Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Talk on Corners
Christopher Wheelahan

Chris first caught the F1 flu back in 2003 but lost track due to the snooze-fest that was the 2004 season. In 2010 Chris rediscovered the sport and has become enthralled since. He makes no claims to be a superb writer or journalist but only an obsessive follower of motorsport, particularly F1. Nowadays Chris spends his spare time experimenting with cocktails and wasting time with Musical Theatre types. He does not enjoy long walks on the beach… sorry.

A Checo shaped hole in the wall // Sauber have a raft of young drivers to choose from

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Sergio levels up in Singapore
Credit: Sauber Motorsport AG

Full disclosure: I am a big Sergio Pérez fan. He’s the closest I have to a “home team”. I’m also a big Felipe Massa fan, but the thing about Felipe is that he has spent most of this season and much of last languishing about the middle of the field unable to do much besides crash into Lewis Hamilton and fall on his own face.

Let’s presume Massa keeps performing where he has most of this season, and Pérez performs where he has. In this case it’s not entirely unreasonable to think that the young Mexican could move over to Ferrari, as has been the speculation. If Massa picks up his game, I’d say that this is not an entirely safe presumption to make, but if Pérez keeps driving like he did in Italy, I’m guessing there will be a Checo shaped hole at Sauber to go with that Checo shaped hole in the wall. Who moves to Sauber in this case?

The next logical choice

Estéban Gutiérrez has been a solid performer in virtually every series he’s participated in (which has been quite a lot of them). He done very well in GP3, GP2, Formula 2 and even won the Formula BMW Euroseries Championship at seventeen. Seventeen! He has been able to get support from his home country and still acts like he hasn’t had the world placed in front of him on a silver platter.

In the 2010 young driver test at Abu Dhabi, he set a time barely six tenths off that set by Kamui Kobayashi in qualifying, in the same car. There are drivers in the lower series that would kill for a time like that. Now, he would certainly be a number two driver behind the more experienced Kobayashi, but it would be a superb opportunity for him to cut his teeth and move on up in the world.

So let’s face it; he’s not a terrible choice for a second driver at the storied team. He may even be an excellent one, but here’s the question: can he get the financial backing he needs? Can he bring the same money into the team that Sergio does? My guess is that he absolutely can, but it’s worth thinking about the eventuality where things don’t all fall neatly into place.

Other rookies

There is certainly no shortage at all of young talent moving up the ranks in the junior formulas these days. Valtteri Bottas, Jules Bianchi, Max Chilton, Giedo van der Garde and Alexander Rossi all have legitimate shots at making it to the big league in the next few years. Unfortunately, they are all tied to F1 teams that are not Sauber so it’s fairly unlikely that Peter Sauber will be taking any of them into the team next year. It just doesn’t make much logical sense.

Valtteri Bottas at Monza
Credit: Charles Coates/LAT

They do not bring the same amount to the table financially as an established F1 driver, they are generally inexperienced in F1 and there is really no reason for the team to take a risk on one of these drivers. It’s a shame, because I’d like to see all five of these guys drive sooner rather than later, but I don’t think it could logically be for the Swiss team.

My money is on Valtteri Bottas moving up to a Sunday drive next year. I think the Williams team has a choice between a quick though hot-headed driver in Maldonado and a slower and frankly rather unsuccessful driver in Senna. Senna will probably move out due to Maldonado bringing more bolos to the table. Sauber may make a good fit for the young Brazilian as he still brings money wherever he goes (though not as much as Pastor) and he’s a consistent driver.

Consistently mid-field, some would argue, is better than all over the place. It’s just a matter of whether the folks in Hinwil are okay with some amount of underperformance for the sake of consistency or not. My guess is not, but it’s always an option.

The slightly less young guard

Here I will propose two names: Jaime Alguersuari and Robert Kubica. Alguersuari is a good driver with good money backing him up. He’s the current Pirelli test driver, so arguably he has more experience on the Pirelli tires than any driver on the grid and has been driving all season, which is more than we can say for some other folks who may want to get back in the game. He is articulate, has a good reputation with mechanics as a driver that’s easy to work with and he’s a musician and DJ so he can provide some jams for all those Sauber victory parties. All around, he’s a good man for the job.

Will it be second time lucky for Alguersuari?
Credit: Peter Fox/Getty

In case it hasn’t been clear from my past posts, I really want Kubica back in a cockpit. However, I don’t think he’s up for a Ferrari or Red Bull or even a Mercedes right off the bat. He needs to relearn the cockpit, and the new tire situation, and the new tracks and all that stuff that comes with being out of the game for a few years.

Sauber may be exactly the place where he can get familiar with the ins-and-outs again and score some points in the meantime. If he performs well here, he has massive potential to be a star at a top team.

In my opinion, and in those of many reputable and in-the-know f1 home-journalists (he says sardonically) Kubica would do himself far better to spend time getting back into the swing of things and seeing where he can perform rather than jumping into star status and underperforming. Sauber may be the perfect place for him to do just that.

What do I think will happen? Felipe has picked up his game a bit as of late. I think he’s got another year with Ferrari, at least. Everything remains the status quo and I have nothing to write about. If Checo does move on, Gutiérrez is clearly the next choice. Ohh, but what if? I deal only in what ifs. I truly wish Kubica could be back in the car, and I think Sauber may make the most sense for the Pole. It never really processed before, but thinking about it now it seems only logical.