After eight years on the Formula One circuit, Peter Sauber's hard work was finally rewarded on Sunday. Fresh from his team's success in taking fourth place in the constructors' championship, the Sauber boss spoke to swissinfo.This content was published on October 14, 2001 - 12:09
swissinfo: Congratulations on a fantastic season. Are you surprised how well the year went?
Peter Sauber: It is still hard to believe that we have managed to finish fourth. At the start of the season we could never have dreamt it possible because the competition was so stiff with seven works teams to go up against. So to finish behind the big three of Ferrari, McLaren and Williams really is an amazing performance.
swissinfo: And it came after a couple of very disappointing seasons. How did you manage to turn things around so dramatically?
Peter Sauber: When something goes well like this, it can only be because the whole package came together. The team prepared a very good car, although I think our previous cars were also better than the results suggested. Our two drivers Kimi Räikkonen and Nick Heidfeld were also very important factors. As well as their performances throughout the season, they helped bring a breath of fresh air into the team. The engine we received from Petronas was also very competitive and it was all these ingredients that came together to help us.
swissinfo: For you personally, how does this compare with your previous successes before the step up to Formula One?
Peter Sauber: Of course it's very difficult to compare to our previous results when we were racing in partnership with the big constructors. In our time with Mercedes we won everything there was to win including the two world championships and the double success at Le Mans. But here in Formula One it's a different league, a much more complicated machine and so it's fantastic to be able to produce a piece of sporting equipment that can take on the biggest car manufacturers in the world.
swissinfo: Was Kimi Räikkonen's decision to leave the team at the end of this season the biggest disappointment of the campaign?
At the time it was a big disappointment but once you know that someone wants to leave your team there's no way you can hold onto him. We've had time to adjust to the idea now, though, and we're very happy with the deal we've been able to do with McLaren. Now we're just looking ahead to next season and the arrival of an even younger new driver in the shape of Felipe Massa.
swissinfo: Felipe has already proven himself this season in the European Formula 3000 competition. Is it possible to compare his talents with those of Kimi?
Peter Sauber: I definitely don't want to compare the two drivers, certainly not before I've had the chance to get to know Felipe. The only thing that can clearly be said at the moment is that in general he seems to have the same ability as Kimi.
swissinfo: With all the talk about Kimi going, Nick Heidfeld's performances have often been overlooked. How impressed have you been by him?
Peter Sauber: Yes, Nick's performances have definitely been overshadowed by those of Kimi, because Kimi's were so unexpected. That made Nick's job a fairly thankless one, especially when you consider that he was clearly our best driver. His experience as a driver was also crucial to our technical work and along with his performances he has given us plenty to build on together next year.
swissinfo: And as you've already said it's the whole package that counts. What can we expect from your next car, the C21?
Peter Sauber: Yes, that's always the big question - how good is the next car? You can be sure that we'll be working our hardest to see that the improvements continue. It will certainly be very difficult to defend our fourth place finish next season. As you know, the competition will be even tougher next year with Jaguar, Renault and the two Honda teams all giving it their best to overtake us. But we're happy that this year's car can give us the basis to work on.
swissinfo: And does that work start straight away or will there be some time off to celebrate?
Peter Sauber: Well, the people responsible for the racing and testing will get some time off now because there are no tests allowed until the end of the year. But for all those involved in the construction side of things, the hardest part of the year is just beginning. The mechanics now have to get all the parts back to Switzerland and I myself am now heading for Kuala Lumpur to meet our sponsors Petronas. When all that's done and we're all back home, though, there will certainly be some kind of party!
interview by Mark Ledsom