SINGAPORE AIRLINES • SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX 2014

Sauber duo determined to fight on

Without a single point to their credit, Sutil and Gutierrez have not given up

ASKED to rate Sauber's tumultuous 2014 Formula One campaign on a scale of A to D, Adrian Sutil was equal parts forthright and humorous.

"Maybe I need more letters - like a Z," the poker-faced German driver told The Straits Times during an exclusive interview yesterday.

Humour masks the pain and embarrassment of the 31-year-old, once touted as one of the sport's hottest prospects.

While compatriot Nico Rosberg closes in on the world title, Sutil languishes in the Swiss outfit which - after 13 races - is one of only two teams yet to score a point, along with Caterham.

"It's not fun to be in F1 and not be successful - if we don't want to win, we shouldn't be here," said Sutil, who finished ninth in the 2011 drivers' championship with Force India.

"I could have a wonderful weekend and finish in 17th, whereas with a better car, I'd be on the podium."

It is not entirely Sauber's fault, though - suppliers Ferrari produced a distinctly average engine this year, while the rival Mercedes unit is the pick of the field.

But the overall package has also let down Sutil and team-mate Esteban Gutierrez, forcing five retirements each this year.

While their C33 car has been as much as three seconds off the pace at high-speed circuits, the tight corners and technical nature of the F1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix could work in their favour.

Gutierrez, 23, who earned six championship points in his F1 debut last year, said: "I like the Marina Bay circuit because there's more turns (23) than anywhere else, which minimises our lack of straight-line speed."

Sitting next to the soft-spoken Mexican in a private room at the Marina Mandarin hotel, Sutil nodded, saying: "What's crucial here is high mechanical grip, good stability and high downforce, because some spots are pretty bumpy out there."

But the pair, who later sportingly fielded questions from guests of premium partner NEC, disagreed over the team's target for the remaining six races.

Former GP3 champion Gutierrez called for two points to restore lost pride, only for Sutil to say: "Hopefully more than that."

In 1999, Sauber's worst season, Jean Alesi and Pedro Diniz earned only five points in total.

After competing in 122 grands prix and spending most of his career in F1's midfield, Sutil does not want to make history for all the wrong reasons.

He said: "Others may think we've given up but I can tell you that I'm going to drive harder than I ever have to avoid a complete zero-point season."

nsanjay@sph.com.sg