It's coming-out day for many 2012 Formula 1 challengers, including the Sauber F1 Team, which revealed the new Sauber C31-Ferrari at the Jerez de la Frontera circuit in Spain this week.
The reveal took place ahead of the official Formula 1 pre-season testing that gets underway on Tuesday.
This coming year is the 20th season for the Sauber F1 Team in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship and the objective is further improvement from 2011, according to team owner Peter Sauber.
In the driver's lineup 2012 is a season of continuity with Kamui Kobayashi (25), Sergio Perez (22) and 20-year-old reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez at the helm.
"We're aiming to start the new season as strongly as we did in 2011 but then also to maintain this level of performance throughout the year," Sauber said. "Our goal is to finish regularly in the points so as to put ourselves in a significantly better position in the World Championship."
The veteran team owner is pleased to continue with "our young and talented drivers. Kamui will be competing in his third full season in F1; last year we asked him to take on leadership responsibilities within the team and he has grown into the role," Sauber related. "Sergio is now approaching his second season, which is often the most difficult in a driver's Formula 1 career. Both drivers have huge potential and will work with the same race engineers as in 2011 to continue developing that promise," Sauber said.
In some cases design of the C31 had to be reactionary to changes in the regulations. Chief designer Matt Morris noted the new car is "revolutionary where we had fresh ideas, particularly at the rear of the car, and it is an evolution where we knew we could carry over certain approaches. We had to improve on the weaknesses we identified on the C30 but at the same time we wanted to maintain our strengths," Morris noted.
The engineering staff at Sauber F1 Team opted to go with a high chassis design yet, bowing to 2012 regulations the nose cone needed to be lower, a safety requirement. As a result, the nose cone has quite a different shape compared to previous cars. The chassis itself shows minimum cross-sections all the way to the cockpit.
An admittedly tidier design, the front suspension has been optimized, the team set, for integration with the chassis and the upright. Beyond that, Sauber's challenger is a traditional layout with a push-rod and a high-level wishbone front suspension setup.
The rear suspension is now a pull-rod design with a long pull-rod towards the front of the gearbox and wide angled wishbones. This design allows improved packaging of the rear spring and shock elements. Even with the change, Sauber engineers maintained a similar direction to the C30 design.
Sidepods were further optimized with aerodynamic development. The cooling layout is based around a similar philosophy to the C30, due to its effectiveness. It helps, the team said, to get the volume of the coolers forward and allows the design of very compact rear bodywork.
The familiar Ferrari engine has an all-new carbon longitudinally-mounted transmission bolted to it, also supplied by Ferrari. This tidy installation makes the rear of the car much more tightly packaged, helped by gearbox design. The exhaust tailpipe positions are regulated in 2012, which has had a further effect on how the bodywork design has been set out.
"The current plan," Morris said, "is to launch a fairly basic roll-out version of the car, which was defined quite some time ago. We will then be testing development parts during the upcoming weeks with a late upgrade for the first race in Australia on March 18. Therefore, the car will look quite different in Melboune compared to the roll-out car."