Along with Lotus, Sauber was another of the great surprises of the season. Their pace was apparent in preseason testing in 2012, and they duly performed throughout the season. Four podiums and a couple near wins sealed 6th place in the Constructors’ Championship for the Swiss team.
While they enjoyed their best season since becoming a privateer outfit, the season was mired with inconsistency. Front-running pace in Malaysia and Germany sometimes turned to back marker pace in Hungary. For 2013, Sauber will be looking to consistently challenge the frontrunners rather than challenge when the conditions happen to allow it.
Sauber have gone relatively radical with their car and their driver lineup for 2013. While evolution was the general direction for the new cars, Sauber have taken a leap into the unknown with some radical design features. Massively narrow sidepods and a passive DRS shows the team’s intentions for 2013.
Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez join the race team at Sauber this year with a lot of expectation. Regardless of testing form, the team will be expecting podium pace at least once during the year. The drivers are capable of this, for sure.
The defacto team leader for 2013, Nico Hulkenberg will be hoping he can match his giant killing performances that became a feature of the second half of 2012. Those performances only served to justify everyone’s claims that the German is a champion in the making. One can only wonder what might have been if Mclaren chose Nico over Perez.
Regardless of Mclaren’s non-decision, the 2013 season will hopefully serve to prove the immense talent of the young and hungry German.
Rarely involved in accidents, the calm and calculated nature that defines Nico Hulkenberg will be a welcome change from the fast but slightly erratic nature of 2012 team members Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi.
Some have criticized Nico for sidestepping in the paddock. His move from Force India to Sauber won’t provide a huge improvement in terms of car pace and potential but will hopefully serve as an opportunity for Nico to demonstrate his versatility.
After three years as a Sauber reserve driver, Esteban has finally been given his big break as a Formula One driver. Drawing parallels between his and countryman Perez’s junior category journeys is easy to do, but Esteban will be hoping to make a name for himself, separate from Sergio.
Finishing third in the 2012 GP2 championship wasn’t a complete representation of the Mexican’s talent. Some careless errors throughout the season ended his realistic hopes for a championship challenge towards the end of the season.
His reputation as a pay driver is a bit harsh, as Mexican company Telmex, owned by richest man in the world, Carlos Slim, was always going to stay with Sauber regardless of Perez or Gutierrez’s presence in the team.
He will be hoping to put this reputation behind him as he joins the impressive Sauber team for the 2013 campaign. He goes into the new season, however, with very little Formula One experience. He only drove one practice session last year and the rest of his experience is limited to the Young Driver tests in Abu Dhabi. Otherwise, he is a genuine rookie. This may be looming in the back of his mind as he prepares himself mentally for the season ahead.