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Sauber Singapore GP Review: The Final Straw

Sauber’s tainted Formula 1 season experienced another huge setback as both drivers failed to finish the Singapore Grand Prix. Esteban Gutiérrez had a terminal power unit failure on lap 18, while Adrian Sutil surrendered his car to a water leak in what was another disappointing weekend and one that could be the final straw in terms of Sauber’s hopes for 2014.

 Sauber Singapore GP Review: The Final Straw

Sauber’s misfortune had been ongoing throughout the weekend, with Adrian Sutil facing the majority of the problems. After qualifying it was revealed that the team were struggling with the German’s energy management which meant that that he was unable to extract the maximum level of performance from the Ferrari hybrid power unit. While Sutil was swiftly eliminated in Q1, Gutiérrez enjoyed a far more rewarding Saturday – the Mexican managed to qualify 14th with a fastest lap time of 1.47.97, which was enough to out-qualify his fellow-countryman Sergio Perez in the Mercedes-powered Force India. However, Sauber’s season-long pace deficit remained apparent, as Gutiérrez was still two seconds off the pace and over half a second behind Nico Hulkenburg in 13th place.

The start of the race set the scene for a tumultuous two hours at Marina Bay for the Sauber team. Despite qualifying solidly Gutiérrez was quickly eaten up by the two Force Indias heading into the first corner, while Sutil was forced to brake heavily behind him. Although Gutiérrez recovered to split the Force Indias his Grand Prix quickly turned sour. A lap 19 engine failure put paid to what could have been an encouraging evening. Instead it prompted scenes of frustration from the young Mexican as he furiously hurled his gloves across the garage. After the race, he was quick to express his dissatisfaction at the Sauber C-33’s level of performance:

“At the moment it is almost impossible to achieve good results. We have to extract 120 percent from what we have, but with these issues we are having it makes things complicated. There is nothing that I can do to guard against these problems at the moment.”

Sutil’s technical gremlins held off in the early stages during a double-stint on the Pirelli supersoft tyres, but his lack of pace was clear to see on the telemetry. Nevertheless, the retirements of Nico Rosberg and Gutiérrez  allowed Sutil to climb up the order and begin to fight for Sauber’s first points of the season. His race took a nerve-racking turn as he was was spared of a penalty following an incident with Sergio Perez,in which Perez went for an audacious move around the outside of Sutil, striking the wall and losing his front wing several minutes later.

It soon became apparent that Sutil had stuck to the racing line when Perez braked late to sweep around him. As such, it was more of an error of judgement from the Force India driver than anything else. Sutil’s driving couldn’t save him from the technical issues that followed.

A water leak proved too much for the battle-worn C-33, and Sutil brought the car back to the garage to save it from a complete technical failure. After his premature end to the race, Sutil said: “It is very frustrating to retire again due to a technical failure. Today we were in a good position to score points”. He went on to say that “Regarding the contact with Sergio (Perez), there is not much to say besides that suddenly he drove into the back of the car. Luckily the car was not damaged.”

The seemingly futile quest for points is haunting Sauber as the season nears its conclusion. This weekend’s Grand Prix was the team’s third double retirement of the season, putting them on par with Caterham and Lotus.

It may be too late for Sauber to salvage this lost season. The drivers have lost patience with the car and the team is still struggling to overcome the technical problems from the start of the year. The Singapore Grand Prix was a defining weekend for Sauber; a microcosm for their entire season. Of course, they will be pushing to leapfrog Marussia in the battle for 9th place in the coming rounds, but it has become clear that their unstable season has now fully derailed.


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