Sauber C31 Steps Out
Sauber had a solid if quiet 2011, improving on the previous season if not really lighting up the track. The problem was the exhaust blown diffuser, or lack of one to be exact. The diffuser project never really got off the ground and was eventually scrapped but that may leave them in a stronger position for this season now that that particular playing field has been levelled.
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Technical director James Key quit Sauber just before the launch but the car still carries his mark. An evolution of its predecessor, the C31 appears aerodynamically very simple. However, there is a new, stepped nose of course and it seems to carry a nifty little trick lurking in the dark paintwork – a small outlet in the upper surface of the nose, just behind the bump. It seems likely that this is intended to reduce the effect the bump has on the airflow although it’s not entirely clear where the outlet is fed from.
However, it’s at the rear that the C31 has undergone most changes, beginning with the sidepods which sweep down compared with last year’s decidedly bulky car. There’s also a smaller gearbox and a switch to pull rod suspension at the rear – it’s no Red Bull but it’s a definitely sleeker than the C30.
That said, it’s the rule changes that Sauber are pinning their hopes on, especially the exhaust blown diffuser ban. “Because of the new definition in the rules,” says Chief Designer, Matt Morris, “we know that the disadvantages we had last year with a lack of the strong exhaust effect will be less of an issue for us now.” Last season, the team started well before losing steam in the second half of the year. “Last year the exhaust performance affected speed,” explains Kamui Kobayashi, “and we had developed it well but stopped before Silverstone and lost performance. This year we definitely have a better chance…”
Sauber are also aiming to carry over the team’s inherent tyre management advantage. In Melbourne last year, Sergio Perez surprised the field by finishing seventh after making just one tyre stop when most of the opposition had predicted anything from two to four pit stops. The flip side to that advantage was that generating sufficient tyre temperature for a qualifying lap could be problematic and the team struggled at cool tracks. To counter that, they’ve worked on making the car more flexible to setup with reconfigured suspension.
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Kamui Kobayashi, in his second full season, was the mainstay of the team but Sergio Perez was one of the revelations of the year. Unfortunately, he was just coming to grips with Formula One just as Sauber’s performance tailed off – a problem that was not helped by missing two races after crashing out in Monaco. The battle between these two could be one of the highlights of the season.
Remarkably, 2012 will be the outfit’s twentieth season. Will it, though, be a rewarding one?
What do you make of the Sauber C31? Who will come out the better between Kobayashi and Perez? Let us know your thoughts in the comments…
Credit: Sauber Motorsport AG