LONDON (Reuters) - Lotus’s decision to skip the first pre-season Formula One test in Spain at the end of January will put them at a disadvantage to other teams, new Sauber signing Adrian Sutil said on Wednesday.
The 30-year-old driver told Reuters in a telephone interview from Switzerland that, with a new engine and major technical changes for 2014, teams needed all the limited track time they could get.
“I think real testing at the moment is what we need and not simulator work, because you can’t simulate everything,” he said of his own Swiss team’s position. “In the end you need to go on the circuit and see how it goes.
“This is a very important test and we don’t have much so I think it’s clear that it will be a disadvantage for Lotus,” added the German, speaking ahead of an appearance at the Autosport International show in Birmingham, England, at the weekend.
“But who knows why they decided it? I would say it is definitely not good.”
Lotus, who finished fourth overall last season, said on Monday they would miss the test starting at Jerez on January 28 because the timing “isn’t ideal for our build and development programme.”
The team, who had financial problems last year and have yet to announce formally a renewal of their Renault engine deal, posted a teasing picture on Twitter on Wednesday of new car parts with the E22 chassis designation.
Their decision means Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado, who has moved to Lotus from Williams, will have to wait until the second test in Bahrain in February for his first taste of the car he will race in Australia in March.
Formula One has switched from a 2.4 liter V8 engine to an all-new 1.6 liter turbocharged V6 with energy recovery systems and many in the sport fear Jerez could be plagued by reliability problems and regular red flags if cars break down on the track.
However, the circuit has the advantage of being within relatively easy reach of the teams’ factories, for spare parts if things go wrong, unlike Bahrain.
McLaren’s Jenson Button suggested recently, with heavy irony, that Jerez could prove ‘hilarious’.
Sutil, whose Ferrari-powered team do not have their own simulator but have the possibility of using others, said the uncertainty was in itself a reason to be excited but doubted it would be that bad.
“Maybe we have no problems at all and everyone will do laps and laps. who knows? But normally with a new engine you suffer a few problems,” he said.
“But I don’t think it will be a disaster, because I believe everyone knows how to build an engine and it’s not that we are not professionals. Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault are all big manufacturers and should know how to deal with this situation.”
As well as getting to grips with a new car, Sutil is also adjusting to a new team for the first time in his F1 career after six years at Force India and their predecessors Spyker.
The German, who lives in Switzerland conveniently close to Sauber’s Hinwil factory, said he had been talking to the team since early 2012 about joining them and felt they were the perfect fit.
“It was quite challenging and exhausting to travel so much to England and back and to India,” he said of his time at Silverstone-based Force India. “It’s better surroundings here, I think, for myself.”
Sauber finished seventh last year, 20 points behind sixth-placed Force India, and struggled financially in what looked like a fight for survival.
Sutil, who brings financial backing with him, felt he was joining a team that could put him on the podium for the first time and was eager for a new challenge.
“The history of this team is just different... so there is something there,” he said, recalling the time when BMW-Sauber won the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix.
“It was time for a change...for me it looks definitely another step up.
“I think it’s all in there, they have the knowledge of how to do it. I think it’s just about having the financial package all together which is quite difficult for all small teams at the moment,” he added. “If that financial part comes better and better I think this team will make a big step.”
The German will have Mexican Esteban Gutierrez, the highest-scoring rookie of last season but still learning the ropes, as his team mate but he sidestepped a question about whether he felt like the team leader.
“I feel like Adrian Sutil, to be honest,” he said. “We will see who is leading the team and we work together here.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar