High expectations for Sauber

The latest Sauber Petronas racing car whizzed around the Valencia circuit for the first time last Friday. The C24 is the first car to have been entirely designed at the Sauber team's wind tunnel site in Hinwil. This posed a considerable challenge...

The latest Sauber Petronas racing car whizzed around the Valencia circuit for the first time last Friday. The C24 is the first car to have been entirely designed at the Sauber team's wind tunnel site in Hinwil. This posed a considerable challenge to Technical Director Willy Rampf and his team, especially as the regulations that apply in the forthcoming season had changed significantly.

The new Sauber Petronas C24.
Photo by Sauber Petronas.

Q: Are expectations regarding the car higher because of the new wind tunnel?

Willy Rampf: Definitely. Especially as we had already made considerable improvements to the old car last season thanks to the wind tunnel. The rollout last weekend showed promising results. But we'll only know how the car measures up against its rivals after the first Grand Prix in Melbourne.

Q: Is there now greater pressure on the team to succeed?

WR: From the outside we don't really feel any greater pressure. We generate this pressure ourselves. There's a healthy tension in the team -- everyone is doing their utmost to carry the progress achieved last year over to the new season.

Q: How has the new wind tunnel affected the way you work?

WR: The largest single benefit is no doubt geographical. Our aerodynamics engineers no longer have to travel to Emmen in canton Lucerne, the site of our old wind tunnel. Now they can just go downstairs one floor to work on the model. Moreover, the wind tunnel yields very precise results, which is important in a field where small changes can have a large effect.

Q: The new regulations have a huge impact on the cars' aerodynamics. What is going to change?

WR: The front wing is raised by 50 millimeters, the rear wing is moved forward by 150 millimeters, and the height of the diffuser is now limited to 125 millimeters. Besides, the auxiliary wings in front of the rear wheels will look different in future.

Q: To what extent will these new regulations slow down the cars?

WR: The measures will lower the downforce by 25 to 30 percent. This will reduce speed especially in bends and during braking, and should result in a loss of 2.5 to 3 seconds per lap. So we'll have to see how we can regain a part of the lost downforce.

Q: Could the new regulations change the established order in Formula One racing?

WR: They could well lead to greater shifts in team standings than in the past.

Q: So Sauber Petronas could make a leap forward?

WR: This is no doubt possible. Our aim must be to continue with the progress we have been making. This won't be easy, since we'll have to beat at least one of the five major works teams and at the same time keep the heavily funded Toyota team in check.

Q: Like last year, you will be receiving the latest version of the Ferrari engine. Nevertheless, Sauber will hardly manage to draw level with the Italians. Doesn't the engine play such a big role in Formula One racing?

WR: It does, but the aerodynamics and the tires are far more important.

Q: Assuming the impossible happened and you suddenly found yourself at a par with Ferrari. How would they react in Maranello?

WR: They'd be surprised, for sure... But it would have no influence on our cooperation. Ferrari is a highly trustworthy partner and would continue to supply us with flawless engines.

Q: Formula One is a tough scene. You are now about to embark on your ninth season. What keeps you going personally?

WR: I love the competition, which is carried out not just between 20 drivers, but also between 1,000 engineers. After each race I know exactly whether I've done a good job or not. This immediacy is incredibly stimulating.

-creditsuisse-

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Series Formula 1
Teams Ferrari , Sauber