Nico Hulkenberg, Sauber, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013

All change at Sauber as they strive to build on best-ever season

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Nico Hulkenberg, Sauber, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013Sauber enjoyed is best season as an independent squad last year. But a welcome change of livery is only the most superficial change to have taken place at the Swiss outfit over the winter.

Both of last year’s drivers have departed, along with the man who designed the highly effective C31 – a car that was a potential race-winner.

With Sergio Perez off to McLaren, fellow Escuderia Telmex driver Esteban Gutierrez arrives in his place.

The team bade a sad farewell to Kamui Kobayashi but in Nick Hulkenberg have a driver of greater potential, who came close to winning last year’s season finale.

Errors by team and driver allowed a potential win to slip through their fingers in Malaysia part year. If the C32 is as effective as its predecessor, Hulkenberg has to be a candidate for podiums or better.

The car with its striking new colour scheme (a vast improvement on last year and chosen as the best on the grid by F1 Fanatic readers) features an unconventional sidepod treatment, inspired by the heavy side impact Perez suffered at Monaco two years ago. The jury’s out on whether it will produce the gains the team are hoping for.

The C32 has run reliably in testing, allowing Sauber to cover the most mileage of any team. But that might partly be a consequence of the team not having a simulator to work on the car with during the season. That could hold them back as the development race wears on later in the year.

Car 11: Nico Hulkenberg

Nico Hulkenberg, Sauber, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013Hulkenberg starts his third F1 season with his third different team. Sauber only out-scored his former team by 17 points last year but arguably showed more unexploited potential.

As the experienced driver in the teams line-up, it falls to Hulkenberg to ensure fewer points are left on the table than the team gave up last year.

It’s worth remembering that Hulkenberg was returning after a year away last year season. After playing himself in the second half of his campaign featured some great performances, culminating in that memorable race in Brazil.

If he can carry that form into the new year he could produce some surprises.

Car 12: Esteban Gutierrez

Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013You couldn’t fail to notice Gutierrez’s potential in his two years of GP2 but nor could you overlook his propensity for mistakes.

However as he prepares to start his first season in F1 he is making all the right noises about staying out of trouble: “It doesn’t make sense to do a 120% risk when you are not fighting for something yet,” he said of his upcoming debut.

“Of course I’m looking into consolidation, I’m looking to create a good pace and my confidence and everything to then push the limits a little bit.”

Gutierrez said he expects the hardest part of his first weekend to be “the psychological point of view, I think, and qualifying. I think this will be the biggest challenges.”

His place at the team may be partly thanks to the backing of Telmex but his form in junior categories shows he has as F1 potential. He is certainly not the first driver to reach F1 with Sauber amid questions over whether he has enough experience – and Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa turned out alright.

Sauber C32

Sauber championship form

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Sauber’s F1 debut, when they scored points for fifth place on their debut. They competed as BMW-Sauber from 2006 to 2010, and are now an independent team once more.

Championship position787776884566876

Sauber in 2013: Your view

Will Sauber improve on their strong 2012 season this year? And how will Hulkenberg fare with his latest team?

Have your say in the comments.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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49 comments on “All change at Sauber as they strive to build on best-ever season”

  1. Daniel (@collettdumbletonhall)
    10th March 2013, 14:13

    Their car looks like the HRT of 2010.

    1. Shreyas Mohanty (@)
      10th March 2013, 14:45

      Well, of course, if the C32 is as good as the C31 Nico Hulkenberg is all set for a few podiums or maybe even a win or two! Also, it will be interesting to watch how Guttierez performs. He seems very positive and I expect good results from him, maybe some point finishes too, considering it is his rookie season.

    2. Shreyas Mohanty (@)
      10th March 2013, 14:49

      If the C32 is as good as the C31 Nico Hulkenberg is all set for a few podiums or maybe even a win or two! Also, it will be interesting to watch how Guttierez performs. He seems very positive and I expect good results from him, maybe some point finishes too, considering it is his rookie season.

    3. When are Sauber gonna sort out their livery? The current one is the most hideous IMO (although many people here praised it). The one from 2010 was much better, wish they got back to it.

      1. Shreyas Mohanty (@)
        10th March 2013, 16:32

        The present livery is the best Sauber has ever had @klaas

        1. @shreyasf1fan I messed up in my previous comment, the C30 was their best by far. Their current ‘anthracite’ grey livery is like on overwashed black T-shirt. Lacks character in some way.
          P.S. I’m not gay :)

          1. Shreyas Mohanty (@)
            10th March 2013, 17:15

            @klaas Haha, I like the comparison. The C30 looked good, yes, but I still think the C32 is their best so far. But then, everybody has their own taste.

      2. Agreed, Sauber hasn’t had a good livery since BMW left. Hopefully they step away from this black/white combo they have that just doesn’t work very well. Or at least consider using a darker black.

        1. Daniel (@collettdumbletonhall)
          10th March 2013, 19:43

          A darker black would look great.

      3. Daniel (@collettdumbletonhall)
        10th March 2013, 19:43

        I quite liked their old livery but I think I was in the minority there. I didn’t like their Petronas days and I thought their white and black cars were quite nice.

    4. I think that their livery isn’t bad, but it certainly isn’t “striking”. It looks mighty well with the right lighting in their studio photos, but on track it’s just grey and looks quite bland.

  2. At this point of the season, all midfield teams except perhaps Toro Rosso look capable of challenging for podiums, but come the first races of the season someone will have to finish 14th and 15th too. I hope this year’s Sauber can again cause the occasional upset, but I am not expecting a consistent challenge at the front.

    Last year, I found Sauber to be the most confusing team. They frequently showed incredible potential, but I don’t think they can only blame their drivers for their inconsistency; sometimes the car just wasn’t there. When they did hit their highs, I also find it too easy just to dismiss Perez’s podiums as the result of starting on new tyres outside the top 10. New tyres are an advantage, but not enough to start 10 places down the grid for.

    For 2013, I will be happy if they manage to surprise and entertain in the same manner they did in 2012, for instance if Gutierrez manages to score a podium.

    1. Perez was lucky because Sauber have always put both drivers on different strategies. Only when they have severe tyre wear do you see both drivers on the same strategy.
      Secondly, a driver who qualifies in 5 – 10 place is usually susceptible to being overtaken by drivers outside the top 10 on fresher tyres and capable of running at a similar pace, especially when the times are very close.

  3. They are a good team. I think even though they went through many tough times they seem to have bounced back or put in a lot of hard work. Needless to say they have this magic charm of identifying some real good racers and world champions. So Esteban could join the elite league of Kimi, Massa, Vettel et all… Nico is a good driver. If he can replicate his Interlagos talent at other tracks around the globe, we sure have a potential Ferrari driver of the future !!!! I believe if Massa messes up this year. Nico will start the 4th year with his 4th Team Ferrari.

    Of Course before joining Ferrari he will have to undergo Fernando’s evaluation and survive his veto that Nico is not faster than Alonso in the equal equipment. So far it does not seem to be a problem. :)

    1. I think Ferrari proved well enough at Austin that someone being faster than Fernando is not a problem for them :)

    2. Shreyas Mohanty (@)
      10th March 2013, 17:26

      @tmax :

      Of Course before joining Ferrari he will have to undergo Fernando’s evaluation and survive his veto that Nico is not faster than Alonso in the equal equipment. So far it does not seem to be a problem.

      Those are pretty strong words. We all know that this happens at Ferrari, but I don’t think Alonso would put his own needs before that of his team.

      1. @shreyasf1fan Well it is not Strong words. I had read that Alonso had a clause in his contract where in he can Veto the team mate. I am sure Alonso does not go by the looks of the other driver but by the speed:)

        About Alonso putting his own needs before the team rewind the clock a few years to Spa 2007. He was ready to sabotage the team for himself !!!!! But then he underestimated Ron Dennis. so nothing new here.

    3. I’d rather see Maldonado going to Ferrari. Nico may be a good driver but he’s too ‘bland’. If Pastor can sort out his crashes this season Ferrari could very well consider him.

    4. survive his veto that Nico is not faster than Alonso in the equal equipment.

      I think people are overrating Hulkenberg – it’s not that Nico was consistently faster than his (rather mediocre) team-mates till now and he suddenly could prove to be faster than Alonso.

      1. LoreMipsumdOtmElor
        10th March 2013, 23:23

        Hülkenberg hasn’t shown anything apart from a lucky pole so far. He lost out against Barrichello, who a lot of people still consider as 2nd class driver and he only won half a season against di Resta.

      2. The Next Pope
        11th March 2013, 3:33

        Silly Season 2014 starts already? *rolls eyes*

      3. I would prefer Grosjean or Kamui at Ferrari.

  4. After struggling with inconsistency in 2010 and 2011, 2012 was very encouraging as they had great results throughout the year. The C31 was very quick when it liked the track, preferring low downforce circuits, generaly, and it was also very kind on its tyres. I think that as an obvious evolution to last year’s car, the C32 should hopefully allow Sauber to fight for more podiums again this year.

    I’m very excited to see what happens. I think they have all the elements to have as successful a season as last year and I hope that the momentum from last year carries them forward to greater things this season. I’m really, really anticipating what Hülkenberg will be able to achieve this season and I would absolutely love it if Nico and the team were able to achieve their first ever victories together. It’s going to be tough for that to happen, but I certainly wouldn’t dismiss the possibility.

    Sauber are a fantastic team that have done a lot to establish an identity after becoming a privateer team once again and they are doing a brilliant job of reaching out to the fans with all their social media content. Of all the teams I’d like to see have a successful season, Sauber are the one outfit I’d love to see have a good year and a win would be a dream result for me. And I get the impression I’m not alone in thinking that as well…

    1. I feel exited for this team for much the same reasons @magnificent-geoffrey

  5. OmarR-Pepper (@)
    10th March 2013, 14:55

    sauber must maximize their options at the beginning of the eason. If the teams are struggling to understand the tires once again, that could mean we would see anotther “raffle” in the first races, such as last year when we saw many different drivers winning on the first rounds… the second half of the year will be more “normal”- three or four teams battling fo both championships.
    So Nico must try his best aces just at the very beginning. After the first races I hardly see Sauber getting a chance for victory.

  6. Sauber enjoyed its best season as an independent squad last year.

    Surely 2001 was the best? Although it probably means since BMW flaked out. Certainly it had arguably the best Sauber line up ever despite the inexperience

  7. I also believe that for a team with strong commitment and foundation, they need some good backing. I wish BMW had stayed on. Well we cannot rule out stuff. Imagine a Volkswagen-Sauber given the Swiss German proximity. That will really push them to the top. It will make F1 also interesting with another strong manufacturer in the field.

    1. Shreyas Mohanty (@)
      10th March 2013, 17:31


      That’s a bit of thinking too far ahead, mate. Yes, the sport needs some more road car manufacturers like maybe Honda, BMW to step up and enter the sport again – but we have to wait for that, I don’t think it will happen in the near future. I heard rumours of Honda supplying the new V6 engines to McLaren in 2014, but Honda didn’t comment and McLaren were quick to divert the topic. So, who knows? Let’s just keep hoping!

  8. As an avid Sauber fan I was slightly sad to see my favourite driver pairing on the grid leave (KOB/PER) but my bigger concern this year is the progress of the teams closest to them performance wise last year – the loftier end of the midfield, Williams and Mercedes. Both have showed promise using educated guessing throughout testing and I’ll be very happy if the C32 proves to be just as competitive.

    I still can’t believe the sidepods, and the livery looks great in the outdoors and I simply love. I was quite partial to the white they used as well.

    And oh yeah, HULK.

  9. I’m a Sauber fan also, but I’m seeing it from a different perspective. For some reason, it feels like the team is scrambling. Maybe it’s due to lack of funds, losing key personnel, or the relative progress of their direct competition, but I’m not as optimistic.

    Hulkenberg did a sideways move from mid-level team to mid-level team, and may have hit his ceiling. Gutierrez is a rookie who we all know is there because of pressure from the Mexican contingent (money talks), and Sauber will have to work from scratch to build up a working relationship with both of these new (to the team) drivers.

    The team’s marketing is doing well, but unfortunately it feels more and more like a fledgeling company than a racing team, especially with Kaltenborn at the helm, who, in her interviews, makes it clear that economics come before all else.

    Then there’s the progress of other mid-level teams. If Maldonado gets his head about him, he seems to be the fastest of the bunch. Force India has made huge strides since their inception a short time ago, and have better momentum, as well as drivers who are young AND know the team. Mercedes is threatening to break into the upper tier, and Lotus already did it (arguably, I guess). Even if the car starts out well, as an improved copy of last years, will they be able to keep up with other teams’ improvement since they lost their key designer?

    As much as my heart says the team will make great strides this year, my head (and my pocketbook, if I was betting) tell me otherwise. It would be nice to be wrong though. What do you all think? Maybe I’m too hard on the drivers, or over-estimating the other mid-level teams?

    1. @aficion I totally agree with you, their competition is quite fierce. I can suspect 5 teams having faster cars than Sauber: RedBull, Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, Lotus (and the guys driving for them are no slouches – most of them are World Champions and battle-tried No.2s). With them top 10 is ‘sold out’. So theoretically the rest of the teams can grab a point if the drivers from the teams mentioned above somehow get in trouble (Grosjean to keep his field-reducing superpower). But even in this case they’ll have to scratch with the likes of Williams who IMO seem have a stronger line-up. Put Force India and Toro Rosso’s ‘must prove myself at any cost’ drivers into equation and Sauber’s prospects don’t look so good.
      Personally I wouldn’t be suprised if the end up P15, P17 in Qualy this weekend.

    2. @aficion, I think you make a fair assessment of the team, though I think you may be a little harsh on the drivers.

      Hulkenberg did a sideways move from mid-level team to mid-level team, and may have hit his ceiling.

      Well, McLaren chose Perez over Hulkenberg (presumably) so in that sense you are right that he was considered ‘too light’ for a top team. On the other hand, McLaren made its decision shortly after Monza, when Perez’s stock was at its highest, and they may have made a different decision in case they had been looking for a replacement for Hamilton after Brazil. I would have preferred to see Hulkenberg in the second McLaren, but if Nico performs this year we may see him in a top team yet.

  10. Michael Brown (@)
    10th March 2013, 17:26

    I must have been the only one who liked the 2012 livery better than the 2013. Still, it won’t change the fact that Hulkenberg is gonna kick ass this season.

  11. @keithcollantine do sauber atill uae bmw’s supercomputer?

  12. Wasn’t Sauber already independent in 2010? BMW pulled out after 2009. I understand that you might reason that 2010 car was developed by BMW during 2009, but in that case, BMW’s 2006 car was developed by Sauber during 2005.

    1. Yes, they were. It was just the BMW name that had to stick with them. I’d actually say it’s quite unfair to deny them of an ‘independent’ status in 2010 as they were really left in the gutter and had such a tough year, especially as far as keeping the car going to the end of the race went…

  13. Most boring livery of 2013. Not much better than 2012. I think people got await mixed up between the design of the car and the livery.

    1. @jaymz – I wouldn’t say “boring”; I’d say clinical, precise, clean and sleek. Each to their own I guess though! ;)

      1. @vettel1
        I’d say your own aren’t designers then? :) Trust me, there’s nothing clinical nor precise with that look. Those lines seem completely arbitrary and unnecessary. Graphic design follows pretty much the same philosophy as an F1 design, that is, every single thing you add must have a purpose. I think people who aren’t in the profession often confuse design and decoration.

        Minimalist, clean design is the most challenging and sophisticated form of graphic design (and every type of design pretty much), because there’s no hiding. If not done good enough, result won’t be just a bit weaker, but will look completely barren and empty. As John Maeda puts it: “If you are going to have less things, they have to be great things.”

        And those few lines on the Sauber definitely aren’t “great things”. :)

        1. @brace – I’ll grant you the white stripe that initially follows the form of the sidepod but then abruptly changes direction does break the flow of the design, but I rather like the rest of it! It’s not outlandish but subtly rather nice in my opinion! :)

  14. Also, I must add, this year’s livery is really weak. Not that last one was much better, but there are better ones on the grid this year.

  15. Keith, I notice that you join all the points on the graph together even when there is no data… It drives us engineers and scientists NUTS just looking at it!
    Just so you know, mathematically it is perfectly fine if you leave gaps in a graph like this. I am not forcing you to do it, but it would save us from getting crazy when we look at the graphs.


    1. Yeah, I agree it’s a bit confusing. :) I’ve no problem figuring out what those long lines without dots mean since I know the context, but it is confusing at first, and as you say, not correct. :)

  16. LoreMipsumdOtmElor
    10th March 2013, 23:20

    This is the first year since I started watching in 94 that I won’t cross my fingers for Sauber. Exchanging Kamui for the astonishingly overrated Hülkenberg must be punished. I really hope they fail this year.

    1. The Next Pope
      12th March 2013, 11:59

      Oh and btw, overrated =/= highly rated. :]

  17. a slight mistake slipped into the driver names (The team bade a sad farewell to Kamui Kobayashi but in Nick Hulkenberg have a driver of greater potential, ) @keithcollantine

  18. As a Brit living in Switzerland, Sauber is my home team. Although I by no means know the whole history of the team, I think the C31 was by far the best racing car the team have ever produced. Peter Sauber is well known for having an eye for exciting young talent but the shame is that Sauber seem to cash-in on their talent rather than hanging on to them. The decision to part ways with Kobayashi is a very strong indicator that Peter Sauber and Monisha Kaltenborn didn’t feel that this driver delivered on expectations, regardless how fondly I and many of you think of him. It was a real surprise to read today that Kamui has joined Ferrari, albeit not in F1, and I’m very happy for him. He seems like such a nice guy. I’m rambling.

    I think The Hulk is an exciting fast driver and Gutierrez is said to be no slouch, but regardless of the driver talent or the car, I think Sauber will take a step or two backwards this year. Two new drivers in a team does not usually create instant magic. I hope I’m wrong, of course.

    As for the car livery… well, pretty uninspiring, isn’t it. I’d like them to try something like HRT’s “THIS COULD BE YOU” design. Some one call Daniel Simon for them, please.

    (The Dove adverts are incredibly annoying.)

  19. I expect Sauber to lead the midfield pack and occasionally give the big teams something to think about. Podiums are not out of the question if the cards fall their way, neither is a freak victory, but I think they will struggle to beat last year’s 6th place over a full season. If they do, it would be a story of a big team underperforming rather than Sauber overachieveing.

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