Sauber is not resting on its laurels, having recovered from its disastrous 2014 season. "Yes, 2014 was a disaster," admitted team boss and co-owner Monisha Kaltenborn. 2015, though, also began disastrously for the small Swiss outfit, as Kaltenborn faced down the prospect of jail at the Melbourne season opener over the Giedo van der Garde dispute.
Interviewing Kaltenborn, Globo's Livio Oricchio said the Indian-born Austrian remains "visibly shaken" when asked about the saga. "Everyone has a very strong opinion about what happened," she said. "What not everybody understands is that he (van der Garde) could not drive. I do not give out super licences from my office."
"The FIA made it clear that they would not give him one. And I couldn't say anything and only had to hear everybody else talking. The press took an extreme position, with zero idea about what was really happening in reality." Once Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson had their places confirmed, things turned good for Sauber as the new C34 car proved a big step forward.
Explaining the disastrous 2014, Kaltenborn said: "In 2013, as we were struggling to improve our championship position, we should have given greater attention to the 2014 project. We never imagined there would be such a great performance discrepancy between the power units. So when you have a chassis problem, as we did, and combine that with a power unit problem, the difficulties are multiplied."
Obviously improved for 2015 is the customer Ferrari engine, but Kaltenborn says the Sauber car is also much better. "The supplier of the power unit has done a great job," she said, "but we also identified the weak points of the car and tried to improve them. We are not satisfied yet, despite our progress."
Sauber began 2015 very strongly, but the impression now is that rivals are clawing back with their bigger budgets. Kaltenborn said: "The car's development planning is of course related to the budget. But we are not driven by what the others are doing. We will introduce new parts throughout the season. Right now we are in the middle of the grid. In some races we are going to be further forward, others further back, as in the last two races."
Asked what she would do with a bigger budget, Kaltenborn does not hesitate: "The car's development. It's hard to say where. We would do what we are doing, but with a greater number of new parts in order to generate a larger impact on performance." (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing