The lack of Formula 1 experience in Sauber's driver lineup will not be detrimental to the team's development efforts, technical director James Key insists, as he praised Kamui Kobayashi's efforts to step up into a team leader role already.
With Kobayashi having only contested 21 grands prix and his new teammate Sergio Perez fresh from GP2, Sauber is set to have the least experienced driver pairing in the F1 field this year – subject to who Hispania picks to partner Narain Karthikeyan.
Last season, Kobayashi was able to rely on having veterans Pedro de la Rosa and Nick Heidfeld in the sister car, but he is now Sauber's primary source of technical feedback. Key reckons the Japanese driver is already raising his game to meet this challenge.
"They are both doing their best and doing a good job at giving us decent feedback," Key told AUTOSPORT.
"Kamui is being very good. He's trying to assist as much as possible with our understanding the tires and the way that the car is responding, and we have all agreed with him where we think the weaknesses lie that we need to work on next. His feedback reflects what we are seeing. You always want to have a reference point with lots of experience because they can pick up on something that they remember from five years ago and they can run through the ways to deal with it, but it's not really an issue for us."
Perez is also finding his feet within the team, according to Key.
"Sergio is coming up to speed quickly with his understanding of things and he's beginning to make proactive comments rather than waiting to be asked," he said. "He's coming up with ideas and he discusses things in the garage, which at this stage is good. It's never ideal to be in the position we are in with such inexperience, but it's certainly not to the detriment of the team."
Key is also calm about Perez's incidents in testing so far, with the Mexican having put his car in the barriers at Jerez and spun into the gravel in the wet at Catalunya last weekend.
"The off in Jerez was just inexperience and optimism on his part – personally I think he should have lifted!" said Key. "I think the Barcelona off was because of slippery conditions and the tires take some getting used to, so you can't hammer him for sliding off.
"Otherwise, he has been good. He's still got a bit to go in terms of getting used to the car and extracting the most out of it, but his long runs have been consistent."
• Read the full interview with James Key here