Sauber rarely figures in the fight for points last year. But a mid-season cash injection has allowed them to raise their sights for 2017.
One key decision could determine their prospects for the season ahead. The team will use year-old Ferrari engines, which some have taken as a sign they will struggle. But Toro Rosso did the same thing last year and took seventh in the championship, so Sauber can aim at least as high as that.
Sauber could be in a stronger situation than Toro Rosso, whose Ferrari deal was a last-minute and temporary arrangement. Sauber has had longer to plan its C36 around the dimensions of Ferrari’s 2016 power unit, which of course it also used last season.
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The team should be able to count on good reliability out of the box. But how well last year’s engine stands up to the increased mileages (up from four races to five) and higher full-throttle running times this year is a significant question mark.
The others will also be able to develop their engines at a faster rate than last year, due to the elimination of the ‘token’ development restrictions. Marcus Ericsson know that mean the team must strike in the early races.
“At the moment I still believe we are in the game with the others,” he said during pre-season testing. “I don’t believe we are in a big disadvantage so far.”
“It’s still difficult to tell, you don’t know what engine settings people are running. But looking at speed traps, stuff like that, I don’t see we are lacking much in any performance. I think the first part of the year at least I don’t see us having a big disadvantage.”
The arrival of Longbow finance last year has at least allowed them to ramp up their chassis development. Last year their new car wasn’t ready in time for the first test. “It’s a big difference inside the team,” Ericsson agreed, “I think already from the roll-out of the car to now there’s been lot of updates.”
“The floor is new, bargeboards and all different things. It’s pretty much as much updates as we had all year last year in one week. It’s definitely a big difference and that’s very positive. It makes life better for us.”
“Definitely the first part of the season is where we need to strike and be strong,” he emphasises. “For sure the engine manufactures are not going to stay still. We need to be there in the beginning to try to maximise our chances.”
9. Marcus Ericsson
Ericsson is beginning his fourth season of Formula One but opinions vary as to whether that’s an endorsement of his driving or the backing he brings to the team. He raised his game during 2016, something which wasn’t immediately obvious given that he ended the season point-less. Wehrlein will be one of the strongest team mates he’s been measured against so far, but his solid base with the team could give him an early advantage.
94. Pascal Wehrlein
It was no great surprise to see Mercedes pass Wehrlein over for the promotion to the top team given his still limited F1 experience. He showed signs of promise last year, particularly at tracks he had prior experience of, such as the Red Bull Ring. Better things therefore will be expected from his second season, particularly has he should have a more competitive car. But he doesn’t expect to be back to full strength immediately following his off-season crash.
Poll: Which Sauber driver will finish ahead in the championship?
Which Sauber driver will finish ahead in the championship?
- Pascal Wehrlein (69%)
- Marcus Ericsson (31%)
Total Voters: 169
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2017 F1 season
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- “Grand Prix Driver” takes you inside McLaren’s nightmare final year with Honda
- Undisputed champion: 10 titles name Hamilton top driver of 2017