Due to its proximity to Switzerland and the team's relationship with Ferrari, the Sauber-Petronas team has a strong link to the Italian Grand Prix, and looks forward to contesting what it regards as its 'home' race.

The squad conducted a three-day test at Monza last week, and returned to base confident that it could be competitive in this weekend's 14th round. The first two days were conducted by Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who then handed over to team-mate Nick Heidfeld to complete the test. The two Germans covered 185 laps between them, as they focused attention on the evaluation of new aerodynamic parts, and a race simulation of the latest 'C' specification version of the Petronas V10. Although Heidfeld suffered a heavy off on the third day, which destroyed many important aero developments, the engine proved its worth and will be used for the first time in Monza this weekend.

"Monza is the fastest track that we visit all season," commented technical director Willy Rampf, "Nick and Heinz-Harald will attain 350kph in two places but, more critical even than that, they will have the throttle wide open for longer than on any other circuit. This means that the Italian Grand Prix is always a very high-speed race and very hard on engines in particular.

"One of our major advantages here is the reliability and power of the Petronas V10 engine, and we will use the 'C' spec for the remaining races. But we must also match that with excellent brake performance and chassis stability under braking, as the drivers have to slow down for three tight chicanes during the course of the lap. Pre-race testing has indicated that the C22 is competitive and well-balanced in the very low downforce trim that you need at Monza."

Heidfeld has his own reasons for looking forward to going back to Monza, even if the dreams he harboured back in his formative days have yet to be realised.

"I remember that it was at Monza that I first fulfilled my aims as a budding Formula One driver," he recalled, "In one of my very early tests for McLaren, I set the fastest time of the day after only five laps of a session, which was tremendously satisfying.

"Monza is a special place. Now that Hockenheim has changed, it is the last track with very high-speed straights where you run very low downforce and, as a result, you have good overtaking chances under braking.

"I don't understand why people are anti-chicane, because chicanes are part of motorsport - and there are three of them at Monza. I preferred the old layout of the first one, but the new one is safer. Those at Monza are a good compromise and you have to jump over the kerbs a bit at the second one. They have smoothed the kerbs off a lot, and that has made things more comfortable for both the driver and the car.

"The speed at Monza is something that you immediately adjust to, but the braking always requires maximum concentration. It's a great challenge that you really look forward to, and I hope that the changes we have made to the car for the race will pay big dividends this weekend."

Frentzen is another fan of the low-downforce configuration required by Monza, and is looking forward to what could possibly be his last grand prix at the Italian venue.

"Power and aerodynamic efficiency are the keys to performance at Monza but, because the layout is relatively simple and less demanding than some other places, you can really concentrate on what you are doing at the wheel, trying to be very precise," he revealed, "And, when you are running very little downforce, you have to be very delicate because the car is moving around a lot. It's a huge difference to the Hungaroring, say, where you are running maximum downforce.

"We have a lot of aerodynamic modifications for the C22 for this race and, after our recent performance there in testing, I am looking forward to a competitive weekend."

Due to its higher power output and higher revs, the new 03C spec engine that Sauber will use for the last three races requires an enhanced lubricant, the like of which has been developed by Petronas.

"The lubricant is specially developed to further enhance the viscosity properties that can maintain the engine's performance and guarantees reliability," explained team boss Peter Sauber, "It is part of the 'Syntium' family which was introduced in Formula One in the year 2000. Since then, the oil has been used with great success, and has been joined, since the beginning of the current season, by Petronas' own fuel, 'Primax'."

 

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