F1

Peter Sauber refuses to lose hope

Peter Sauber refuses to lose hope

Peter Sauber had high hopes for the 2005 Formula One season after his [then] drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Felipe Massa finished 11th and 12th respectively in the 2004 standings. Peter Sauber. Photo by xpb.cc. Although Fisi was ...

Peter Sauber had high hopes for the 2005 Formula One season after his [then] drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Felipe Massa finished 11th and 12th respectively in the 2004 standings.

Peter Sauber.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Although Fisi was headed to Renault, the Swiss entrepreneur had hired former F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve to partner Brazilian Massa for the coming season, expecting late season successes to built momentum for the 19- race campaign.

Thus far it hasn't happened. "The rules changed dramatically from last year and we lost about 25 percent of our downforce. It was impossible to compensate despite our excellent infrastructure, because our budget is too small to use 100 percent of our infrastructure" in the ever escalating money war that is current day F1, Sauber explained.

While Sauber employs a state-of-the-art wind tunnel at its Hinwil, Switzerland headquarters, he has the manpower and money to affect only a single shift of operation, not the 24-hour, triple shifts employed by the big teams.

Centered far away from the hub of F1 activity in the UK, Sauber Petronas Racing has benefits and disadvantages to its locale. "When the European season is on, we don't have to 'swim' to the races," Sauber laughed.

At the other end of the spectrum, chasing parts for his cars presents some logistical difficulties as many vendors are on the other side of the Channel. "It is difficult to find engineers from the United Kingdom but once they come here, they stay a long time," Sauber confirmed.

Peter Sauber hasn't had an opportunity to delve into the new rules proposal from the FIA but he recognizes that "every time the rules change the costs go higher with the exception of engine rules."

While he believes the synergy at his team is good, the performance hasn't been up to his expectations. There's been a lot of conjecture about his newest driver, Villeneuve, and whether he will stay with Sauber's team through the balance of the season. Sauber won't comment one way or the other, but he has explanations for the French-Canadian's current doldrums.

Felipe Massa and Jacques Villeneuve.
Photo by xpb.cc.

"Jacques is still a bit rusty maybe, but mostly he is a driver of an older generation. He is not so happy about electronics and he likes to run with mechanical setups," Sauber delineated. "The car today is a computer, very complicated and it is not easy for him.

"The car was not good enough at the start of the season; we didn't have enough downforce so it was very tricky to drive. Now we have more downforce," Sauber continued, "and the car is more stable, especially under braking. With each step Jacques has less problems and more confidence in his car."

On the other hand Sauber is pleased with second year driver Felipe Massa. "He is a very special person and I am very happy with him. Felipe's relationship with Jacques is okay and working with Jacques is not at all a problem. He is still aggressive, he makes few mistakes and he can overtake," Sauber acknowledged.

Peter Sauber is happy to be racing in the United States but wishes it were not on "an artificial track" like Indianapolis Motor Speedway's 2.605-mile road course. "It is important to have a [Formula 1] race in the States and, while it's special that we use part of the oval, it's not easy to find a good setup for the combination of corners.

"Indianapolis is a famous place and it's good to have a race here. It is an acceptable compromise," Sauber shrugged.

Petronas has backed Sauber's play for a long time and Ferrari has supplied the team's engines of late, but that should be changed by the close of June. Sauber is hoping to have his agreement in place with BMW for 2005 and beyond on a "cost without profit" basis, he said.

"We have always had an excellent relationship with Ferrari the whole time but it is time to move on."

Editor's note:
Anna Boffin secured an exclusive one-on-one with Peter Sauber at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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