What a difference a year makes for Sauber

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Come the end of 2012, Sauber had scored several podium finishes with Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez and ended sixth in the Constructor’s Championship, yet both moved on for 2013.

Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez took up the seats a year ago, and after a challenging first half, Hulkenberg was easily one of the second half’s most impressive drivers. Still, the team dropped to seventh in points.

Hulkenberg moved on for this year, and Adrian Sutil moved over from Force India in an unofficial “ride swap” alongside Gutierrez. But on the whole, Sauber’s fortunes have changed, drastically.

As it sits this Thursday before the Brazilian Grand Prix, the team is two races away from an inglorious first in its 20-plus year history: a scoreless season in F1. This is with the field now scoring points down to 10th place compared to sixth when the team debuted in 1993.

Since then of course it’s gone through upheaval before; BMW took over the operation for several years last decade before making it back onto the grid, just as Sauber, in 2010. Peter Sauber has moved on from the team principal role, his place taken by Monisha Kaltenborn, who is largely held in high regard in the paddock for her views and observations on the state of play.

But while Sauber has, for nearly the entirety of its tenure on the grid, frequently made lemonades out of lemons in terms of punching above their weight as the oft-regarded gold standard of midfield operations, this year it has taken a notable step back.

The Sauber C33 chassis is, without question, an evil piece of kit. Sutil and Gutierrez aren’t world-beaters, but neither have been able to make miracles happen with a car woefully out of sorts on track, particularly in the corners.

It makes an effort like Sutil’s maiden Q3 appearance at Austin last weekend all the more impressive, given it’s now probably the weakest chassis in the field given the demise of Marussia and Caterham.

Couple that with the Ferrari power unit that has been a step behind the all-conquering Mercedes this season and you can see it’s been a challenge for either driver.

Even from the start of the year though, Sutil and Gutierrez have not had it easy. The team had three drivers waiting in the wings, already looking ahead to 2015, with Giedo van der Garde as reserve; Sergey Sirotkin the Russian teenager-in-waiting, and Simona de Silvestro as F1’s lone female hope, with eyes and a focus on a race seat next year.

So there was already the prospect of wondering how five-into-two would go, and as a result… none of the five appear set to race for Sauber next year. In the last week, Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr have been announced, and it’s apparent both are financial-driven decisions. Granted, Ericsson has improved over the course of the year with Caterham and Nasr has shown potential and a higher ceiling in GP2, but they’re about as uninspiring a lineup as Sutil and Gutierrez currently are – they’re also fairly inexperienced, with only one combined season on the grid going into 2015.

Additionally, you can’t help but feeling as though Sutil and Gutierrez are the latest victims of the system as it exists, and you also wonder how thorny this could get.

Sutil has been adamant he is on a two-year contract and is thus being forced out by Nasr and his available budget – a situation that also cost his countryman Timo Glock his seat at Marussia prior to 2013, when Luiz Razia was due to replace him (of course that eventually fell through, proving not every budget provider is guaranteed). It is unfortunate this has put his F1 career in jeopardy.

Gutierrez’s F1 career, meanwhile, feels a bit to me like Jaime Alguersuari’s at Toro Rosso a few years ago. He’s young and has potential in spades, but has been unable to properly get the most out of it with a difficult car not to his liking. He’s only 23 and while exploring his options, he’s now a question mark a year before his home race in Mexico returns to the schedule. The one negative about him though, is that compared to his teammates he’s not had the same level of “wow” races where he’s obviously outperformed his machinery enough to get others to take notice.

As for the other three? They’ve all fallen by the wayside without a chance. Van der Garde could well get a second chance next year depending on where he and his budget end up; Sirotkin is a viable prospect so long as Russia remains on the calendar. Meanwhile de Silvestro’s F1 voyage, while bold, has ultimately come up empty. It’s a shame given her ability level and potential marketability, although the latter fact was something Sirotkin called out earlier this year.

Bottom line though is that economics have once again dictated the state of play for another team, and considering what Sauber has been in the past, it’s been tough to watch them fall victim to the commercial realities needed to keep them afloat. There are no winners when drivers are forced out, and the new ones then have an unfair target on their back.

World of Outlaws release 2023 Sprint Car Series schedule

2023 Outlaws Sprint schedule
World of Outlaws
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The 2023 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series schedule features 87 races, almost identical to the last year’s number, to be contested at 36 venues across 19 states. With cancelations for mostly weather, they closed out this year’s calendar on November 5 with 69 events in the books. Carson Macedo won a series high 11 races.

In 2022, David Gravel chased Brad Sweet into the three-race finale on the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in one of the most hotly contested championships in Outlaws history. Sweet emerged victorious for the fourth straight year.

For the 19th consecutive season, the Outlaws Sprints will begin their season at Volusia Speedway Park for the DIRTcar Nationals from Feb. 9-11 and will return March 5-6 for another two-day show before hitting the road with a three-track swing into Pennsylvania to take on the Posse.

MORE: 2023 World of Outlaws Late Model Schedule

“Every year we continue to build the best schedule we can for drivers and fans across the country,” said World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter is a series release. “I’m excited for the journey we’ve put together, which includes the biggest races in Sprint Car racing, our new Spring Swing through Pennsylvania, the thrill of combining the World of Outlaws and ‘Bike Week’ and so much more.”

Some tracks returning from hiatus and one brand new course include 81 Speedway in Park City, Kans. in April and again in October, Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon City, Ill. in April, Ogilvie (Minn.) Raceway in June and BAPS Motor Speedway in York Haven, Penn.

BAPS hosts its first race in more than 30 years when the track was known as Susquehanna Speedway. This midweek show will give the local Pennsylvania Posse 14 attempts to beat the traveling Outlaws.

Ogilvie Speedway is completely new to the series and makes it the 224th different venue they will have challenged.

MORE: Brad Sweet protects his place in history

Notably missing from the calendar are Vado (N.M.) Speedway Park, Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas, Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway and the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

In addition to the new spring Pennsylvania Swing, the second date at Volusia Speedway will coincide with Daytona Beach’s Bike Week and bring new eyes to the sport.

Knoxville Raceway adds another multi-night show to the calendar in April, giving this track eight sanctioned events in 2023.

And of course, there are plenty of mainstays and high dollar events, such as the Memorial Day Spectacular at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, the 35th running of the Brad Doty Classic in July and the Labor Day Spectacular at Gray’s Harbor in Elma, Wash.

Several big paydays are on the line in 2023 including the 40th annual Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio paying $175,000 to the winner, the Huset’s High Bank Nationals’ $250,000-to-win finale and the grandaddy of them all, the 62nd Knoxville Nationals with a total purse exceeding $1 million.

2023 Outlaws Sprint Schedule

Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 9-11 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)

Sunday-Monday, March 5-6 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)
Friday-Saturday, March 10-11 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, March 17 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday, March 18 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday, March 24 – Talladega Short Track (Eastaboga, AL)
Saturday, March 25 – Magnolia Motor Speedway (Columbus, MS)
Friday, March 31-Saturday, April 1 – Devil’s Bowl Speedway (Mesquite, TX)

Friday, April 7 – US-36 Raceway (Osborn, MO)
Saturday, April 8 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, April 14-15 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Friday-Saturday, April 21-22 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday, April 28 – Tri-City Speedway (Granite City, IL)
Saturday, April 29 – Tri-State Speedway (Haubstadt, IN)

Friday-Saturday, May 5-6 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, May 10 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday-Saturday, May 12-13 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Friday, May 19 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Saturday, May 20 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, May 26-27 – Atomic Speedway (Chillicothe, OH)
Monday, May 29 – Lawrenceburg Speedway (Lawrenceburg, IN)

Friday, June 2 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, June 3 – Ogilvie Raceway (Ogilvie, MN)
Friday-Saturday, June 9-10 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday-Saturday, June 16-17 – Beaver Dam Raceway (Beaver Dam, WI)
Wednesday-Saturday, June 21-24 – Huset’s Speedway (Brandon, SD)
Friday, June 30-Saturday, July 1 – Cedar Lake Speedway (New Richmond, WI)

Friday, July 7 – 34 Raceway (West Burlington, IA)
Saturday, July 8 – Wilmot Raceway (Wilmot, WI)
Tuesday, July 11 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Friday-Saturday, July 14-15 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, July 19 – BAPS Motor Speedway (York Haven, PA)
Friday-Saturday, July 21-22 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday-Sunday, July 29-30 – Weedsport Speedway (Weedsport, NY)

Friday-Saturday, Aug. 4-5 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 9-12 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 17-19 – Jackson Motorplex (Jackson, MN)
Friday, Aug. 25 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, Aug. 26 – Red River Valley Speedway (West Fargo, ND)
Thursday, Aug. 31-Saturday, September 2 – Skagit Speedway (Alger, WA)

Monday, Sept. 4 – Grays Harbor Raceway (Elma, WA)
Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 7-9 – Silver Dollar Speedway (Chico, CA)
Friday, Sept. 15 – Keller Auto Speedway (Hanford, CA)
Saturday, Sept. 16 – Placerville Speedway (Placerville, CA)
Friday, Sept. 22 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Saturday, Sept. 23 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, Sept. 29-30 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 6-7 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, Oct. 13 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Saturday, Oct. 14 – Lakeside Speedway (Kansas City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, Oct. 20-21 – TBA

Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 1-4 – The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Concord, NC)