Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2017

Sauber’s future is brighter after Alfa Romeo deal

2017 F1 season review: Sauber

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Arguably the most significant development for Sauber in 2017 came after the season had ended.

Following months of speculation, the team confirmed a major new sponsorship and engine branding deal with Alfa Romeo. This arrangement strengthens long-running ties between the team and Alfa Romeo’s fellow Fiat Chrysler Group brand Ferrari, who will continue to supply the team’s engines and throw in development driver Charles Leclerc next year.

Sauber team stats 2017

Best race result (number)8 (1)
Best grid position (number) 11 (1)
Non-classifications (technical/other) 9 (3/6)
Laps completed (% of total) 2,040 (84.86%)
Laps led (% of total) 0 (0%)
Championship position (2016)10 (10)
Championship points (2016)5 (2)
Pit stop performance ranking10

However at mid-season Sauber was poised to go in a completely different direction. An engine deal with Honda was announced for 2018. But the move fell apart as Monisha Kaltenborn, who had been team principal for the last five years, was shown the door in June. One month later came the announcement that the Honda deal was off.

The departure of Kaltenborn, who had been with the team since 2000, demonstrates how far the team has split from the previous administration. New team principal Frederic Vasseur is running a squad which looks increasingly like a Ferrari B-team.

This progress was not matched in the team’s on-track performances. Lumbered with year-old power units, Sauber finished tenth in the championship again, but Manor’s departure means that is now last place.

A superb eighth for Pascal Wehrlein in Spain and his tenth place in Azerbaijan were the team’s only points scores. They then continued the unfortunate trend of dropping their sole points-scoring driver (as was the case with Felipe Nasr last year) and retaining Marcus Ericsson, who hasn’t reached the top ten since 2015. Though to be far to Ericsson, he did wave Wehrlein through in Baku when asked.

Sauber found themselves propping up the grid more often than not. The hopes that starting the season with an old engine would give them a solid platform to build on were largely not realised.

It didn’t help matters that Wehrlein missed the opening two rounds due to an injury sustained during the Race of Champions. After returning to the cockpit to test, he then embarked up on the Australian Grand Prix weekend only to withdraw at the 11th hour. Antonio Giovinazzi filled in as best he could despite only driving the track for the first time three hours before qualifying. This was an episode which should have been handled better.

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The pieces are in place for significant progress to be made next year. Besides the Alfa Romeo deal, Sauber also welcomed back technical director Jorg Zander in January. His departure from Audi’s shuttered WEC team didn’t happen early enough for him to influence the design of the 2017 car, but he quickly set about preparing the team for 2018.

While they didn’t make good on their goal of establishing themselves in the midfield this year, next year should mark a change for the better.

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  • 12 comments on “Sauber’s future is brighter after Alfa Romeo deal”

    1. @robertdonaldson aren’t the team stats a bit off? Best team result should be 8th. In 2016 they only scored 2 points, not 5, albeit I think you wanted to put the 2017 season there

      They seem to have agreed on a good technological partnership, at least from the go they have more or a less the resources to match Haas (same engine included), but I wonder if the decision to sign and immediately drop Honda could be bad for them, I’m sure STR will let us know

      1. Hi Joao,
        You’re right about the best team result – will get that updated ASAP!
        As for the points, the 2017 total was 5 as you mentioned. The number in brackets (2) is the 2016 total – showing you the comparison from this and last year.
        Hope that helps!

        1. @johnmilk The result one was incorrect (and that was down to me not @robertdonaldson). Fixed now.

        2. Ah! Yes, thank you

    2. I can see Sauber going upward next year. They caught up to Haas and Toro Rosso at the end of this year with year-old engines. With brand spanking 2018 Ferrari engines, and hopefully an improved car, they should be able to jump them and take on Williams and Force India. Points should be on the table whenever they have a decent weekend, not just the occasional freak luck.

    3. Sauber finished tenth in the championship again, but Manor’s departure means that is not last place.

      I didn’t quite get that – Sauber were 10th and last in the 2017 WCC, weren’t they? Did you mean to say “Manor’s departure means that is last place“, @keithcollantine ?

        1. @phylyp Should have been ‘now’ not ‘not’!

          1. Cheers, Keith.

    4. Hopefully the package next season will be competitive enough for fighting for points-scoring positions regularly.

    5. I think the Alfa deal is just Ferrari realising that if another bottom tier team doesn’t find a buyer and drops out it’d spell really bad news for Formula 1… This should at least see the grid size through until 2020 when the new contracts come in to play.

      If still no new teams want to join then though… Who knows?

    6. Leclerc in an Alfa Romeo is reason enough for me to be excited about them next year. I hope they can get competitive like the early 2010s again.

    Comments are closed.