Peter Sauber in Australia: Trembling to the end

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Peter Sauber in Australia
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N after the training, the mood in the Sauber warehouse was gloomy. Starting positions 13 and 22 did not correspond to the performance level of the cars. Kamui Kobayashi was stuck after a mistake in the second round of qualifying and a gearbox failure on Sergio Perez's Sauber resulted in a five-place penalty. When downshifting, the front and rear wheels were locked. That messed up the electronics. Normally, gear changes are prevented when the rear wheels are stationary. But not with this unfortunate constellation. Peter Sauber was annoyed: 'Our cars had the speed for the top ten.'

Perez on the road again as a tire whisperer

24 hours later the beer bottles were decapitated behind the clean box. With twelve championship points, the Swiss racing team is third in the championship table behind McLaren and Red Bull. But the way there was a shaky encounter. In the eleventh lap, both Sauber drivers appeared in the points. Sauber was amazed: 'How Perez appears in 13th place on a lap from the back is a mystery to me.' Then it got confusing because of the pit stops. Like the rest of the group, Kamui Kobayashi was on a two-stop strategy, and Sergio Perez tried to repeat the feat from the previous year and get over the distance with one stop. In the short term, this even pushed the Mexican up to second place. When he switched from medium tires to the soft compound at the end of the 24th lap, there was still some doubt as to whether the plan would work. Perez had 33 laps to go on the soft tires.

The man from Guadalajara is a tire whisperer. The five SafetyCar laps certainly helped, but a review of the racing laps also reveals the 22-year-old's strength. He drove 1.31 laps on the assembly line. Only in the last two laps did the tires collapse. Kobayashi's race, on the other hand, was a constant up and down. The Japanese shuttled back and forth between 8th and 14th place, was often overtaken and regained his positions just as often. In the last lap, however, he was wide awake.

Sauber: We have a fast car

The Sauber pilots went into one of the craziest rounds in recent years in places 7 and 9. 'That was pure chaos,' marveled Daniel Ricciardo of hisBox seat in 12th place. Peter Sauber admitted: 'We got twelve points, but could just as easily have lost ten points.' First of all, Pastor Maldonado did a favor to all those who fight eleven seconds behind him in a pack of seven that was only 5.9 seconds apart in the 57th round. The Sauber pilots were right in the middle.

Perez led the queue, was slowed down in the chicane by Nico Rosberg, stopped against it and slashed the left rear tire for the Mercedes driver. Rosberg complained that Perez tried to push him off the road, but the footage from the on-board camera shows that the German pans back to the racing line fairly early. As the Mercedes slows down, a traffic jam forms behind it, which Kobayashi takes advantage of. He overtakes his teammate only to see him right in front of his nose again. Perez had cut short because of the fast chicane. His tires were totally exhausted.

Usually this gives a drive-through penalty or 25 seconds over the total time. But the Mexican turned on his brain. When Force India team manager Andy Stevenson asked FIA race director Charlie Whiting, he showed him a video. Perez immediately let Kobayashi pass the exit of the chicane. So no space gain. Perez was forgiven for the fact that Kimi Räikkönen passed on the last two kilometers. He struggled with his back to the wall on ancient tires. The finish demonstrated how close jubilation and sadness were. Sixth Kobayashi was separated from eleventh Jean-Eric Vergne by just 3.1 seconds.

For Sauber, the Grand Prix was not over after crossing the finish line. Last year, both cars were thrown out of the ranking because the rear wing did not comply with the regulations. This time, after two hours of trembling, the thumb went up. The twelve points went to Switzerland. The boss drew a conciliatory résumé: 'We made life difficult for ourselves in training. Our drivers delivered a very good race. But the best thing to realize is that we have a fast car.'

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