By H. Mayor – photo: f1.com | They are by far the smallest and more modest team on the F1 grid, but they have a plan that could change all that from next season. Sauber has the least number of staff of all scuderias, always hires very young drivers and their single-seaters are notoriously underdeveloped. All this is the result of years of small budgets and financial instability for the Swiss team which sank to an all-time low in 2013 when they finished with no points at all (with Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez). Since then, they have only survived by scraping some points here and there.
But lately they have achieved a level stability and entered a time of changes, starting last summer with the signing of ex-Renault’s Fred Vasseur as team director in replacement of Monisha Kalterborn. Next, they have plans to increase their staff by 25% and to design, practically from scratch, a brand new single-seater that will succeed their current and very much outdated model (a slightly modified 2016 design). They have also renewed their contract with Ferrari as their engine supplier a few weeks ago, after flirting with Honda for a bit, and thus everyone can rest assured that a powerful engine will be propelling those brand new vehicles. Maranello, as per their agreement, will also have a say on the new model’s design.
There is one thing that still remains in the air for Sauber, their line-up for 2018, being one of the few scuderias which hasn’t settled this question yet. Ferrari will also have a say on this as, by contract again, they have the right to decide on one of their two seats. It is expected that they will seek two young and promising drivers again, unable as they are to attract any of the big names.
Looking to Maranello, several sources point to the F2 champion Charles Leclerc as one of the candidates to occupy one seat or perhaps Antonio Giovinazzi who has already experienced the team dynamics. It is also a possibility that both are signed together as Pascal Wehrlein seems to be set to leave the team and Marcus Ericsson has not confirmed his position yet. “We know where we are and we will make a decision soon”, explained Vasseur, who has the last word on the matter. New car, new drivers, more staff, a bigger budget, Will Sauber take a big step forward next season?