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What is next for Sauber?

Now behind Marussia in the championship standings, the Swiss team will need to rethink their strategy if they are to find any significant pace this year with Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez at the helm.
Thursday, May 29, 2014

May 28, 2014 (F1plus/Katie Grimmett).- Sauber is a name synonymous with Formula 1. Such is their history; it is difficult to imagine one without the other. Their story is typical in its meritocratic style, a former car sales man becomes a Team Principal after building his first racing model in a childhood basement. Ultimately, Peter Sauber is one man who has defied the odds with a Formula 1 career spanning two decades.

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The story is admirable but their 2014 performance has been lacklustre to say the least as the team are yet to secure a championship point. Indeed Sauber F1’s highest placed finish, eleventh courtesy of Adrian Sutil at the Australian Grand Prix, accurately reflects their thought-provoking season so far.

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Excuse the pun but Formula 1 is somewhat of a lottery, a game of luck out of the control of the participants.

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Wins and losses occur on a knife’s edge, hovering tentatively until one racing moment swings the result to one side. Now behind Marussia in the constructors’ championship, Sauber will need to bring updates and consistency if they are to salvage their season.

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Sauber F1 is one team known for its ability to convert young potential into championship victory; though, of course, no titles have been won by the Swiss outfit themselves.

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Three world champions, each with their own sporting legacies – Kimi Raikkonen, Jacques Villeneuve and Sebastian Vettel - have all spent time under the guidance of Peter Sauber.

There is no denying that the team’s own championship success could be better – particularly as fellow independent team, Williams have their historic racing pedigree – but there is not one person in the paddock who wishes to see this team fall.

Unfortunately, when performances fail to meet expectation, rumours and doubt begin to swirl out of control. After all, their (so far) pointless season does beg the question: Where do Sauber F1 go from here?

They could go up for sale but this does seem like the easy way out for a team who are so well-loved and have become such an established part of F1 history.

Monisha has the tought task of getting the team back into shape. (LAT Photo)

Adrain Sutil has suffered several misfortunes this season. (LAT Photo)

We all love a comeback, particularly when considering Peter Sauber’s meritocratic story. To sell would mean bringing to an end an established team who still have potential.

Now that fans seem less concerned by any potential harm Russian investors could bring, a new injection of pace could instead be introduced to the line up – Giedo Van der Garde, Sergey Sirotkin and their latest prodigy, Simona de Silvestro are waiting in the wings for their opportunity in the spotlight.

Esteban Gutierrez has just six points to his credit, which, admittedly, make his performances appear fairly forgettable at times.
The Mexican is a driver many people are quick to write off; he is young and brings with him an important pot of gold. This generally a pretty unpopular combination which can influence opinions; indeed, one usually thinks of the twenty-two-year-old’s Telmex sponsorship, not his four GP2 podiums and his GP3 championship victory in 2010 when considering the justification of his drive.

Was Gutierrez introduced to Formula 1 too soon? Perhaps but his initial signing with Sauber was not purely based upon money, the Mexican has shown some promise in his racing past.

Maybe therefore, one could argue that Adrian Sutil’s experience has not done enough to secure the team their much-needed points. His 124 career points greatly eclipses those of his 2014 teammate but provide no championship security this year.

Financially-strapped teams often create driver pairings based on a well balanced ratio of experience and young enthusiasm and Sutil is undoubtedly the most experienced of Sauber’s driver offerings.

Sutil’s time at the helm of the first Force India models and with a now-defunct Spyker Racing could prove to be crucial as the team attempts to rebuild. To do this, Sutil and Gutierrez really do not need podiums – something neither is yet to enjoy – they just need points and more than Marussia if they can.

If either Gutierrez or Sutil were to leave before the end of the season, it may not be such a surprise. Van der Garde has money behind him, and lots of it. So too does Sergey Sirotkin who recently obtained his super-license.

Simona de Silverstro is under their development scheme and, whilst still a newcomer to the crazy F1 circus, is herself Swiss and perhaps a better representative for the team as they search for a long-term solution. Her initial signing with Sauber suggested that a 2015 seat could be on the cards and that could well be the case but void of her license, and the subsequent FIA approval, a brief stint towards the latter half of the season is not possible.

No individual driver is to blame for their current form nor can one simply blame the car. As is always the way with F1, the problems are not that easy to resolve. There is also little evidence to suggest that the problems are specifically occurring behind the scenes or that the standard of management has fallen under the watchful eye of Monisha Kalternborn. It may well be a combination of all these factors which are affecting performance.

Formula 1 is a tough business and staying at the top is perhaps the greatest task of them all however a new recruit may signal a fresh start for a team who need to rethink their 2014 strategy. Even if for just one race, this may be the missing link.

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