Peter Sauber has seen better times in his long career as a racing team owner. At any rate, the season opener in Melbourne turned out to be a bitter setback for the Sauber Petronas team after they had shown steady improvement throughout last season.
Peter Sauber has seen better times in his long career as a racing team owner. At any rate, the season opener in Melbourne turned out to be a bitter setback for the Sauber Petronas team after they had shown steady improvement throughout last season. Team sponsor Credit Suisse talked to Sauber after the race.
Q: Peter Sauber, finishing 10th (Felipe Massa) and 13th (Jacques Villeneuve) certainly isn't the best of feelings. Are you disappointed?
Peter Sauber: Of course before the season began we knew that the car hadn't been developed to the point that we would have liked. But the free practice on Friday saw us regain our confidence (Ed. note: Felipe Massa finished in 6th place). In that regard, the race result was disappointing.
Q: Your new driver, Jacques Villeneuve, has failed to convince yet. How do you assess his performance?
PS: I'm reluctant to make a judgment. It was the first race of the season, and on top of that an extremely unusual race -- and not just for Sauber Petronas. In fact, only one team lived up to expectations, Renault. Another team, Red Bull, far exceeded everyone's expectations. And then there were some teams that turned in very disappointing performances, especially BAR-Honda.
Q: And Villeneuve?
PS: I'd rather not comment on that. He did well in qualifying. He was out there under difficult conditions since he was the first driver onto the track with dry tires. Then he had problems with the cold tires, but still managed to finish a superb fourth. In the race, he got a really good start, but dropped back five spots in the first lap -- a bitter disappointment.
Q: How did this setback happen?
PS: We still have to analyze that. Villeneuve isn't saying much right now. In certain phases of the race he had some problems with the car -- but that's all he's told us so far.
Q: So you can't tell us why the Canadian's fastest lap was almost a second slower than teammate Felipe Massa?
PS: I really can't explain the difference, which is a big one at that. It's actually bigger than it seems. For the start, and after the first pit stop, Felipe Massa was driving with a heavy fuel load -- in contrast to all the other drivers, who made two pit stops, Massa was driving with a one-stop strategy.
Q: If you take a closer look at the lap times, Sauber didn't do as badly as the race results would suggest. Yes, Felipe Massa's fastest lap was about a second behind Fisichella's time, but only half a second behind the McLarens'. So, you could actually be satisfied with the car's performance...
PS: ...but we're not. We're never satisfied. We can feel that way only if we notch up a victory (laughs). As I already said, the car isn't yet where we want it to be. The results from the wind tunnel testing point to this too. However, we're very confident that we can develop the car further because in the wind tunnel we're making progress every week, if not every day. For the next race in Malaysia, the car will have brand new components that aren't there just for looks.
Q: Giancarlo Fisichella was still driving for Sauber last year. Scarcely does he move to Renault when he racks up a victory, the second one in his career. Were you happy for him nonetheless?
PS: Absolutely, I like Giancarlo very much. Still, regrets outweigh the happiness. We never made a secret of the fact that we would have liked to retain him. But he had the ubiquitous escape clause in his contract...
Q: Is he now a hot candidate for the World Championship title?
PS: He's always a hot candidate for the title if he has the right tools to work with. However, it remains to be seen if this time he'll succeed in making that happen with Renault.