Sauber on firmer footing after difficult start to 2016

2016 F1 season review

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Sauber were in a difficult position as the 2016 started.

A pressing shortage of funds left them unable to bring their new car to the first test. On more than one occasion in the first half of the year the staff’s wage bill was paid late.

Sauber team stats 2016

Best race result (number)9 (1)
Best grid position (number) 14 (1)
Non-classifications (mechanical/other) 8 (5/3)
Laps completed (% of total) 2,215 (87.27%)
Laps led (% of total) 0 (0%)
Championship position (2015)10 (8)
Championship points (2015)2 (36)
Pit stop performance ranking10

The team’s financial plight inevitably affected their performance. Little development was done on the C35 in the first half of the year. In pure performance terms they were 3.5% off the pace compared to 2.6% last year. Mark Smith, recruited as technical director in mid-2015, departed shortly before the season began.

Making matters worse Felipe Nasr was visibly struggling with his chassis in the opening races and the team eventually pressed a new one into service from the fourth race.

However by mid-season the situation was looking brighter. A deal with Swiss-based Longbow finance, few details of which have emerged, brought new investment in. The first updates for the car began to trickle through.

A pair of heavy crashes for Marcus Ericsson at mid-season didn’t help matters. Nor did his tangle with Nasr in Monaco, where his team mate was reluctant to obey an instruction to let his team mate through. Sauber seemed rather hasty to issue the order under the circumstances, and Ericsson’s links to the team’s new bakcers did not go unnoticed.

Ericsson came closest to delivering a badly-needed points score for the team in dry conditions. But it was Nasr who ultimately got the job done, in Brazil. Nonetheless Ericsson is the only one of the pair to have been confirmed at the team for 2017. Nasr’s loss of support from Banco do Brasil could be the end of his F1 adventure.

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In addition to claiming the points which lifted them ahead of Manor, Sauber also rehired former chief designer Joerg Zander from Audi’s mothballed World Endurance Championship squad. It gives the team cause for new optimism heading into 2017.

“They are so important for all of us, these points,” admitted team principal Monisha Kaltenborn. “It’s not only financially, which of course plays a role, but also of course for the morale of the team. We didn’t want to end the season again like we did in 2014.”

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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4 comments on “Sauber on firmer footing after difficult start to 2016”

  1. Ericsson impressed me in 2016. Kept driving at his best while the car was awful, and got painfully close in Mexico. One of the best drives of any driver all season. Nasr delivered when needed but had 20 pale races and 1 brilliant. Not good enough.

  2. Keith, I think that the end note of your article should have included a rather important caveat for 2017, and it is one that may potentially negatively impact Sauber.

    Earlier this year, they confirmed that they are going to stick with a late 2016 version of Ferrari’s power unit for 2017. Officially, the reason is that Sauber had already designed their 2017 car around the 2016 power unit and did not want to introduce a late season design change to accommodate a 2017 spec power unit – implicitly, though, it would point to finances still being a bit strained (leading to a lack of resources to redesign the chassis for a 2017 spec power unit).

    1. I think that this will have less of an impact than it did for Manor in 2015 and Toro Rosso this year. Until the Mercedes goes into qualifying mode, the margin between the Mercedes and Ferrari engine seems narrower than at any point in the hybrid era and the gains are becoming smaller. While it’s possible that the engines make a jump with the token system going away and components no longer being locked, I don’t know how much development can actually be done at this point as the returns diminish. If it’s down 20 hp over next year’s engine, is it worth it if they can get a few tenths of aero with the same cash?

    2. @anon. True but there is more to it. Looking at the lap-time charts for all four Ferrari-powered teams from various races, it’s clear that Sauber had the worst chassis. Discounting Toro Rosso on account of their 2015 engines and Haas because they were completely new to F1, the difference between the factory team and Sauber, 2 – 3s per lap, would be almost entirely down to the respective chassis. Let us say that on average next year, Sauber will lose as much as 0.5s per lap in qualifying trim due to the 2016 spec engine but gain 1s (33-50% gain) from an improved chassis (and not lose that because of a lack of in-season development), this represents a net boost to Sauber which has the added advantage of coming at a reduced cost. Should Saber do almost as good a job with their 2017 chassis as Toro Rosso did this with theirs thisyear, it would represent a huge improvement for the team.

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