Having flown in testing, Sauber was disappointingly anonymous in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
But driver Pedro de la Rosa is optimistic that slump will prove to be brief, especially with the team working hard on improvements like the new F-duct system, as he explained to the media in the Melbourne paddock today.
Q. Does the team understand why it didn't deliver what was expected in Bahrain?
Pedro de le Rosa: We have obviously a lot more information than before Bahrain, and we know why we were not competitive in Bahrain. And now we have to work hard to be more competitive - but at least we know our weakest points.
PDLR: Downforce is always very important. Downforce is one of the most important things - if not the most. But it is also linked - when you are that slow it is not only downforce. It is also linked to the mechanical side, and we have brought a lot of changes for this race to try and address it.
Q. Was the main problem for you in sector two of Bahrain?
PDLR: Sector two was the slowest for us, yes, because it was the most bumpy sector - and the one with the slowest corners.
Q. But even the other two sectors were not that competitive?
PDLR: Yeah, but we would have been a lot closer. That is the reality.
Q. What was the reason you chose the supersoft for the start?
PDLR: We decided to split the strategies. From a team point of view it is clever, and also we went through a lot of different scenarios. You have to choose your strategy based on what you think the tyre is capable of. We thought the supersoft could run for 15 laps, and then the other people around you will do what you expect them to do.
So we thought that going to the supersoft was a little bit risky, but if it worked it was the best strategy. I think we were on the right strategy and our plan was to stop around lap 15 - then fit the prime until the end. We were doing fine on strategy, strategy wise we were good. We did the right thing.
Q. The team is currently fitting the new duct concept onto the cars. What have they told you about the different it will make?
PDLR: Well, it is a system to gain top speed. This is the aim. It is a prototype, and the team has been working the last week flat out. We just have to be open minded. We have no testing, and this is the first opportunity we have to try it. We have to test it, make sure it works and then decide if it is raceable or not. We just have to have the patience to test it properly.
Q. Did you have any knowledge of the McLaren system while you were still there?
PDLR: Yeah - I knew a little bit about what McLaren was trying. But this is a Sauber system. It is a different system.
Q. How much stronger are you expecting the team to be this weekend?
PDLR: I think we should be closer to the front than in Bahrain, and this should allow us to fight for the points. That is the best scenario for us. We have to be realistic. There are four teams that will be very strong here as well, and there are a few points left to pick up - and that is what we have to fight for. If we achieve that, we have done a good job. And if we haven't, then we have underperformed like in Bahrain. That is a realistic goal - it is a very competitive field this year. Very, very competitive.
Q. Do you think the lack of a simulator is a bit of a disadvantage?
PDLR: Of course having a simulator is massively useful at these times - when you have no testing available. Before you could try lots of things in testing, like the rear wing. If we had a couple of days of testing it would be much easier to understand the system and make it work, and make it more efficient. At the moment we are just testing things at a grand prix, which is exactly what you don't want.
But you have to explore new avenues and be more risky. And I think as a team we are prepared to take risks. It is the same for everyone. I am very impressed by the team's reaction in building up this prototype. We have to learn the system and it is not an easy system - let's put it this way. Let's see how we perform.
Q. Will you shut the duct off with your leg?
PDLR: Honestly, it is so new the system that I have to get in the car and check - where it is, how we do it! So we are in that phase now. I will know more later on today. It is a prototype. We are not sure if we will race it or not. We have to develop it, that is the main thing. The earlier you start the earlier you will have it. And definitely it is a system that if you make it work, it makes the car quicker. Full stop.
Q. There has been a lot of talk about the show after Bahrain. What do you think?
PDLR: I think that the first thing is we need to have more races to judge the new regulations. We shouldn't throw conclusions too early, because last year the Bahrain Grand Prix was quite boring - and in the past few years it has been quite boring. That is how it has been.
So having said that, I think that the new system, personally, is where F1 was a few years ago. We developed into a refuelling era, and if we developed into that it was because they were trying to spice the competition - so if they did that I don't understand why we went back to what we came from? That is the only thing I don't understand.
But we have to make the system work. The best thing now is after one race to not start a controversy on it.
Q. A lot of drivers were surprised how well the tyres held up in Bahrain...
PDLR: You never know with the tyres. You push for two laps and then you are screwed for 15. It is a little bit difficult. That is what I like with these new regulations is that you have to think a lot when you drive, and you have to feel the driver. That is a very interesting side, but I don't know if it will be interesting enough for the spectators.
There will be races where the tyres will become more of an issue, and we will see more interesting reactions and different driving styles - and those who have been taking care of the tyres. We are all learning and we have to wait a little bit more.
Q. Are you impressed by the ability of Sauber to react? Is there a difference between McLaren?
PDLR: I have been impressed to see how quick the team realised this system was possible. They have come up here with a system that is pretty impressive from what I have seen. I think that it is a very agile team - it is a very quick reacting team and this is something I have realised since day one. Sometimes being smaller than a big team means that sometimes you are prepared to take more risks, and react quicker. That can be a strength. You have to be quicker to react than the big teams.