Feb.6 (Reuters) Sauber rolled out their 2012 Formula 1 car in the Spanish sunshine on Monday, the team shrugging off the abrupt exit of technical director James Key and hoping to score consistent points this year.
The Swiss-based outfit announced last Friday that Key was leaving to take a job in Britain with an unspecified employer.
The C31 car he helped create was presented on the Jerez pit straight with drivers Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi taking off the wraps in front of a ring of photographers on a crisp and clear morning.
“I think we have a strong team,” said Mexican Perez. “James was a key person, a good leader but I think we have very good people at the team who can handle the job and the team will be together.
“I am very confident the team will be very strong,” added Perez, looking forward to his second full season.
Team chief executive Monisha Kaltenborn said Key remained a Sauber employee for an unspecified period but relations had been strained for some time.
“For a while both sides have been thinking that things are not really working out,” she told reporters. “This situation is the result of that.”
“We now have a structure in place which we are confident about that is the right one for the team to go ahead. It’s not any short-term solution for us but a long-term structure.”
Kaltenborn said the team, who have said four existing departmental heads will now oversee the car’s design and development, would not be replacing Key but denied that decision was due to a lack of money.
“If we look back 20 years, the team have always lacked funds,” she added.
Ferrari-powered Sauber finished seventh overall last year, only three points ahead of Toro Rosso. Perez scored 14 points and Kobayashi 30.
“We want to score points on a regular basis,” said team founder Peter Sauber, making his by now standard apology for his spoken English but conveying his message clearly enough.
“I think that has to be one of our goals. And we want to improve in the championship significantly. It’s also important to finish the qualifying in the top 10 if possible.”
The new car had plenty of room for new sponsors but Kaltenborn was optimistic they would come on board before the season starts in Australia on March 18.
“We are in negotiation with new partners so I am quite confident our livery will look different by the time we hit the first race,” she said.
Chief designer Matt Morris said the car, with the ‘ugly’ stepped nose that is now commonplace among this year’s offerings (with the exception of McLaren) was evolutionary and revolutionary.
“The C31 is revolutionary where we had fresh ideas, particularly at the rear of the car, and it is an evolution where we knew we could carry over certain approaches,” he said.
“We had to improve on the weaknesses we identified on the C30 but at the same time we wanted to maintain its strengths.”