Mar 20, 2013, 11:11 AM EDT
Sauber emerged from a tough first weekend of the year in Melbourne surprised by the pace of the leading teams.
Neither Sauber driver made it into the top ten shoot-out in qualifying: Esteban Gutierrez crashed out in Q1 and Nico Hulkenberg failed to make the cut by four tenths of a second in Q2.
Making matters worse, Hulkenberg failed to even start the race after the team discovered a fuel system problem on his car shortly before the start. Gutierrez brought his car home in 13th place, a lap down.
Sauber’s chief designer Matt Morris said the team were “definitely surprised” at how much quicker the likes of Red Bull and the other top teams were during practice on Friday.
“If you look at where the Force Indias finished, Nico would have been fighting with them, which is not too bad really and I don’t think we are as far off as where we finished.”
Hulkenberg’s failure to start the race made it difficult for the team to judge their true performance. He will have a new chassis for this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix.
“Sepang will be a circuit where we will see everybody being perhaps a little closer and after that we will have a better picture,” added Morris.
The track was a happy hunting ground for the team last year as Sergio Perez came close to winning the race, finishing second behind Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari.