Sauber Unsure About Pace

Jacques Villeneuve and Felipe Massa have admitted that they are heading to this weekend's Australian Grand Prix without any idea of how their Sauber team will perform, because of the impact of new regulations and a winter of mixed fortunes for their new car.

Sauber Unsure About Pace

Jacques Villeneuve and Felipe Massa have admitted that they are heading to this weekend's Australian Grand Prix without any idea of how their Sauber team will perform, because of the impact of new regulations and a winter of mixed fortunes for their new car.

Although the switch to Michelin tyres has appeared to boost the team's chances of impressing, Sauber's C24 has had a few niggling problems during the pre-season build-up â€" leaving the entire team unsure of its overall capability.

Villeneuve said: "Right now I don't know what we can expect from this race; nobody does. But we have been working hard over the winter to get a good result there.

"Psychologically the first race of the season is very important - it sets the pace for the rest of the season in a way, so you really want to start off on a high note..."

Teammate Massa added: “It's very difficult to know what to expect, as we cannot definitely say yet who will set the pace. It will take a while before that becomes apparent this weekend, but I am confident after all our testing that the Sauber Petronas C24 is a good car.

"It's not difficult to drive even with the reduction in downforce. We did manage altogether nearly 200 laps at Imola despite the snowy weather; the track is very similar to Albert Park, and we went well there.

"I think we are in good shape with the car and the Michelin tyres which have been very consistent, and I'm very fit myself after training a lot and the hundred laps a day I was doing in testing. So I'm optimistic, and looking forward to getting the year off to a strong start."

Sauber's technical director Willy Rampf is equally puzzled about just how well the team will go in Australia â€" although he is well aware that the true picture of a team's potential will only become clear in the closing stages of the race itself.

"Overall, it is very difficult to make any predictions prior to the weekend,” he explained. “We have not always run at the same venue as our competition during winter testing and we will only find out in Melbourne exactly where we are. That's what will make Saturday afternoon and Sunday in particular so exciting.

"And it is no longer about the performance of the tyres on the first lap or in the early laps. Now the last part of the race will be absolutely crucial, and if they have conserved their tyres better than their rivals I think we will see some people being able to improve their positions in the closing stages after the final pit stops.

"There will be much more focus on the end of the race and a little less perhaps on grid position, and I think this is going to make things also interesting for the spectators."

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