Returning to Sauber, where he started his Formula One career, Heinz-Harald Frentzen is ready for the 2003 season with the C22, "the fastest F1 car I've ever driven." At the launch of the car, Frentzen spoke about the potential of the new chassis and what it was like to return to his old team.
Asked if this year was the last chance for him to show what he can do, Frentzen was obviously not about to write himself off: "No! I'm really fed up with this," he said, looking exasperated. "I've had six years and now it's 'is this your last chance?' I'm getting bored with it now! I don't think too much in advance, I'm just looking forward to driving this year with Sauber, a one year contract, afterwards I will see what happens."
In winter testing there was initially some teething problems with the C22 but Frentzen is confident the gremlins will be smoothed out: "It takes us a little time to understand the car," he explained. "We collected a lot of data, we were running different types of front wings and certainly there's a window of testing required where we will work on aerodynamics. I think the potential was we should be a lot quicker than the C21 and we are a little bit quicker."
"Generally you have to say the C21 was a quick qualifying car but they had some disadvantages, inconsistencies, and that was the main target of the C22: to take the talent of being quick but also to have a consistent car in the race as well. It (the C21) was quick in qualifying but in the race, the car was not as competitive."
"Generally," he concluded, of the initial problems with the C22, "the balance was not there but we have made improvements. The car was better balanced in the last test and the result was that we did quicker lap times than the previous test."
After an unsettled eighteen months -- being sacked from Jordan mid-season in 2001, a couple of races with Prost and then a disaster of a year in 2002 with the slowly-sinking Arrows team -- Frentzen is pleased to be back with Sauber.
"Yes, certainly," he replied when asked if the Swiss team was something of a comfort zone for him. "I'm happy to be with a team I know; the introduction time is a little bit less and I can concentrate on my driving as the team already has some experience of me."
"The team has grown," Frentzen remarked of the changes in Sauber since he was last with it. "There are more people, it's more specialized, has developed infrastructure and has the most modern wind tunnel in Formula One. It's a big step, you can see that Peter Sauber is pretty much involved in his Formula One project and investing in it very strongly."
At the end of a long afternoon's interviews, Frentzen was still laid back and relaxed, still happy to chat until the PR posse came and whisked him away. Let's hope that with Sauber in 2003 he can make up for the last eighteen months and get some long-awaited points under his belt.