It looked promising for the team after winter testing, hot off the back of their best ever campaign which yielded four podiums. The C32, an evolution of their 2012 challenger, was launched in early February at the team’s Hinwill base. Noticeable changes to the car included very narrow sidepods, ridges to help manage the airflow over the stepped nose and an evolved coanda-style exhaust.
Hiring Nico Hulkenberg was a brilliant move by the Swiss team, even if they only held on to him for one season. The German driver proved to be one of the stars of the year after a number of impressive performances.
His season got underway in the worst possible fashion when he failed to start the season opener in Australia due to worries over a fuel feed problem. Esteban Gutierrez, who made his F1 debut at the race, finished as the top rookie in 13th after qualifying in 18th.
Malaysia was slightly more promising with Hulkenberg scoring the team’s first points of the year. However, the next nine races yielded just three further points – thanks to three 10th place finishes – before a considerable upgrade was brought to the car for the Hungarian Grand Prix.
This, alongside the changes made to the Pirelli tyres, helped the team to transform their fortunes and score 50 points in the final eight races of 2013. It all kick started in Italy after Hulkenberg managed to qualify his Sauber C32 on the second row of the grid. He took the chequered flag on Sunday in fifth place.
The impressive performances didn’t stop there. He completed one of the drives of the season at the Korean Grand Prix, where he held off competition from Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton to take a career-best equalling fourth place.
Another stand-out performance was the team’s only double point’s finish at the Japanese Grand Prix. Hulkenberg and Gutierrez started from seventh and 14th on the grid but improved to sixth and seventh by the chequered flag.
The six points for seventh helped Gutierrez finish the season as the top rookie in the drivers’ standings. The Mexican improved over the course of the season after a difficult start, including a clumsy crash in China.
However, he often struggled in qualifying and was knocked out in Q1 on 10 occasions. It did get better as the year went on with a handful of Q3 appearances in the second half of 2013, but he still couldn’t translate them into top 10 results on race day.
Unfortunately, due to their poor start to the season, the team couldn’t catch up to rivals Force India and take sixth in the standings. However, from where they were after the Belgian Grand Prix, ending the year with 57 points and a seventh place finish wasn’t too bad and they were well clear of the challenge from behind.
The on-track results picked up pace, but all was not well off-track as the team’s financial troubles became evident. This caused the team to sign a deal with several Russian investors to save the future of the team. This may require them to race young rookie Sergey Sirotkin in 2014, but their driver line-up has yet to be confirmed.
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic