Sauber's pace in qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix is proof that the illegal wing that led to the team's disqualification in Australia did not improve the car's performance, according to technical director James Key.
Kamui Kobayashi made the Q3 top 10 shootout again at Sepang and will start 10th for today's race. This is only one place behind where he qualified in Australia and one tenth of a second closer to the pole position time, albeit using fresh option tires that he did not have available for Q3 in Melbourne, putting the team in much the same place in the competitive order.
Key admitted that the modified -- and now legal -- upper surface of the top flag of the rear wing is possibly more effective than the one used in Australia.
"Our pace shows that there was no performance benefit," said Key. "We quickly designed and tested a legal flap and, ironically, if anything it's better."
Key blamed the team's disqualification from seventh and eighth places in Australia, which cost Sauber 10 points - on an error in the checking procedures after the shape of the top surface of the wing was inadvertently changed late in the design process. The curvature of the wing did not fall within the minimum 100mm curvature stipulated by the regulations.
"During the final development phases of this part, where the lower surface was being looked at very carefully, the upper surface of the flap began to deviate from the R100 shape that it was supposed to be," said Key. "In CAD [computer aided design], you have parametric models so when you move certain dimensions around, other parts of the model adapt. That's what happened here -- work was going on on the lower surface and the upper surface, which is incidental, was affected by the parametric model."
Key added that despite the error originating in the design phase, the reason that the part was put on the car was that it was not checked.
"That happens sometimes, but where the system really fell down is that it didn't get picked up. For some reason, this one dimension on the flap wasn't checked properly. As a result, it hit the car and none of us knew about it. It was human error, but we have not only reinforced the process, but also added layers to it to catch anything in the future."