Saturday, 2 February 2013

Sauber C32: 1 Shade Of Grey

2013 Sauber C32, painted grey in tribute to its first ever F1 car in 1993.
Sauber had an awesome year in 2012. Their car was surprisingly quick after testing and Sergio Perez went from zero to hero in only the second round when he weathered the Sepang storm of the Malaysian Grand Prix to finish second behind an almost-as-surprising Fernando Alonso in his supposedly awful F2012. The Mexican went on to score podiums at Canada and Monza as well, the latter race seeing him climb from 12th to 2nd thanks to his famous tyre management skills (hence why he and Jenson Button are a great pairing at McLaren this year). To cap it all off, Kamui Kobayashi scored his first ever podium with second place at the Japanese Grand Prix and the wonderful Suzuka Circuit, a track he doesn't actually know that well, having started racing in Europe. It was the first Japanese home podium and only the third time a Japanese driver had scored an F1 podium at all, which I find odd considering their love of motor racing.

However, with both drivers now gone from the team, it's the car that stays on, with the usual raft of improvements and a new grey livery. The C31 was innovative enough to be copied by Ferrari and even Red Bull around the exhaust area, but its performance level was erratic, going from the aforementioned podiums and high points finishes to a few races of dismal starting and finishing positions, and occasionally having bad luck dealing with other young drivers like Pastor Maldonado at Silverstone and Romain Grosjean causing that crash at Spa-Francorchamps, which took out both drivers. So the new C32 - finished in all-grey as a reference to their first F1 car that raced 20 years ago this year - will be worth keeping an eye on, as its performances in 2013 will be difficult to predict ahead of time...

It's nice that the exhibition centre in Birmingham is still sponsoring them. No Chelsea FC logos on this one, though.
If you've read any of the other four unveil posts on here (or elsewhere, of course), then you'll know that the changes are basically developed wings, an improved exhaust system and a new nose. This one's new nose is very interesting, however, because not only is the Vanity Panel a complex shape unlike the other three, but the nose itself is a lot lower than before, which is the exact opposite direction of everyone else. Sauber say they've gained a better understanding of the C31's qualities and set about "eliminating its few weaknesses", so clearly they've devised something clever with the front end.

Ah, there's a Chelsea FC logo after all, ahead of the cockpit.
The Vanity Panel looks from the side like it just rises smoothly up like everyone else's, but actually, it just has high sides to channel air into much the same step as last year (it also appears to be the first VP with a visible seam). Perhaps it makes some downforce and the vertical sides clean up the airflow? Who knows? Well, Sauber's aero people do. What's more, the apparent vent on the front chassis, just behind where the nose attaches, is still there. You can sort of see it in this image, just ahead of the telemetry aerial that looks like an Allen Key:

Right click and select Open Image in new Tab to view in full size
From this angle it also looks like they've got a Force India-style "chin" under the nose and between the vertical front wing struts, so maybe that Coanda's the air into a secret intake that then shoots it up and out of the vent? That's a complete guess and it may not even be legal, but I can't for the life of me think what that vent is for, as there's no little hole in the tip of the nose like some cars have (McLaren treat theirs like a little grille and put a tiny badge on it). At the end of the day though, as long as it's fast it's not overly important to us what it does... unless it's too fast. They have also said that they'll experiment with a passive Double-DRS in pre-season testing.

Also of note is that the show car is on Medium-compound tyres because the white suits their livery better. It's the little things.
Sauber's driver line-up this year comprises of Force India defectee Nico Hülkenberg and Mexican person Esteban Gutierrez, a man I harbour a certain amount of irrational hatred for as he's the same age as me and is about to start his first Formula 1 season. The 21-year-old has been part of Sauber for a while now, being their most recent third driver. His presence means they can continue being sponsored by Mexico, by which I mean the quite incredibly rich Carlos Slim, whose Telmex company is apparently a long-term sponsor. So that probably means that he'd support their finances even if Gutierrez wasn't there. Well, they've been called BMW-Sauber without a whiff of BMW in their car before, so it's not unusual for them. On the subject of names, Sauber is of course not really run by Peter Sauber anymore, after the 69-year-old transferred a 33% stake to Monisha Kaltenborn, who ascended late last year to his ex-position as team principal, becoming the first woman to do so in F1. This will be her first full season in charge, and therefore the first ever full season that sees a team run by a woman, of course. She's playing down expectations, but is quietly confident about this season.

The Hulk-Gutierrez pairing will be an interesting comparison, because they both raced for the ART team in junior formulas (they're good at bringing skilled young 'uns into the sport), so in some ways Esteban is like Nico three years ago. Let's see how long it takes to even out, although of course The Hülk is fast around Interlagos, having nearly won last year and put a Williams on pole in his debut year (2010) at the Brazilian venue, so comparing Australia to Brazil might not be strictly fair. But who knows where Esteban is quick? Its not a scientific comparison at all, really...

From left to right: Robert Frijns (new Dutch third driver), Esteban Gutierrez, Nico Hülkenberg, Monisha Kaltenborn, Peter Sauber
So now you know about five of the eleven different 2013 cars (HRT went bust), and the others aren't far away aside from the Williams. Patterns are starting to emerge, but if Sauber has pushed the boat out early with its Vanity Panel, who knows what Red Bull have done with the RB9? It could be anything. They could've stretched the mysterious air scoop, done the same thing as the C32, left it the same as last year, put a tiny hole in it that channels air all the way to the diffuser, hidden a red shell launcher in it, anything. We'll find out a 13:00 tomorrow.

Bonus picture comparing it with the three previous Saubers:


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