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F1 Advent Calendar 2012 (Day 17) - Sauber stars // The Sauber team faces a shakeup both on and off track

Published by Christine Blachford

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Hello and welcome to the F1 Advent Calendar 2012, we are back again to take the next step in our bitesize season review, picking out the important moments of the year gone by. Last time we looked at some future driver movements, this time it’s some team promotions instead. This is Day Seventeen - Sauber stars.

The Sauber team had been in recovery mode for several seasons as they launched into 2012, building themselves back up after the disappearance of BMW at the end of 2009. Gradually, Monisha Kaltenborn had been getting more and more involved in running the team, after being appointed to the CEO position when BMW withdrew, and becoming a stakeholder in the team in May of this year.

It was partly as a reward for her good work, and partly as a plan for his succession, that Peter Sauber transferred a third of his stake in the Sauber Group to Monisha. At the time he said she was “instrumental in the team’s survival” and that she would lead the team in a direction he approved of once he stepped down.

That moment wasn’t too far away, as in October, Peter Sauber stepped down as team principal of the team that bears his name, handing the role to Kaltenborn. He said: “Now is a good time for both of us, so this is the right moment to pass on the baton. I’m in no doubt that Monisha has all the necessary skills to be an outstanding team principal.”

Whoever was in charge of running the team, they were having a good season. After a double points finish in Australia and a second place podium result in Malaysia, Sauber got their season off to a great start. The momentum saw them through a few retirements, but Sergio Pérez managed to finish on the podium two more times after that.

For the first half of the season, the team had been focusing their attention on keeping Force India and Williams behind them in the championship standings, but after three podiums, they started looking ahead. After the Singapore Grand Prix, they were 26 points ahead of Force India, and 35 points behind Mercedes. A new battle was approaching, one in which they tried to catch up with the German outfit.

At the Japanese Grand Prix, Kamui Kobayashi secured an emotional and important podium at his home race. It could have been more but Pérez spun out of the race - getting caught up in a gravel trap after an overtaking move gone wrong. Regardless, the podium brought Sauber within 20 points of Mercedes. I, for one, was very excited about this potential fight for championship position as we headed into the final few races of the season.

Unfortunately, for the next two events, neither Mercedes nor Sauber scored any points. Mercedes couldn’t pull away from their nemesis, nor could Sauber catch them up - it was a stalemate. It wasn’t until Abu Dhabi that there was any movement, and it was Sauber moving forward. 12 points now stood between them and fifth place in the championship. In Austin, it was zero points for either team. This battle was now seriously running out of time.

In Brazil, it was once again on Kamui Kobayashi’s shoulders as Pérez was knocked out of the race on the first lap. Kobayashi needed to finish up on the podium to be in with any chance of challenging Mercedes. At one point, both Schumacher and Rosberg were out of the top ten, whilst Kamui was running fourth, and it almost looked possible. But the damp race forced tyre decisions that worked in Mercedes favour, and Schumacher finished seventh, with Kobayashi ninth. Mercedes retained their fifth place in the championship, Sauber sixth, with the gap fourteen points as the season came to a close.

It wasn’t the result that Peter, Monisha and the whole Sauber team had been pushing for, but the season had showed them they were on the way back up, and the car had the potential to fight for some significantly strong results.

That’s all for this episode of the F1 Advent Calendar 2012. Thank you for listening and I hope you will join me again next time when we peek behind the advent window of another key moment of the season. I will see you then!

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