Gutierrez eyes top ten as Sauber soldiers on to Spa
19 August 2013
F1 rookie Esteban Gutierrez reckons that his Sauber could be good for a top ten finish at the Belgian Grand Prix, despite a rocky summer for the Swiss team.
The Mexican, still without a point ten races into his debut season, has been mercurial to say the least since graduating from GP2 last winter, but was hampered in his pursuit of points last time out after mechanical gremlins blighted his third and final practice session at the Hungaroring.
Despite that, and the fact that Sauber's future remains uncertain while details of its partnership with a group of Russian organisations is sorted out, Gutierrez is in bullish mood heading to one of the most popular stops on the schedule.
“Belgium will be an interesting race with everything we have done to the car during the past few GPs,” he insisted, “Obviously, qualifying in Hungary was not good, because of the time we lost in FP3, but I think we can manage to get into the position we were expecting, which is around P10 in Spa-Francorchamps.
“It is one of the tracks that I enjoy driving the most, because it has a lot of quick corners and it just flows. You can feel the limits of the car at really high speeds. One lap is quite long and, sometimes, you even face varying weather conditions in different parts of the track - on one side it might be raining, while the other side might be dry. This makes it very challenging and interesting.
“In terms of the set-up, we will have to be clever about which downforce levels we want to race, because you have very long straights and, at the same time, you have high-speed corners, where you need the downforce. As a racing driver, however, it is impossible not to enjoy the track, because it has fast corners, you are going uphill, downhill and I am really looking forward to it.”
Team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, whose own future may come into clearer focus should Daniel Ricciardo be confirmed at Red Bull over the weekend, is also an unabashed fan of the Spa layout, particularly as it delivered his best finish in F1, while a member of the Force India squad in 2012.
“I am probably not the only driver to say Spa-Francorchamps is one of my favourite circuits,” the German noted, “It's a track with a lot of history, an old school circuit with great corners like Eau Rouge and Pouhon. I have great memories from last year, as it was my strongest career finish so far, finishing fourth, which was really good.
“In terms of the car, it's important to have a really efficient one. There are a lot of medium and high-speed corners, where you need the downforce, especially in sector two, but you also need to lose the drag on the straight, because there are long [runs], especially out of turn one through Eau Rouge, which is flat, and then again coming back to the start and finish line.”
For head of track engineering Tom McCullough, however, it will be a case of keeping one eye on the skies and the other on what is happening on track.
“We have improved the competitiveness of the C32 throughout the first half of the season and we aim to capitalise on that between now and the end of the year,” he claimed, “After the August break, the whole team feels refreshed and we are looking forward to the remaining nine races.
“Spa-Francorchamps is a favourite track for many engineers and drivers as the track requirements are different to the majority of the tracks we visit. The circuit efficiency penalises higher levels of drag so the rear wings will return to the medium levels of downforce and, as always, we will have to keep an eye on the forecast as this often influences the race weekend in Spa-Francorchamps.”