A LOOK BACK: Sauber on the top step

Cast your mind back to 2008, a time when Robert Kubica was the rain master, achieving what no one else has: a race victory for Peter Sauber and his Swiss team…

1024px-Robert_Kubica_2008_Canada_2Sauber F1 is a team struggling amidst rule changes, financial woes and reliability constraints. Their pointless first half to the 2014 season is the worst on record. The C33 is a shadow of its predecessor, even trailing the pace of Marussia this year.

It is sad to see such a well-respected team falter in this manner but once upon a time, there was a much happier period in Hinwil.

Brandishing the BMW sponsorship and welcoming the car manufacturers as their title partners, money troubles were momentarily brushed aside. Peter Sauber could boast two reliable drivers at his eponymous team in the form of Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica. Neither racer has set the record books alight but were always a dependable force at the helm of a title challenger.

In Montreal, with a packed house in attendance, the latter became the star of the show. Just one year after a terrifying crash, the Pole climbed back inside the cockpit to charge to his maiden win.

Indeed, the track conditions themselves were heavily criticised; post qualifying, the drivers were complaining of a lack of grip and the crumbling tarmac beneath them. If Sauber-BMW were to win from pole, their car and driver would have to stay perfectly in sync.

It was a dramatic seventy laps which saw seven drivers retire. For those watching, a collision between Hamilton and Raikkonen at the exit of the pit lane would be another memorable moment that weekend.

As chaos ensued around him, Kubica kept his racing cool beneath his helmet to keep his team mate at bay. It was an historic 1-2 and not even the disruption of a safety car period from lap five could stop this champagne celebration.

That year, he bowed to eventual championship victor Lewis Hamilton but for a brief moment, the Pole led the title charge – a racing spell his compatriots will seldom forget.

This was to be Sauber’s only win since their début in 1993. When under almost complete ownership of the team, BMW turned an independent squad into a Grand Prix winning group, thrusting the Swiss-based mechanics and their car into an elite club.

History shows us, times have not been so hard for Sauber but their real test starts here. One win from 306 races (70 under the BMW partnership) is not what a young Peter Sauber hoped for when his career started in the basement of his childhood home two decades ago.

Click here to relive the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix.
This blog post corresponds with this week’s F1Plus column. For more on Sauber’s season so far, see my latest here.

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