastest lap in the race,” the Mexican, who finished eleventh overall, reflected, “For us, [the 2014 Spanish Grand Prix] is an opportunity to improve our level of competitiveness. I have faith in my team, everyone is doing their best. We are positive and expect to make a step forward. I am fully prepared to go for the maximum and to get the most out of the car.”
van der Garde and Gutierrez will continue to share a cockpit after the race weekend is over, as Sauber joins its rivals in staying on for the second two-day 'in season' test.
“We will have some updates and our C33 will weigh less, so it will be interesting to see how the car behaves,” the Dutchman concluded, “I am positive, and I am keen to get back behind the wheel.”