So here we have it; it’s Wednesday 10th February, the second batch of the pre-season tests is upon us and some sentiment here inside the Sett is that our mate the Groundhog could have his day… again.
This time last year, the newly rebranded Brawn GP outfit were taking to the track and impressing journos and rivals in equal measure with astonishing speed that was neither matched nor understood until the first race outing at Melbourne Park, Australia. The story behind the team’s comeback was as dramatic as it’s pole-to-flag victory in the first round, yet we find ourselves in an eerily reminiscent period with several big manufacturers dropping their support for the pinnacle series late last year.
Honda, with its reportedly massively budget, exited the sport in 2008 amid the emblazoned beginnings of the worldwide economic crisis leaving the Brackley boys and girls jobless, but not hopeless. With a car more than three-quarters complete and six-months advanced of any other squad, the good Captain Brawn stuck two fingers up at the SS Short Sighted and bailed his crew into the life rafts (along with the best bits of what was to become the BGP01 of course).
Funnily enough, when BMW bid farewell to its hitech Hinwil facility deep in the Swiss mountains no such credence was shown. Only F1 stalwart and all-round understated genius Peter Sauber remained positive, yet without a rabble-rousing speech from the squad’s protégé (who’d buggered off for yellower pastures), it was looking tough.
What makes this particular circumstance so incredulous is not just that BMW left, but that they had completed advanced works on their 2010 challenger. Ridiculous, and all in the name of cost cutting!
At the first outing in Valencia, the disorganised remnants of the former German marque had been “rebranded” (if you can call it that?) as Sauber. Sponsor-less, if you don’t count a Japanese dandruff shampoo, and with a distinctive red/black stripe accenting the luscious curves of an otherwise monochrome machine, the Swiss Miss was shown off proudly by two drivers equally as lucky to be on the grid.
But not only did squad recover, the generally accepted slow Pedro de la Rosa set the second fastest time on the second day, just 2 tenths off the frighteningly-quick Ferrari. As with most things motor racing-related, you’d be wise not to count your chickens before they hatch, but the precedent exists and it comes to the lips so easily; more fool you BMW.
The very best of luck for this week Sauber!
P.S. Mario, pick up your car.