Formula One 2012 half-term report: Williams and Sauber

Odd, is it not, in the third of our half term reports to be filing a ‘could do better’ on Williams and Sauber, today’s teams? Williams after all had seemed, just 11 races or one half season ago, to be in the process of ‘doing a Leeds’. Their current standing and attainment made you wonder whether they really were that Williams. You know, the one with Alan Jones and Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet and Damon Hill and that over-rated Canadian bloke?

Yeah, that Williams: Senna’s last team.

2011 now looked like it might have been the team’s nadir. Two laps from the end of the first race of this season in Australia, Pastor Maldonado was set to eclipse the points tally of both its drivers in the whole of the 2011 season. Then he threw it in to the wall and quite possibly gave us a spooky premonition of Williams’ 2012 championship; surprisingly fast and economical car, too regularly trashed by its lead driver.

Maldonado has become the bloke to avoid in F1 in 2012. The Ozzie accident aside, he opted to take himself and Lewis Hamilton out the race in Valencia rather than risk losing a podium. He and Perez weren’t fighting for a podium at Silverstone yet the same thing happened. ‘Crashes’; it’s what you think of when you think of Pastor Maldonado.

He even stuffed it when he took the car home to Venezuela to celebrate his victory.

Yes, his victory, from pole position in Barcelona, was possibly the surprise of the season to all but the team that’s been rebuilding Williams from the ashes of the six-point 2011 campaign. Sadly, like we say. That’s not what we think of now when we think of Maldonado.

Twenty-five points for win remember. Maldonado has 29.

That Williams’ other driver, the adorable, and hopefully now starting to get his fast on, Bruno Senna, has 24 and has not troubled the podium. Bruno celebrates his first full year in F1 at Spa next weekend and does so off the back of his best race yet in Hungary. Everyone of the sofa here is hoping he can do enough in the next nine races to get another year.

Williams then gets a B-Minus even with the staggering turn around in form. Sauber gets a B. This year’s Sauber-Ferrari, still largely devoid of sponsors but for an odd Chelsea FC logo, is one of the tidiest, fastest and easiest on its tyres in the field. How they do it with no money we have no idea, but if we were starting ‘Sunday Afternoon F1’, we’d buy huge amounts of Dairy Milk and try and tempt some of the Swiss team’s engineers to jump ship.

The C31 has a model’s appetite when it comes to tyres, and like the Williams, it’s this flexibility on top of the car’s pace that’s put it in winning positions (it can go so much further on one set of soft tyres the teams can one or two-stop when everyone else is on a two or three). Especially in Malaysia where, and we’re going to stick our necks out here, Sergio Perez should have beaten Fernando Alonso.

Perez was quicker than Alsono and the team’s caution and that caution’s unsettling effect on Perez cost them what would have been an historic win. That’s quite remarkable when you think that as effectively both the ‘works’ Mercedes and BMW teams in F1 in its time, Sauber has only ever managed one victory. Once again, they know how to spend money, those crafty Swiss.

Time, then, for Sauber to step up and show some balls and likewise its drivers. In 2011 Perez was a revelation; it was Kamui Kobayashishi’s turn the year before. This year they’re both,  sort of… meh? Evenly matched in qualifying, they’re not top ten shoe-ins, and both seem unable or unwilling to regularly show the extra flair required to make Q3, or make better of a Q2 slot. Don’t get us wrong, we have their posters on the Sunday Afternoon wall, and they’ve got a lot more flair than anyone who’s come through the Toro Rosso Academy recently, but they need to over-deliver a little more, just like their cars’ designers have.

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