Sauber had what appeared to be its best shot at finally scoring its elusive first World Championship points of the 2014 season Sunday in Hungary, and again came up short.
To be fair though, the near-miss in the Hungarian Grand Prix was through no fault of their own. Both Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez ran in the top 10 throughout portions of the mixed wet-dry race, but had pitfalls along the way.
Sutil made it as high as seventh after starting a season-best 11th, but fell back in-between the pair of McLarens in the second half of the race. The McLarens had opted to stay out on intermediates following the first safety car period but lost a ton of track time when they came into change.
While the Hungarian circuit favors handling more than outright horsepower, Sutil’s Ferrari still didn’t have the grunt to pass the Mercedes-powered McLaren of Jenson Button. A mere nine tenths of a second was all that separated the German from his first score of the season, as he finished where he started.
“Finishing in P11 was very close to gaining one point,” he admitted. “It was not an easy race, especially at the beginning with the difficult weather conditions and the two safety car periods. During the first safety car period we made our first pit stop. When I came to the box I had to wait as Esteban had not finished yet. I did lose some time, but I was fighting back. At the end I finished the race in 11th. In the corners I was faster than Jenson (Button), but I could not overtake him as he did not make any mistakes and drove away on the straights. However, it was a positive day as we came closer to the teams in front of us, and this is what counts.”
Meanwhile Gutierrez, who started 13th, made it as high as eighth following the first safety car period and round of pit stops before stopping just prior to half distance with a terminal issue on his Energy Recovery System. Had he scored, it would have been only his second career points finish, to go along with a career-best seventh place achieved at last year’s Japanese Grand Prix.
“The race started well, as I could gain positions during the start. I was pushing as much as I could, trying to drive very precisely and consistently,” said the second-year Mexican driver. “I was able to gain some positions and everything was going in the right direction. During the safety car period I came in for the pit stop, everything was right on target. After the restart, I was fighting with Kimi (Raikkonen) and trying to keep him behind. The pace was good and I was also able to keep up with the drivers in front of me. It was an unfortunate ending, but there are a lot of positives we can take from the weekend.”
Sauber’s second half surge – albeit with Nico Hulkenberg alongside Gutierrez – was one of the interesting stories last year. Following the summer break, it will be interesting to see whether Sauber can find enough to A. get on the scoreboard, and B. if they do, score more than 2 points to overtake Marussia in the Constructor’s Championship.