Sauber unveil new F1 car with a Mexican look

Sauber presented their 2011 Formula One car with a welcome display of new Mexican sponsors where last year there was only a gleaming expanse of white.

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VALENCIA // Sauber presented their 2011 Formula One car today with a welcome display of new Mexican sponsors where last year there was only a gleaming expanse of white.

The arrival of Mexican rookie Sergio Perez, as teammate to Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi, has been accompanied by five backers including the country's telecommunications giant Telmex and Tequila brand Jose Cuervo.

Exactly a year ago in Valencia, the Swiss-based team rolled out their first car since the split from BMW with barely a sponsor in sight.

BMW had pulled out of the sport abruptly at the end of 2009, and a planned takeover by Qadbak Investment had come to nothing, leaving Peter Sauber, the team principal, racing to save the team he founded in 1993.

As Perez and Kobayashi pulled a tarpaulin off the Ferrari-powered C30 in front of reporters and photographers on a chilly Valencia pit straight, there was still a fair expanse of white on the car.

However, there was enough new colour to breed a fresh optimism.

"We have managed to secure our business foundation for the 2011 season. In these economically straitened times that is something we can be proud of too," said Peter Sauber. "Two years with a white car, that's not possible."

The Swiss added that the budget was similar to last year's, when the team was largely funded by money from the departed BMW.

The branding on the car also included a prominent display on the side for the "Sauber Club One" - an umbrella for those corporate entities who want to enjoy the access given to F1 sponsors without the public exposure.

Monisha Kaltenborn, the Sauber managing director, said the club idea had attracted a portfolio of strong Swiss companies who wanted to remain anonymous and the aim was to expand it internationally.

"We launched that in the middle of last year because we could sense when we spoke to different companies that they had issues, maybe environmental, which we couldn't really cover with Formula One," she explained. "We are convinced that in due time it is going to play a very important role."

There was only one Japanese sponsor on the car, reflecting that country's distancing from Formula One since the pullout of Honda, Toyota and Bridgestone, despite Kobayashi's popularity as a showman of the track.

"It is maybe due to the situation we have but it's not only with Japanese sponsors," said Sauber. "Generally it's difficult to get new sponsors. It's like [that for] all the other teams."

The team finished eighth overall last year, paying the price for poor reliability.

James Key, the team's technical director, said they had made progress on that front.

"In order to take a step forward in 2011, we were already systematically tackling the C29's weaknesses over the last season," he said. "The insights we gleaned were taken into account when the concept for the new C30 was being drawn up."