Sauber headed into the 2011 campaign after a transitional year in 2010 following BMWs withdrawal from F1. Team owner, Peter Sauber was quick to rekindle the teams association with Ferrari that they enjoyed before the BMW buyout. The new C30 is equipped with Ferrari Engine, KERS, gear box, hydraulics and from their young driver programme, Mexican Sergio Perez. Perez, partnering 2010 rookie sensation Kamui Kobayashi in what promised to be an electric driver combination.
Sauber got off to a flying start in Melbourne With Kobayashi and Perez crossing the line in 9th and 10th. Perez in particular did an impressive job by only stopping once for fresh rubber while the rest of the field pitted two or three times. The celebrations were short lived after the race stewards had deemed the top element of both car’s rear wings didn’t meet the new regulations. James Key, the Sauber F1 Team’s Technical Director said: “This is a very surprising and disappointing result. It appears that there is a question over the top surface of the uppermost rear wing element, this area is not the working surface of the component and therefore relatively unimportant to its function. Certainly this has not lead to any performance advantage. We are checking the design of the parts now to better understand the situation.”
Japanese star Kobayashi has been in fine form in the first half of the season, Melbourne’s disqualification aside, he went on to produce a run of six straight points finishes from Malaysia to Canada. In Monaco he finished in a career best 5th in a bitter sweet weekend for the Swiss based team. In Saturdays qualifying session Perez lost control of his car under breaking for the chicane leading out of the tunnel, his car hit the Armco on the outside of the track head on before sliding sideways into the barrier after the chicane. Although the barrier was well protected by a wall of foam, the Mexican is said to have hit with the force of up to 80G. Perez was withdrawn from the race suffering from concussion and was kept overnight in hospital. In Canada, two weeks later Perez was pronounced fit by the medical team but after taking part in FP1, he complained of feeling unwell and was replaced for the race by McLaren test driver and ex Sauber man, Pedro de la Rossa. Perez showed he had fully recovered for the European Grand Prix in Valencia and showed no signs of the crash affecting his driving finishing just out of the points in 11th. At Silverstone he did finish in the top 10 with a seasons best 7th.
Sauber went into the summer break sitting 6th in the constructor’s championship. They know they face a tough fight to keep it through the remaining 8 races with Force India taking large chunks out of their advantage in recent races. Key believes Sauber needs to raise its game to keep Force India at bay. “I think Force India have definitely made a step, they look quite strong and they have got some potentially strong events coming up, Spa and Monza, so we need to react a bit to what they’ve done and we are,” said Key. “We’ve got packages and stuff on the way. We have to see. I think from our side our consistency isn’t brilliant, we go to certain tracks and conditions where we know we are going to have trouble, and other circumstances where it is good and we probably have to keep more consistency to try and fight with Renault and Force India.”