Exclusive: Adrian Sutil excited about fresh start with Sauber
German reveals he had been speaking to Swiss outfit since 2012
By William Esler
Last Updated: 12/01/14 12:10pm
The German driver secured a late return to Formula 1 last season with Force India having spent 2012 on the sidelines.
In December it was confirmed he would make the switch to Sauber, with compatriot Nico Hulkenberg moving in the opposite direction.
"I am happy to be in a new team, a new environment, fresh energy and for me a new challenge of course," Sutil told Sky Sports Online.
"It is very close to my home where I live - I like to be in Switzerland anyway - and it means I can get to the factory by car which will probably be of benefit during the season as I can avoid a bit of travelling. We have good goals, the team is a stable, historical team and I enjoy working with them.
"From the beginning of the season we had talks and I was in contact with Miss Kaltenborn already since February 2012 when I wasn't even racing. So we had contact for a while and it was just a case of time to find a solution together. This year was clear for me as to whether I wanted another year at Force India or Sauber. Sauber was my preference and so I was glad that the first priority went through and I am in a new team with a new challenge."
Sauber took four podium finishes in 2012 and Sutil is hoping he can achieve his maiden top-three finish this season, although admits his main goal is where he finishes in the Drivers' Championship.
"No one knows what is realistic, we don't know how the car is going to be, it is a very difficult question to answer right now," the German admitted.
"For me every year the target and the big goal is to go better than the previous year and better than my overall best ranking in the championship which was ninth in 2011. It is what I want to improve so ninth or better is the clear target.
"If there is a podium available I will try to make it because I've never had one in Formula 1 and I am desperate to get it. So for me it is the target, I can't confirm if it is going to happen or not, it will all depend on the package of the car and how we get on. It is most important that everyone is focussed and committed and keen on the success for next year."
With major changes to the regulations this season, the playing field could be reset and the German feels there is the potential for some chaos and shock results in the opening races.
"Of course, something like that should be expected - it is a new season with completely new cars and I think the first few races with all the fuel saving it is going to be a challenge," he said.
"No one knows how much you can push, also as drivers we have to find the right way to push, but also save fuel at the right time to maximise the package. In the early races it is going to be very difficult, someone will miss out and for some there will be a big chance."
That means testing will play an even more important role this year and although four, two-day in-season sessions have been approved for 2014, Sutil feels that there was a case for the reintroduction of a fourth winter test or, as was the case at Mugello in 2012, a lengthier in-season test to allow teams to analyse where they are.
"I think it is a good idea yes," Sutil said. "Especially during the season you would need a test where you can analyse all the things that happened during the races otherwise you just go from race to race and you have to test in the free practices which is always very, very difficult and I think it gives the team a little bit more time to learn about the product.
"We don't want to see races where all the cars are failing and having problems everywhere. At the end of the day Formula 1 is a show and the pinnacle of motorsport and the top range of racing - it stands out for engineering power - and if that doesn't go well and all you see is cars breaking down, then that is not the image you want to see for Formula 1."
Lotus announced on Monday that they would skip the first pre-season test at Jerez to further develop their car in the factory leaving just eight days of running ahead of the first grand prix in Australia - and that is something that Sutil thinks will hurt the team.
"For sure it is not good," he said. "I don't know the internals and what the problem is, but I think you need every test day available - that will be very important this year."
Adrian Sutil will be attending the Autosport International Show at the NEC on Sunday. Also present this weekend will be Sky Sports F1 commentary duo David Croft and Martin Brundle.