Sauber’s Sergio Perez has been one of the pleasant surprises of the 2012 FIA Formula 1 season and is one of the drivers that has deserved better than he has gotten in recent races.
Last week’s Canadian Grand Prix showed what the Sauber and its talented young driver is capable of as he stormed from 15th to third without the benefit of a safety car period, accidents or rain. Perez managed his Pirelli tires well at the end while some of his competitors faltered, earning his second podium finish of the season – much to the delight of team principal Peter Sauber.
“Sergio had started from 15th on the grid, so you wouldn’t normally be contemplating a podium place – you’d be happy just to get into the points,” Sauber said. “But once the front-runners began to develop problems with their tires towards the end of the race, it became clear that something very special could be unfolding. Unlike the other drivers, Sergio was not affected by these tire problems and was able to continue his all-out offensive right to the end. He drove an extraordinary race.”
The Sauber-Ferrari has already scored 14 more championship points than it did in the entire 2011 season, and that is after just seven events. Perez has had four top-10 starts and his third-place run in Montreal was second only to his runner-up finish in Malaysia as a season high-water mark.
I’ve been in Formula One for 20 years now and for me it’s never been better or more exciting.
“Basically we knew the Sauber C31 was far better than the results of the last few GPs might have suggested,” Sauber said. “ Our performance in Barcelona and Monaco fell well short of our capability. We had the potential in both races to be right up in front, but things just didn’t fall into place. If we manage to exploit our full potential as a team, in other words get everything right from Friday morning to Sunday evening, a great deal is possible. After seven races it is patently clear that the C31 can be fast on virtually any kind of track.”
Montreal has long been kind to Sauber, yielding the team’s one and only victory in 2008 with Robert Kubica at the wheel. But strong runs throughout the last two months have the Hinwil-based squad thinking about climbing to the top step of the podium.
“Before the season I don’t suppose anyone would have put that question to me (about winning a race),” Sauber mused. “In Malaysia we came very close to winning. Further podium places certainly seem a realistic prospect. The prerequisite of course is that our drivers go into the race from good grid positions.”
Of course, the prospects of victory are heightened for Sauber and other teams that aren’t used to winning by the sheer unpredictability of the F1 campaign this year. With seven different winners in the year’s first seven races, the have-nots have shown that they can compete with the mega-funded teams at every turn.
“I’ve been in Formula One for 20 years now and for me it’s never been better or more exciting. That’s partly down to Pirelli, who are supplying the tires for this show,” reported Sauber. “Of course the four big teams have very different financial possibilities compared to the private teams in the middle of the pack. But that doesn’t in any way discourage us. Our forte is efficiency. The crucial thing is that the C31 gives us an excellent foundation with real potential for further development.
“At the start of the season we said that we wanted to pick up points regularly and improve our position in the constructors’ rankings,” he continued. “That essentially remains in place, but naturally I’m now keen to see a few more podium places. The fact is that after seven out of 20 races we have a tally of 58 points. That’s already 14 more than we had at the end of last season. So far things are panning out quite well.”