F1 2010: Sauber Name Their First Driver

Antony HerbertAnalyst IIIDecember 17, 2009

TOKYO - OCTOBER 07:  Kamui Kobayashi of Japan and the Panasonic Toyota Racing team attends the Toyota Motor Corporation's press briefing on the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at Mega Web on October 7, 2008 in Tokyo, Japan. The Japanese Formula One Grand Prix will be held at the Fuji Speedway in Shizuoka between October 10 and October 12.  (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)
Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

Of all the places that Kamui Kobayashi could have ended up I don’t think Sauber would have been top of the predicted list.

This is not to say that Sauber can not build upon the talented Japanese drivers’ impressive credentials, yet Kobayashi as a result may take a year or two in the midfield pack to begin what eventually could become a prosperous career.

This sadly was always an opposing inevitability as the expected permanent drive and hopeful revolution at Toyota was abruptly forfeited when the manufacturer cowered away from the sport.

But surely Kamui Kobayashi would not be a forgotten gem that may never grace the sport again. Many ushered their views that this was a driver who should not be left without a seat for the new season. He was indeed a mouth watering prospect as a new driver.

Sauber are an accomplished team in certain respects; they have a credible points tally, and even more credible reliability in selecting gifted races. They were the team after all who gave the likes of Heidfeld, Raikkonen and even an eccentric and clumsy Massa, who at the time showed no real spark. But the team has never been able to produce a car capable of greatness, mustering third place finishes at best to accompany a collection of average performances.

Unfulfilled early season promises of pace always seemed outdone by a faded latter part of the season where other teams progressed and Sauber simply did not.

Obviously they will benefit now from the former BMW input which despite the tragic 2009 season showed great evolution in the proceeding seasons, at one point gifting them a lead in the drivers’ title at the hands of Robert Kubica.

The strategic skills and immediate pace revealed by Kobayashi, especially in Abu Dhabi should stand Peter Sauber and his outfit in good stead for the 2010 season, and there is a hope that their return to the sport may be the occurrence that finally makes them something truly special.

As we now exist in a world of Formula 1 where all teams have an equal chance of succession it theoretically could go either way for the team.

Sauber could burst onto the 2010 season with a capable car at the hands of an exciting and powerful driver, or they could belly flop their way onto the grid at the first grand prix and never come out of the starting blocks. A driver in this position for a team may always suffer the result of damaging his career, leaving an exit from the sport foreseeable, if not a continuation in the sport at smaller and less able teams.  

Previous form would dictate that Sauber would begin somewhere in the middle and drift off to the latter. Much will also depend on who they name as the second driver to Kobayashi, and also whether the Japanese driver can actually continue to portray the evident talents that he possessed last season.

You would not expect him to fade into the background but the pressure could begin to show and he could follow in the footsteps of a driver like Nakajima who just seemed lost with a lack of purpose.

The ease with which he partook in his first two Grand Prix however showed a man void of the expected pressure that would befall upon a rookie coming into a sport of mostly sensational drivers. He also had the added pressure of driving for a Japanese team in need of a much needed morale boost, and his triumphant entrance therefore worked wonders for the Japanese audience, garnering a barrage of new fans to the sport.

Sauber will show us what they are made of when the season starts in March, and now with Kobayashi at the forefront of their campaign much interest will be focused directly at them.

Their own succession therefore is laid bare in their hands once more; to create a car worthy of a worthy ability. If this can be achieved then both the team and the exhilarating rookie driver can produce a great display of accomplishment and enact a flourishing of their futures.