Sauber confident of major gains in second half of season

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The first half of 2013 has been a major disappointment for Sauber. Nine races in they’ve got just seven points on the board whereas last year they had 60 by this point.

But the team which recently announced major new backing from Russia is confident of turning its form around as F1 reaches the halfway point in the season.

Nico Hulkenberg has finished in the points during the last two races as the team begins to solve problems with its C32. One of the keys to that has been adopting a new set-up which was being used by Esteban Gutierrez.

Sauber also expects the forthcoming switch back to 2012-style tires to play into its hands.

“It is important to know that we are now in a position where we can fight with other cars, we can keep up with them and overtake them,” team principal Monisha Kaltenborn told Autosport.

“That is what we need to take forward – because that gives us the confidence that we have understood the issues, and we have implemented small steps.”

Kaltenborn said the change in tires was “more into a direction we know”. The team finished on the podium four times last year but its best result so far this season has been a single eighth pace for Hulkenberg.

F1 2017 driver review: Nico Hulkenberg

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Nico Hulkenberg

Team: Renault
Car No.: 27
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P6 (Spain, Great Britain, Belgium, Abu Dhabi)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 43
Championship Position: 10th

Expectations were hard to peg for Renault heading into its second full season back in F1 with a factory team, but Nico Hulkenberg was surely expected to be the man spearheading its charge.

With teammate Jolyon Palmer severely underperforming, Hulkenberg did exactly that, bringing home all but 14 of the team’s points in the final standings. However, consistency was never something he truly found.

Many of Renault’s issues were down to reliability issues, sidelining Hulkenberg for six races – four coming in a five-race stint from Singapore to Mexico – yet he only scored points in consecutive races on three occasions.

When Hulkenberg and Renault were on form, they proved to be a potent combination, often topping the midfield fight and even looking faster than Force India come the end of the season. His run to sixth at the final race in Abu Dhabi was crucial for the constructors’ championship as Renault jumped Toro Rosso, securing an extra slice of prize money in the process.

But for a driver who was so often tipped as being a future star in F1, Hulkenberg still has a lot to prove. Renault is set to offer a good platform for the German moving forward with factory support, yet if he cannot beat new teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. through 2018, concerns will surely be raised.

Season High: Charging to sixth in Abu Dhabi despite a penalty.

Season Low: A tough run to 16th in Malaysia.