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Sauber backs rookie driver

Sauber's young drivers, Heidfeld (left) and Raikkonen pose with the new car


Peter Sauber has expressed confidence in his Formula One team's young driving partnership at the official unveiling of the new Sauber C20 car.

The boss of the Swiss racing team said he expected Nick Heidfeld and Kimi Raikkonen to achieve better results than last season, when Sauber's previous line-up of Pedro Diniz and Mika Salo managed just six championship points.

Sauber also insisted that a series of successful pre-season tests had already justified the controversial selection of Raikkonen, a 21-year-old Formula One rookie who has bypassed the normal training ground of Formula Three or F3000 racing.

"We may have been criticised initially for choosing Kimi Raikkonen as our partner for Nick Heidfeld," Sauber said at Wednesday's unveiling in canton Zurich. "But Kimi proved to everyone's satisfaction that he belongs in Formula One despite his youth and lack of experience."

Speaking to swissinfo, Heidfeld also insisted that there was more to Formula One racing than just experience.

"The team have already told me that they are very motivated by having two young drivers," said the 23-year-old German. "In the end it's only important how quick you are, not how old you are."

Sauber will be hoping that their new car will help Heidfeld and Raikkonen's bid for their first Formula One points. The C20 model builds on the Ferrari engine and Bridgestone tyres of its predecessor, but has had to adapt to new regulations concerning safety and increased aerodynamics.

Following successful test runs in Italy and Spain, Heidfeld said he was fairly sure that the team could obliterate the memory of last season's disappointments.

"That's the first goal we have," he told swissinfo. "It's not easy to go from one year to another and make a massive improvement though. I am here for three years and my main goal will be to keep improving throughout that time.

What I can say after testing is that I'm really confident we can secure score quite a few points, but I don't want to be too optimistic just now."

The Sauber team, who made their Formula One debut in 1993, are still looking for their first Grand Prix victory. However that immediate aim of improving on last season's low points tally received a welcome boost last week when the team completed a major sponsorship deal with Swiss bank Credit Suisse.

swissinfo with agencies


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