Anyone who'd been considering administering the last rites to Sauber F1 can think again, after a Japanese Grand Prix that demonstrated that the Swiss team is in the rudest of health and looking better and better with every race.

A double points finish for the team after Nico Hulkenberg came home in sixth place just ahead of his team mate Esteban Gutierrez in his best-ever F1 finish in seventh place was surely better than the team could possibly have hoped for coming into this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.

But you could forgive the team for being slightly disappointed with even this impressive outcome, after Hulkenberg spent most of the race running in fourth place only to allow two places to slip away in the concluding nine laps of Sunday afternoon's race.

"We shouldn't be too disappointed, I think we did everything we could," insisted Hulkenberg after the finish. "At the end my tyres were just giving up a little bit. We were fighting throughout the race today. Just after my second pit stop I was surprised I was able to pull away a bit from Fernando, but he was probably saving his tyres.

"Again I managed to keep both Ferraris behind me for a long time, even if it wasn't enough as my tryes just gave up a little bit at the end of the race," he said. Sure enough, Alonso was able to get past him three laps from the finish to clinch fifth place, Kimi Raikkonen having earlier also found his way past the Sauber. "It's a solid team result; sixth and seventh, that's good news."

Hulkenberg said that he sense he had the car to do business with even before the lights went out. "I was already surprised by the pace of the car going to the grid as it felt really good," he revealed.

It was a good race too for Esteban Gutierrez, who is really finding his feet in the latter half of his rookie season in F1, making up an impressive seven places on his 14th place grid start - five of them on the very first lap - to claim his first F1 world championship points in his rookie season.

"Finally I can feel great satisfaction after the race," said Gutierrez. "It has been a lot of work to get up to this point, and while it has not been an easy path I think it has been a very solid one.

"Over the past few races we have been improving a lot, and as I said yesterday, we have to keep optimistic and this is the result of that. Knowing we can achieve something like this, you really go forward and do your best and push.," he explained.

The strong performance came at a particularly appropriate weekend, as it marks team founder Peter Sauber's 70th birthday.

"This is a fantastic result for us, especially on Peter's birthday. We hope he is happy with this," said team principal Monisha Kaltenborn. "On behalf of the whole team I would like to wish Peter Sauber a happy 70th birthday.

"Over the past 43 years motorsport has shaped his life. He established the Sauber F1 Team in F1 as well as the Sauber brand in motorsport," She continued. "Sauber is now the fourth oldest name in F1. Peter was able to achieve all of that from Switzerland, which four decades ago no one believed was possible.

"He founded a motorsport team, brought it to the highest level of motorsport and was able to compete continuously in F1 for over 20 years. Sauber Motorsport today is a technology centre of the highest standard. Peter Sauber always focused on the interests of the team. For that he deserves the utmost gratitude and respect," she added.



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