After 12 days of intensive testing at the Jerez and Barcelona circuits, the start of the new season beckons: on the weekend of 15th - 17th March, the 2013 FIA Formula One World Championship gets under way at Melbourne's Albert Park with the Australian Grand Prix. The Sauber F1 Team will embark on its 21st season with a new driver pairing: Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez will be behind the wheel of the Sauber C32-Ferrari. Building on the strong foundation laid down last year, the team now aims to make further advances.
Nico Hulkenberg: "Finally the start of the season is coming closer. I left Europe yesterday. I'm really looking forward to this race, as Australia is always one of my favourite Grands Prix, and Melbourne has a very special atmosphere, so I'm keen to be there. I also like the track which is not a permanent circuit. We are driving around a lake in a park and, especially during the drivers' parade, you feel very close to the fans.
"The track itself is very challenging for the drivers. It has got a lot of bumps and you have to know how best to deal with them. In terms of competitiveness, the final Barcelona test showed we are quite well prepared but still have some homework to do, and that we still have room for improvement in certain areas. But I'm confident the baseline is good. I'm really looking forward to racing against the usual grid and finally get a clear picture of where everybody stands with regard to performance."
Esteban Gutierrez: "Now we have finalised the pre-season testing, I feel very grateful for the work of every team member and the opportunity to get up to speed with the basics of F1. Melbourne will be my first race in F1 and I'm sure it will be very special. It's a track that I don't know, but I'm confident I will be able to learn it quickly in the free practice sessions.
"Competing in a Formula One race is the next step in my career, and that's what I need to focus on. One of the things that I need to do is feel natural and relaxed in my surroundings so I can focus on the most important elements during the weekend. I feel I have a good base for the start of the season, but, of course, I will keep on working as I have areas were I can improve. My goal is to exploit the car's potential and finish consistently within the points."
Tom McCullough, Head of Track Engineering: "We have had a very productive pre-season test programme completing 5,308 km, which is a credit to all those involved with the design, manufacture and operation. Nico and Esteban have quickly settled into their new working environment and have already established strong working relationships within the team, which is very important. You never know exactly where you sit compared to the other teams during winter testing, but importantly the C32 has performed as expected which is encouraging.
"Melbourne is a typical street circuit with significant track evolution. It is very important to have good braking stability and a car that performs well in the low to medium speed corners. The layout of the track also requires the car to have a good change of direction. It will be interesting to see how the new generation Medium and Super Soft Pirelli tyres perform at a track with less high speed corners than our two test tracks. It is important we maximise our full potential from the start of the season, as all the signs are that the grid will continue to be close. Overall the whole team is confident and looking forward to getting out there and starting the 2013 racing season."