Quick prediction here: Kamui will win.

Posted: April 14, 2012 by Matt Ruda in Uncategorized

So I was on my way to be when I realized I should probably get this in writing before most of the world wakes up and starts their own armchair punditing on the results of the Chinese GP qualifying session. We’ll have more discussion about the ins and outs of quali on the podcast (to be recorded immediately following the GP), but one of the biggest surprises was Kamui Kobayashi. Kamui got the Sauber up to P4 on merit, inheriting P3 due to Hamilton’s five place drop.

In the immediate aftermath, I’ve seen many people dismissing Kamui, saying there’s no way he will be competitive in the race. To which I say, bullshit. Sure, a few years ago they were a back of the grid team. But since then they have made relentless charges forward. In 2011 they were limited by a severely underdeveloped blown floor, and stopped all development of their off-throttle blowing leading up to the FIA’s rather flaccid attempt at a ban for the Silverstone GP. Now, with EBD systems banned, we’re starting to see the pecking order change.

The Sauber of 2012 is not the Sauber of 2009, or 2010 for that matter. They are better funded thanks to Perez’s money, and have a massive new sponsor on the way. Perez’s shock podium in Malaysia has turned some heads, and chances are more money will follow for the team. And, while money can’t buy speed, I think cash has been Sauber’s one limiting factor over the past few seasons. They have the dedication, the history, the team, and the drivers to go places, but just never had the funds to get there. With that changing, I expect a year or two from now Sauber will be a sharp end team.

Kamui’s second row quali lap shows Sauber have caught up in an area they’ve been lacking in, namely, one lap pace. We know they are easy on the tires, and Malaysia showed even when the car is pushed hard the tire deg does not spike dramatically. Kobayashi just showed hours ago that the car can be competitive in the dry as well as in the wet, and studying the competition leads me to believe he can pull off a win here.

The tire issues with the Mercedes are going to be an issue, with Ross Brawn admitting it will take more than “a few weeks” to solve. Australia showed Kimi and Kamui are both capable of taking positions off of one another, and the two cars seen very close on pace. Button seemed shaky, both in and out of the car, and I think he will have a pretty anonymous race. Alonso will be slow, Grosjean will find a wall, and that’s all that matters.

The only person I can see spoiling Kobayashi’s chance at victory is Hamilton. McLaren clearly have the race pace to go to the top, but I’m not sure weather will play to their strength. Friday and Saturday were cooler than predicted, and I suspect Sunday will follow suit. If so, this favors the Sauber, as it seems cooler conditions give them just that little bit extra. Also, weather aside, we also have to consider this is Kobayashi we’re talking about. He is very aggressive, and will not go down without a fight. While the Sauber is light on the tires even in battle, Hamilton is known to chew through the compound. This, again, favors the Sauber.


So I think the stage is set for another surprise from the Swiss team. Funny that I was mocked for my “Kamui for P3 in quali” predictions last season, only for it to pan out in 2012. So to those people, I say 😛


Chinese Grand Prix Revised Predictions:

P1: Kobayashi

P2: Hamilton

P3: Raikkonen

  1. thevillainf1 says:

    I’d have to stick with my initial prediction and put my money on Kimi. It’s his best chance yet, and if he gets a good start this will be the first time we’ll see what that Lotus is really capable of in clean air. Kamui should be in for a top 5 anyway, and could well deliver Sauber another podium if things fall into place for him. The Sauber is clearly a good car but Perez’s 2nd would not have happened without the lap 1 gamble for wets and the well timed safety car…

    As for Sauber being top of the grid in a few years? Indeed all that has been lacking was money after BWM abandoned them (remember the HRT-like sponsorless 2010 livery). However someone will eventually want his name on the car when they’re dumping millions into an F1 team, so will it remain Sauber?

    They can get to the front, but probably not as Sauber… it wouldn’t surprise me to see Telmex F1 or some other iteration of Slim’s empire at the front of the grid in 1 otr 2 years. They got Gutierrez as well, some say he’s even hotter than Perez and going by his GP debut they may not have been kidding>.. Mexico F1? showing USF1 how it’s done 😛 Take that gringos!

  2. David says:

    That’s annoying cos I was just about to jump on and be the first to predict a Kamui Kobayashi to win. You beat me to it!

  3. elliotstan says:

    Not sure about the win but I hope you are right. Would be amazing. Sauber have been a great team for the last two years but have indeed just been missing that little bit extra investment to allow them to move up to the top midfielders. Not sure yet about them getting to the top level as development wise they might not yet be able to match it with the other teams. Seems that each year they do the most work in the offseason though. Always arrive with a good package. First few races are indeed the time to shine.

    I think it will be hard for Kamui to hold together for the entire race if he gets out the front. What would his tactics be? go for passes at the start or hold until the end when he might have the upper edge?

    If he does get (stay) up the front after the start will he have the skills to run away (ala Button in Aus this year and Vettel every race last year) or does he need someone to chase?

  4. Kiel says:

    It will be Kimi.

    Kimi enjoys some of the factors that many drivers desire. He has a car with very good race pace. He has a team, that although it’s been a while, know how to win. And he is starting behind two cars destined to fade

  5. thevillainf1 says:

    well aren’t we looking sharp now 😛

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