May 16th, 2013 (F1plus/G. Keilloh).- This season has had its fair share of teams performing below expectations. McLaren has rather quintessentially, Williams has also. But there is another whose season has fallen shy of what was anticipated at the outset, one which has had less attention: namely Sauber.
This may sound a bit extreme, after all Sauber has spent most of its existence roughly where it is now, i.e. deep in the midfield. But it's easy to forget that prior to the season's start optimism was high.
The team after all had come off a campaign wherein it had claimed four podium finishes, and had in some races looked plainly the quickest thing out there.
Indeed apparently by the team's estimation the C31 in 2012 was deserving of even better results than it got, and with the highly-rated Nico Hulkenberg signed in something of a coup (given he'd been variously linked with Ferrari and McLaren) it was felt that everything was in place for the potential to be fulfilled properly in 2013.
Reflecting this the Hulk talked in terms of expecting podium finishes, perhaps even seizing a win (his move to Sauber wasn't simply about Ferrari proximity, as some assumed). And even better, the C32 in pre-season testing featured the F1 field's most noticeable design innovation with its narrow sidepods.
But somehow, and just as with McLaren and Williams, all of the hope has evaporated on track and without obvious explanation. And in Barcelona things were as bad as ever: Hulkenberg qualified only fifteenth, and finished there too following a clumsy clash with Jean-Eric Vergne in the pits and a subsequent nose change and stop-go penalty.
Podiums, let alone wins, appear but a distant speck on the horizon and Hulkenberg has showed his frustration on occasion, particularly on the radio on his slowing down lap after the Malaysia race.
This is understandable, most pointedly because, while a driver of Hulkenberg's quality will always be on the radar of other teams, with vacancies expected further up the order for next year it's possible that Sauber's struggles will make the Hulk slightly less top of mind among potential suitors than might have otherwise been the case.