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Some of you may remember that at the start of the 2011 season I wrote a review of each team [excluding Lotus – now Caterham – Virgin – now Marussia – and HRT] looking back to 2003. This year, I wish to explore these same teams and their rivals as far back as 1995. Here I will also look at the seasons with the current points system in place, as well as the respective contemporary systems. I will also apply a system that takes into account 24 slots on the grid, standing thus:
100, 80, 70, 60, 52, 46, 40, 36, 32, 30, 28, 26, 24, 22, 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2.
Sauber has been a stalwart of motorsport, existing in some form or another in motorsport for over 30 years. It says much of the man until so recently at the helm of the company that the chassis designation has always – except when BMW named the cars – been prefixed with a C – not his own initial, but his wife’s. Perhaps it is this which, combined with their perennial underdog status and constant efforts to punch above their weight, makes the Sauber team so lovable. This may have been posted before – I don’t yet know what order these articles are being published in! – but it was none other than Peter Sauber himself who paid for Michael Schumacher’s first F1 test, out of his own pocket while he was running Schumacher, Frentzen and Wendlinger in the Mercedes sports car team.
Making the move to F1, Sauber did little of note beyond establishing his modest outfit in the F1 midfield while teams around them came and went. In 1995 they scored a respectable 18 points, beating Footwork, Tyrrell, Minardi, Forti, Pacific and Simtek to take 7th place. By this year’s points system they would have cleared 100 points, and overtaken Jordan for 6th. Under my system they also demote McLaren to 5th, taking on the mantle of the last top four team, behind the two works Renault teams of Williams and Benetton, as well as Ferrari who were climbing from their championship drought towards the end of the decade.
They were again 7th in 1996, but with the demise of Pacific and Simtek this was no longer the midpoint of the field. Jordan were ahead with 22 points, exactly twice that of Sauber. Footwork, Tyrrell, Minardi and Forti again finished behind them. Unfortunately for Sauber, this year’s points system doesn’t give them an extra place in 1996, and Jordan holds 6th. Under my system, they again hold 7th, only 32 points shy of Jordan which, over the course of a 16-race season, with 100 points up for grabs for a win, and 180 for a 1-2 finish, is pretty impressive in itself.
Sauber yet again remained 7th in 1997, proving themselves the most consistent team in the field over these three years. For the second year in succession they were also 7th by the current points system as well as my own.
Arrows, Stewart, Tyrrell and Minardi were joined in defeat at Sauber’s hands by Prost, promoting the Red Bull-sponsored, Ferrari-powered team to 6th in the standings. They nearly made it to 100 points by today’s system, finishing the year with 97 points and a 50-point cushion in either direction on the scoreboard. They were only 36 points short of 1000 under my system, in which they were again comfortably 6th.
1999 saw the team slip behind Stewart and Prost, as they scored a meagre 5 points and 8th place. Arrows Minardi and BAR stayed behind them under the current points system too, as well as under mine. Sauber seem to vary very little under different systems, although 1995 stands out as the exception thus far.
The new millennium saw Sauber retain 8th place. Arrows and BAR managed to pass them, but Jaguar undid all of Stewart’s hard work, and was joined behind Sauber by Prost and Minardi.
2001 was the second of five Ferrari-dominated years, and by this stage Sauber was well-established as the Ferrari B-team. Arrows, Jordan, BAR and Benetton all slipped behind them as 4th place went to the Sauber team. Justice, perhaps, for what they arguably earned in 1995? They certainly earned it in 2001, taking 4th by the current F1 system as well as my own. They weren’t advanced enough to trouble McLaren or Williams though, let alone their Ferrari paymasters.
2002 was of course Ferrari’s first year of absolute domination, but further down the order Sauber slid behind Renault as they rose from the ashes of Benetton. The other two systems echo this, and put Sauber into perhaps a more realistic position, albeit still beating one very rich works team in the form of perennial under-performers Toyota.
2003 saw BAR show their hand at last, which unfortunately for Sauber meant dropping behind them to 6th place. Yet again, the other two systems change nothing for Sauber. They held station in 6th for 2004, again in all 3 systems.
In 2005, when Ferrari came off the boil somewhat, Sauber fell to 8th behind Red Bull and Toyota. The only change in either system this time was BAR falling behind them by my system, promoting them to 7th. Either way, this wasn’t good enough for Peter Sauber, who decided to take the opportunity from BMW’s frustration with Williams and sold out to the German manufacturer for 2006.
BMW retained the Sauber name, largely I suspect for the prize money from 2005, and set about rebuilding the team in 2006. Villeneuve was still contracted to them, although Dr Mario Theissen managed to fire him midseason in favour of Robert Kubica. Despite this slight driver instability, the team managed to overtake Red Bull and Williams to resume 6th place. Honda, Toyota, Ferrari McLaren and Renault were the only 5 teams with higher scores, and Toyota only managed that by 3 points. By my standings, Toyota fall to 6th behind BMW Sauber.
2007 was when it got interesting. Renault, Honda and Toyota fell back while Sauber continued their merciless improvements to take 3rd behind McLaren and Ferrari – or, as the history books will record it, 2nd behind Ferrari while McLaren were disqualified. Ignoring McLaren’s penalty, Sauber were a very solid 3rd by all three systems.
2008 was the best chance the team have ever had to take the world title, but after Kubica won the Canadian Grand Prix the team turned their attention to 2009, in accordance with their forecast. In retrospect, it was a mistake. 2008 saw them less than 40 points shy of Ferrari at season’s end, still within 100 by today’s system, and within 200 by mine. On the last point, that’s less than 2 wins between them and the world champions.
2009 was the last year with BMW power, albeit not the last with the BMW name. They scored just over a quarter of the points scored by runners-up Red Bull, and 5 less than quarter of Brawn’s final score. By today’s system they scored less than 1/3 of the points Brawn did, increasing to almost half by my system. The board back in Germany panicked and shut down the operation, forcing Peter Sauber to jump in at the 11th hour and save the team from closure.
2010 saw the unfortunate name of “BMW Sauber Ferrari” take to the grid. They managed 44 points, beating Toro Rosso as well as Team Lotus, HRT and Virgin. Interestingly, my tables put Toro Rosso above the Sauber team. Once again, we see one of the rare times a different points system actually changes Sauber’s position. They retained one point of their lead over Toro Rosso the following year, and demolished Williams to take themselves to 7th place. This remained true under my system also.
In 2012 they managed to take 6th, beating Force India. The fight for 5th was tighter under my system, with only 4 points saving Mercedes from being beaten. Looking forwards, with the loss of Perez and the acquisition of Hulkenberg and Gutierrez, it is anyone’s guess who will win out in the battle of the midfield. Mercedes may continue to fall, McLaren’s mistakes may prove more costly in 2013, or Sauber may turn up with a useless car. There’s just no way to predict it, and I wont even try after my disastrous predictions this time last year.