There’s no getting around it, so let’s just put things as simply as possible, shall we? Sauber doesn’t even look average this year: the Swiss outfit looks very “meh” with a driver lineup as exciting as a beige Volvo from the 1980s, and a car that doesn’t seem to be in a fighting way.
While Sauber might have lost a lot between 2012 and 2013, they at least had the incredible Nico Hulkenberg driving the car like a man possessed to keep their fans’ enthusiasm high and bring home unlikely points. Heading into this season, they seem set for a repeat of last year’s situation—without the incredible Hulk, of course.
Being the second quickest and second most reliable Ferrari-powered car during testing isn’t a bad note to enter the season on. Given that there are only three Ferrari-powered cars this year however, that isn’t really a good thing either. It’s sort of, you know, average.
Having fallen 5th for combined mileage in all tests isn’t too shabby either. Again though, it isn’t really good because there are 11 teams in F1. You know where I’m going with this don’t you?
Yep. Average. And that might be good for points while the Renault teams struggle to come to grips with reliability, but once they catch up it’s going to be all about performance.
It’s here that preseason testing times might raise eyebrows. Yes, the times aren’t always reliable, but looking at the relative positions of the drivers does leave some interesting suggestions. During last season’s preseason tests, Esteban Gutierrez hovered around the 15th-18th quickest spot. Guess where he slotted in during this year’s test? He managed 14th and 17th. Draw what you will from that, but if the car was as scrappy as the team’s 2012 contender, you would expect to see his times at least dip a little nearer to the top 10.
Sandbagging is always a possibility, but to deliberately run as far back as they did would be a performance worthy of an Oscar.
Adrian Sutil – The average driver
Were Sutil as interesting as his assault conviction makes him sound, Sauber would at least have an interesting character on their hands. But he isn’t that interesting. Not even close.
At age 30, Sutil is one of the older drivers on the grid, and with 109 grands prix to his name, one of the more experienced. Over his career he has come to be known as a relatively predictable and safe pair of hands to bring the car home in the points when possible. He brings a decent dowry from his sponsors, Medion and Capri Sun and enjoys spending his free time collecting stamps. (That last bit may be untrue).
Really, apart from stabbing a man in the neck with a champagne glass and having an unhealthy obsession with Lewis Hamilton, there just isn’t much to talk about with Sutil. His money has more to do with his remaining on the grid than anything, but then there are plenty of slower, richer drivers. It’s not really good or bad. Just average, really.
On the plus side, he does have a very attractive girlfriend who frequents his paddock. So there you are.
Esteban Gutierrez – Talentless pay-driver
If bonus points had been awarded last season for using “lack of testing” as an excuse for underperforming, Gutierrez might have taken the drivers’ championship last year. It would have been earned on false pretenses; Gutierrez had plenty of young driver testing mileage with Sauber before taking his seat. He paid for them just like he paid for his race seat.
Like Max Chilton at Marussia, Esteban was completely crushed in his rookie season by his former teammate, Nico Hulkenberg. He only out-qualified Hulkenberg once in the entire season, and beat him three times in races—usually thanks to some misfortune for Hulkenberg. Not good stuff.
A strong race at Japan last year looked like a turning point in the young Mexican’s career, but even that held some dirty linings. Gutierrez finished one position down on Hulkenberg but was 20 seconds behind—a huge gap in F1. Worse, the following weekend he fell back out of the points and couldn’t seem to get close again.
With a tendency to flap at the steering wheel like a cartoon character, comedy throttle control and a tendency to weave like a drunken sailor, Gutierrez would be better off racing in the Wacky Races TV show from the 1970s.
Jerez Total Laps: 163 Laps (5th)
Sutil: 103 Laps
Gutierrez: 60 Laps
Sutil: 1’30.161 (12th)
Gutierrez: 1’33.270 (14th)
Bahrain Figures (Test 1 &2 Combined)
Total laps: 613 Laps (5th)
Sutil: 270 Laps
Gutierrez: 343 Laps
Sutil: 1’36.467 (14th)
Gutierrez: 1’37.180 (17th)