The pre-European previews are starting, and in contrast to the bravado coming from the McLaren team, I give you Sauber. Sadly, I might add.
I think it is pretty much unanimous that Sauber is the big disappointment in 2010. And as the sides of the cars continue to be blank, it is hard to ignore the feeling that Peter Sauber’s heroic and well-meaning effort to salvage the team might not be a lasting one.
Here’s the team’s preview for Valencia. I hate to ask, but have to: Would this get your fired up to be a sponsor?
Pedro de la Rosa: â€œIâ€™m certainly looking forward to my second home race this year, although it will be quite a busy weekend. It is a great achievement for Spain to have two Grands Prix and we do have a fantastic crowd. A little bit of a downer for the spectators is the fact that on both Spanish circuits overtaking is very difficult. Usually you donâ€™t see much overtaking in Barcelona or Valencia. Turn two should be the best option for overtaking, but I have not driven the Valencia street circuit yet so there might also be others. In the two races I have finished this year I have been fighting for the points until the last few laps of each race. We will be bringing several new parts for the car so I expect a step forward here.â€
Kamui Kobayashi: â€œFrom what I have seen so far the Valencia street circuit doesnâ€™t seem to be the most exciting track, but I only know it from two GP2 races and racing there in Formula One will be different. I like driving over the bridge, which makes the track quite distinctive. It might not be as hot as last year when the race was two months later, but I still expect rather high temperatures, which is fine for me. It is another race in Spain, and in Barcelona we had one of our better weekends in terms of performance, so I hope we can achieve a positive result.â€
Technical Director James Key:
â€œFor Valencia we return to a higher downforce level, similar to what we had in Istanbul and a step up from what we had in Canada. The fact that Valencia is a street circuit with small run-off areas can make for an eventful race, so you have to stay away from the walls. The circuit is very stop-and-start, which means acceleration and braking performances are important with relatively slow speed corners in between each straight.
â€œWe have a new aero upgrade for the European Grand Prix, which should make the car more efficient and a little bit easier to set up. This is the first of our mid season updates. We have to see how we go in Valencia. We are looking to bounce back after a difficult weekend in Canada.â€œ
One bit of good news contained in this preview is that Burger King Spain will, in fact, again be a sponsor as it was in Barcelona. But one sponsor for races in a single country isn’t going to pay the bills.
I really can’t decide where I think this team is headed. Kamui seemed like such a great prospect at the end of 2009. He clearly hasn’t lived up to that promise, and I wonder if he’s going to finish 2010 and be yet another Japanese driver who is on the outside looking into Formula 1. And Pedro already is talking like someone who knows this is going to be it. I can’t say he’s done his reputation as a test driver much good.
The biggest question mark of all, though, is the team’s future. Sure, it might be a target of a U.S.-led effort, one that would increase the partnership with Ferrari. (Gut reaction, a Ferrari-America connection makes some sense. The Ferrari brand is certainly big here in the U.S., as it is everywhere, and it could be the hook that would drive interest in F1 among Americans.) But it also could go the way of Honda, Toyota and, of course, BMW before it.
And that would be a heck of a shame.
Does anyone out there have a positive spin they can put on Sauber for us?