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New chief confident Sauber can compete with Hulkenberg

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Associated Press
11/1/2012 1:34:19 PM
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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates -- New Sauber principal Monisha Kaltenborn has become accustomed to questions about her becoming the first woman to run a Formula One team.

But in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, the Indian-born Kaltenborn said she would rather sit back and allow the team's recent success to grab the headlines.

The team, which was rocked in 2009 by the loss of its majority stakeholder BMW, has righted itself and is enjoying one of its best seasons ever. With drivers Kamui Kobayshi and Sergio Perez, the team has had four podium finishes and is sixth in the constructors' championship.

The 40-year-old Kaltenborn is optimistic the team can do even better in 2013 and crack the top five, despite losing Perez to McLaren. Perez has been replaced by Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg. A second driver has yet to be announced.

"The target has to be to go in the top five," Kaltenborn said.

"Chances are not looking so bad," she continued. "But it's difficult to say, yes, you are going to do it. You are not out there alone. There are a lot of cars that can mess up your race or you can make mistakes."

Kaltenborn said the key moving forward will be more consistency. While it has had four podium finishes, there have been six races where it failed to score points -- including last week where Kobayshi finished 14th and Perez failed to finish.

"We have this year seen a few glances with the podium ... and we can be a challenge," said Kaltenborn, whose targets are the Red Bulls and Ferraris.

"We have not reached that stability level as yet to say 'yes' we are always a challenge to them. That, we clearly are not, and we have to work on that," she said. "We have to work on having consistency within our performance and improving our efficiency. There were definitely more chances where we could have been on top, but we just didn't manage."

Kaltenborn said Hulkenberg could help steady the team's erratic performances, describe him as a "strong driver and especially a very efficient driver." Though currently with one of F1's weaker teams in Force India, the 25-year-old German sits a respectable 12th with 49 points.

"We want to have strong drivers who can utilize the potential of this car," she said. "We have seen this year that he (Hulkenberg) makes use of all the opportunities he gets. He is simply there to bag points and get them home. He is reliable in that way."

Kaltenborn, who was born in India but emigrated with her family to Austria as a child, had dreams of one day competing in the Paris-Dakar rally. But as she grew older, she focused on a career in law and joined the Fritz Kaiser Group, a shareholder in the Red Bull Sauber F1 team. After Kaiser sold his shares in the team, Kaltenborn moved to Hinwil to run Sauber's legal department. In 2010, she was promoted to CEO and this year became a 33-per cent partner in the team.

Peter Sauber's retirement last week elevated Kaltenborn to her new role as team principal.

Early on, Kaltenborn was underestimated by many in the male-dominated world of motor sports. She likes to joke that several top F1 executives assumed for an entire year that she was Peter Sauber's interpreter. Rather than being offended, she said she has used that to her advantage.

Nico Hulkenberg (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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