Sauber C31 toast of the F1 paddock after Sepang performance

The Sauber C31. Sauber C31 Studio Images, Hinwil, Switzerland, 6 February 2012.

The Sauber C31

Apr.4 (GMM) Fernando Alonso’s win was a complete surprise, but it was Sauber who have subsequently been the newsmakers, after their young driver Sergio Perez finished a feisty second,  challenging strongly for the win at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Sergio Perez on his way to second in varied and tricky conditions at Sepang

Sergio Perez on his way to second in varied and tricky conditions at Sepang

“Only one team could do consistently good laptimes on all the tyres and in all the conditions, and it was Sauber,” confirmed Martin Whitmarsh, whose McLaren team had travelled to Sepang with arguably the fastest car.

Speaking to Auto Motor und Sport, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner agreed: “They [Sauber] have somehow managed to get all of the tyres to work perfectly, which at the moment is the key to success.

“The [tyre] window is so small that it’s very easy to not be in it,” added the Briton.

And Sepang winner Fernando Alonso, whose victory was only ensured by a last moment error by  Perez, admitted: “No doubt about it, they were quicker than us.”

Some believe it was only the Malaysian weather chaos that brought the Ferrari-powered C31 to the top of F1’s form-guide, but the Sauber was in fact also fast in Australia.

(L to R): Peter Sauber (SUI) Sauber F1 Team Principal , Peter Sauber (SUI) Sauber F1 Team Principal, Kamui Kobayashi (JPN), Sergio Perez (MEX) and Esteban Gutierrez (MEX) Sauber Third Driver. Formula One Testing, Preparations, Jerez, Spain,  Monday 6 February 2012.

Sauber team at the C31 launch in February at Jerez

“Our cars were severely damaged at the start [in Melbourne],” explained chief designer Matt Morris. “At the front for Perez, the rear for Kobayashi.”

Nonetheless, both finished inside the top eight.

“The race in Malaysia showed very clearly how fast our car is,” insisted team boss Peter Sauber, writing in Blick newspaper.

“After two very different tracks, we have the assurance now that the C31 is a success.”

The next question is precisely how the small Hinwil based team has managed to build a pace-setting car.

One possible answer is the end of the blown diffuser era, and the fact that Sauber’s 2012 solution has already been copied by F1’s formerly-dominant Red Bull.

Italy’s Autosprint, meanwhile, claims Ferrari is next, mischievously suggesting that the updated F2012 might aptly be called the ‘Ferrauber’.

Referring to the FIA exhaust clampdown, Morris admitted: “We had to give up less than our opponents.”

Peter Sauber added: “When I saw that Red Bull had chosen a similar route to us, I was sure that we were right.”

Another trick on the C31 is a clever use of the loophole allowing an opening at the front of the car for driver cooling.

“It’s no match-winner,” Morris insists, “but it gains us some (lap) time.”

Autosprint reports that another clever solution on the Sauber is located just in front of the rear wheels, exploiting yet another ‘grey area’ in the regulations.

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