Kamui Kobayashi: “I’m really looking forward to this race, and my expectations are quite high. Silverstone is one of my favourite circuits. Our cars were always good in medium and high speed corners, but with the Sauber C31 we have also improved the performance in slow corners, which means we should have no problems with the new part of the track, which was introduced in 2010. Despite the fact I have to cope with a penalty, which will send me five places down the grid, I’m optimistic for this race. I believe we have the potential to achieve something special in England and I hope for a little more luck as well.”
Sergio Pérez: “I really like the Silverstone circuit. I have won there in Formula 3 and in GP2 and also last year my first Formula One race was good. I came seventh and this was actually my best race result in 2011. Back then it was a crazy race in difficult weather conditions with the track drying. I think our car will be good in Silverstone and I want to fight for another podium there. In my view in Silverstone it is even more difficult to overtake than it was in Valencia, therefore qualifying is high priority on the job list. I need a better grid position than recently. I like the fast and fluid corners a lot, so this is a very enjoyable part of the track. The race in Silverstone is a special Grand Prix – because of the fans and the atmosphere and also for me personally. I lived in Oxford for three years and I have quite a few friends in England.”
Giampaolo Dall’Ara, Head of Track Engineering: “The Silverstone circuit is very different from the last two tracks we’ve been racing on. It has some challenging high speed corners and requires a set-up which is optimised with regard to aerodynamics as well as changes of direction. Silverstone has the charm of some of the older tracks with a surface that is not perfect and quite bumpy in some places. It also offers some real challenges for the drivers. The straights are not very long, therefore we can afford to run quite a lot of downforce. The DRS zone is in the same place as last year, in the section that was built a couple of years ago. Its length is quite limited which means overtaking is not so easy. We will be running the soft and the hard tyre compounds, which I expect to suit this track nicely, and also warming-up should not be an issue. An important factor in Silverstone is always the weather, an aspect we need to take into consideration when preparing for the race weekend, and something which we might to need to adapt to during the race. Our Sauber C31 will get an aerodynamic development package, which includes some modifications of the engine cover and the rear of the car. Looking at the layout of this track and the characteristics of our car, I think we can approach this race weekend with a lot of optimism.”
Kamui Kobayashi: “In Valencia it is usually very hot. I personally like that, but it is difficult to say what it means for the car and the tyres. It will be tough, that much is certain. Tyre management will be the key, together with a good race strategy. The street circuit also requires a decent amount of downforce for the car. You are always quite close to the walls, but after our last two races in Monaco and Montreal this is nothing new. Overtaking is not easy but not impossible either. In 2010 it was actually good fun. Valencia as a city is a nice destination by many measure, I would happily choose it for my holidays. By the way, you can also get the best fresh squeezed orange juice there. However, my target is a strong qualifying as well as a strong race.”
Sergio Pérez: “I enjoyed the Montreal result very much and I want more of that. I like the track in Valencia a lot and also the atmosphere during the race weekend, as we are quite close to the fans. I don’t have the best memories of my Formula One debut race in Valencia, as it was last year and a very difficult one for me. I was returning to racing after my heavy shunt in Monaco and, in hindsight, I have to admit I don’t think I was fit enough. I didn’t feel well at all. The Valencia street circuit has quite long straights with hard braking into the corners, and what we have learnt from Montreal will be important for that.”
Giampaolo Dall’Ara, Head of Track Engineering: “Valencia is a street circuit, but not a typical one, because the surface is very smooth, and the kerbs are not very high. In addition, the aerodynamic efficiency is significantly more important than, for example, in Monaco or Singapore, and there are proper run-off areas. Most of the corners are slow, but you cannot ignore the level of top speed. As a result of this layout, braking stability and traction are very important. In Valencia we have to expect high temperatures at this time of the year, so the tarmac can get very hot. Pirelli is supplying us with the medium and the soft compound tyres, which have changed a bit since last year and may need us to look at a slightly different strategy for them. Rear degradation could be an issue. Overtaking is not easy on this track, therefore qualifying is of particular importance. The car is basically unchanged since Montreal, however, we might run a higher level of downforce.”
Kamui Kobayashi: “At the circuit in Montreal there are long straights but also slow corners. I think our car seems to be okay for this. I hope there we can have the performance we want to see. Last year I was second on the grid for the re-start after the red flag for the wet conditions, but then we suffered with tyre warm up problems and I am sure we have definitely improved on that with this year’s car. We shall have to see what we can do, but I think Montreal is one of the places where we can be strong. In case it is cold there, a key will be how the tyres work. I really like the city and the track, although, unfortunately, I have never had a great result there. This year I want to make up for this. Our car is getting better and I’m looking forward to the Canadian Grand Prix.”
Sergio Pérez: “It will be my first Canadian Grand Prix, as last year I only did a few laps in the first free practice before I realised I did not feel well enough to drive. I felt very dizzy in the car which was a consequence of last year’s Monaco accident. I think at times in recent races we have been very unlucky, but the pace is there as my lap times during the Monaco race clearly proved. I’m looking forward to doing a good job in Canada and scoring as many points as possible. It is a fast and fluid circuit on which you are often close to the wall – challenging and exciting.”
Giampaolo Dall’Ara, Head of Track Engineering: “The Montreal track is narrow with walls that are very close in some places. It offers interesting challenges. The first one is to find the right level of aerodynamic efficiency, because the level of downforce and drag is lower than on most of the other tracks. The time spent on the straights requires maximising the speed, while the corners, with the exception of the hairpin, are low speed and feature changes of direction. Therefore the car needs to be well balanced under braking, needs good traction and must be reactive. The next interesting challenge is the fact Pirelli has decided to provide us with the soft and the super soft tyre compounds as they did in Monaco. We don’t expect any problems with the super soft tyre in qualifying, but then the more difficult part will be to find the right race strategy to get the maximum out of the tyres. What’s different to last year is that there will only be one DRS zone. However, I don’t expect this to make a big difference, because overtaking is normally possible on the Montreal track. On the car we will have a new rear wing for the medium downforce requirement, plus some minor modifications.”
The Malaysian Grand Prix was supposed to be a fight between McLaren and Red Bull, with Mercedes and Lotus in the mix. Ferrari were thought to be out of contention, as were Sauber. Just before the start, the rain came down, and all predictions went out the window.
When the track became so wet that the third sector was impossible to drive, the race was suspended until the rain abated. After the restart, a flurry of pitstops upset the order, and Fernando Alonso emerged in the lead. Jenson Button dropped down the field after contact with Narain Karthikeyan who was running an unbelievable tenth in the HRT at the restart.
Sergio Perez had made an early pitstop to change from intermediate to wet tyres, a move that paid off as he was running third at the restart and found himself second behind Alonso when the field settled down after the pitstops.
Perez set about chasing after Alonso, gradually reeling in the Ferrari until the field pitted again to go onto slick tyres. Alonso pitted for slicks a lap before Perez, which opened the gap a bit, but Perez was quicker than Alonso and caught up with a few laps to go. Unfortunately, a mistake by Perez caused him to run wide and, although he rejoined the track, his chances of a win had all but evaporated.
Alonso held on for an extremely unexpected Ferrari victory, with Perez a superb second and Hamilton third. The quality of Alonso’s drive is obvious when compared to Felipe Massa’s 15th place, 97 seconds behind his team leader. The performance of the day arguably came from Perez, as the Mexican scored his first podium, which could easily have been a win.
Mercedes disappointed with Schumacher 10th after contact with Grosjean early on, and Rosberg 13th, although Schumacher has at least now scored a point this season. Their qualifying pace has so far not translated into race pace, which will trouble the team. Lotus were impressive again, with Raikkonen finishing 5th. Team-mate Romain Grosjean spun off a short while after his contact with Schumacher. Williams also continued their run of form with Bruno Senna scoring his best Formula One result in 6th place.
The Formula One circus proceeds to China in three weeks time, where the racing will hopefully be as enthralling as it has already been this season.
The Sauber F1 Team has launched its new car, the C31, at the Jerez de la Frontera circuit in Spain today, ahead of the start of pre-season testing tomorrow. The car features the now familiar stepped nose, quite similar to that seen on the new Ferrari F2012.
Sauber’s driver line-up for 2012 is unchanged from 2011. Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Pérez are the race drivers, and Esteban Gutiérrez once again fills the role of reserve driver while driving full-time in GP2. The team will be looking to improve on last year’s 7th place in the Constructors’ Championship with the C31.