The focus at the front of the Formula One field at the moment is mainly on BAR and whether it, or any other team, can manage to outpace Ferrari. While that struggle goes on, Sauber is making small but steady improvements. The Swiss squad isn't ...
The focus at the front of the Formula One field at the moment is mainly on BAR and whether it, or any other team, can manage to outpace Ferrari. While that struggle goes on, Sauber is making small but steady improvements. The Swiss squad isn't promising to take the challenge to the front runners in the near future, but is satisfied with its progress so far.
Felipe Massa scored Sauber's first point of 2004 at the Malaysian Grand Prix and Giancarlo Fisichella added another two in Spain. Both Saubers finished ahead of the McLarens at Barcelona, but technical director Willy Rampf expects the Woking squad to improve.
"We continue to see Jaguar and Toyota as our direct rivals for this season -- this has not changed in any way," said Rampf. "I expect that McLaren-Mercedes' pluses in budget, manpower and technical resources will be making a difference during the course of the season."
Sauber nearly had both cars in the points at Barcelona, Massa finishing ninth. Rampf puts the improvement down to several factors but believes the advance in aerodynamics has been the biggest step forward. The wind tunnel is the major contribution to that area but it's still a new facility.
"With each week we're working in the new tunnel, we're gaining new insights," he explained. "In terms of dimensions and speed, we actually ventured out onto new terrain." However, Rampf is not predicting too much. "We'll be able to achieve some tangible progress this year, but that the effects of the wind tunnel will only truly show with the C24."
Michelin appears to have the advantage in qualifying but the Bridgestone tyres have proved better in the races. "The car has a very good balance, and the Bridgestone tyres are very consistent over a long stint," said Fisichella. "We have to concentrate on our qualifying now."
The Italian admits qualifying is the weak point at the moment but thinks it's only a matter of time before that is solved. "It is down to tyres," he said. "Michelin seem to have an edge on one lap, but the boys from Bridgestone are not sleeping! With further improved grid positions, we could surprise some people."
Sauber is currently sixth in the constructors' championship, two points behind McLaren and two ahead of Jaguar.