There's no easy way to design and build a new F1 car, but the road to Valencia has been longer for the Sauber team than its competition. The team quite nearly missed the chance to race this year after BMW withdrew its support and a subsequent deal to sell the team fell through. But team founder and namesake Peter Sauber managed to get the funds together to buy his team back, and after narrowly acquiring a spot on the 2010 grid, this is the first fruit: the Sauber C29.
Technically, the team still bears the BMW Sauber moniker, but it's not the Bavarian automaker's engine under the cowling: it's Ferrari's. The name game is simply a formality. Having run Maranello's engines for years in the pre-BMW era under the Petronas brand, both Ferrari and Sauber are used to the arrangement.
Petronas is also gone, migrating to the rival Mercedes GP team (and not, as might have been assumed, to the Malaysian-backed Lotus team). As you can see, the C29 – the third car to make its debut during the Valencia test session – was unveiled with no sponsor branding whatsoever. Rumor has it that both drivers – 38-year-old veteran McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa and 23-year-old rookie Kamui Kobayashi (who impressed in his debut for Toyota last season) – have brought sponsorship along with them, Kobayashi in particular linked to Panasonic, which sponsored Toyota's cars until the Japanese automaker's withdrawal last season.
With BMW or without, Sauber's made the grid, but the team still has a long way to go. Have a look at the high-resolution images in the gallery below and the press release after the jump.
[Source: BMW Sauber]
Unveiling of the BMW Sauber C29 in Valencia
Hinwil/Valencia, 31st January 2010. Today, Sunday, on the eve of the start of the official Formula One test drives, the BMW Sauber F1 Team rolls out its Ferrari-engined C29 at the Ricardo Tormo race track in Cheste near Valencia, Spain.
The BMW Sauber F1 Team will line up lean and hungry for the start of the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship. Sixth place in last year's constructors' standings will serve as a starting point for the new season. The team's aim is to establish itself at this level despite a lower budget and reduction in manpower. This demands creative thinking and an increased level of efficiency.
Drivers Kamui Kobayashi (23) and Pedro de la Rosa (38) will bring to the team a blend of youth and experience. Japan's Kobayashi made his case with strong performances in two Grands Prix in 2009 and has already recorded his first World Championship points.
De la Rosa has 71 Grands Prix under his belt and has earned his place in the statistics for podium finishes and setting fastest race laps. Plus, he also brings with him valuable experience from seven years as a test and reserve driver with a leading team.
"The last few months have been very intense for us," says team boss and owner Peter Sauber. "First we had to battle to secure the survival of the team and then we focused on putting a strong set-up in place for the future. The technical preparation of the 2010 car has continued uninterrupted and according to plan since the spring of 2009, despite all the turmoil. We have a long tradition of bringing together an up-and-coming youngster and an experienced campaigner as a driver combination – and it's an approach that has brought us a lot of success. Pedro has been working at the highest level technically for many years and for a top team, and we can benefit as a team from this experience. Young Kamui also has a lot to offer us, and last year he impressed me particularly in Abu Dhabi."
For De la Rosa, a long-harboured hope has been realised: "At last I can feel like a proper racing driver again. I've really missed the competition out on the track. At the same time, though, I've learned a lot technically and on the systems side, and now I want to bring that knowledge to the team."
Kobayashi can't wait to tackle his first full season in Formula One: "I'm very proud that Peter Sauber has shown so much faith in me and I'm determined not to disappoint him. My aim is that he will end up being proud of me as well."
Peter Sauber (66) will be at trackside for the races in his capacity as Team Principal, while Managing Director Monisha Kaltenborn (38) will head up operational matters at the factory in Hinwil. Willy Rampf (56) will celebrate ten years as the team's Technical Director in April 2010 and is again responsible for the coming season's car.
Rampf explains: "The development of the BMW Sauber C29 has seen the team build on the experience gained last year and the improvement in performance over the final third of the season. However, the new regulations banning refuelling during the race and stipulating a reduced width for the front tyres have required significant changes to the car's design."
The increased length of the fuel tank means the car has grown longer overall. And because they are slimmer, the front tyres will be more heavily worked, requiring weight to be shifted further towards the rear of the car.
An eye-catching feature of the C29 is its highly intricate raised nose. Also very distinctive is an extremely long undercut at the transition from chassis into underbody. These and other aerodynamic measures also help to ensure optimum airflow to the double diffuser. Further changes were required to integrate the Ferrari engine and, in particular, the Ferrari gearbox.
Over the coming season, the ban on refuelling will add extra importance to one of the team's traditional strengths: the ability to carry out fast pit stops. Previously, the time needed for the refuelling process was a key factor in determining the duration of a stop. This time element will no longer be an issue from 2010; instead, everything will be down to the speed of the mechanics. The BMW Sauber F1 Team crew have frequently stood out as the fastest workers in the pit lane.
This year's calendar features 19 Grands Prix – as many as in 2005, the longest Formula One season to date. The Hinwil team will approach the 2010 races and its metamorphosis from a works team into an independent outfit with respect and ambition.