Felipe Nasr fears Sauber’s lack of simulator access could prove costly when Formula 1’s new clutch-start rules come into force from the Belgian Grand Prix.
Nasr and team-mate Marcus Ericsson are already hindered by the fact the Swiss-based outfit is the only F1 team not to enjoy some running in a simulator. But with clutch starts due to fall into the hands of the drivers from Spa onwards, with little technical interference from the pitwall, Nasr believes he and Ericsson will be on the backfoot compared to their rivals.
“The lack of simulator is a down factor, for sure, and the team is aware of that, which is why we’re trying to think about something next year,” said Nasr. “It can only be positive for a driver to set his mind for a weekend, to prepare his techniques, racing lines, braking lines.
“There is a lot you can practice before a race weekend on the simulator, so it obviously takes a bit longer to learn a new track. We’ve tried different ways, such as visualisation stuff, watching videos to try to replicate things in your mind, and as long as we have free practice it doesn’t harm us too much.
“But I still feel a simulator is the best way to compensate for lost track time, and now we have these new rules from Spa with the clutch, which is something else you could try on the simulator. We’ve already tried some procedures in Hungary as we had to build up some references.
“It’s going to be difficult to have the perfect start without all the information from behind, but then it will be the same for everybody. All we are looking for is consistency; it doesn’t need to be the best. It’s easier to get it wrong than to get it perfect, so as long as we have a standard, that’s good.
“But at a time like this I would love to have a simulator, to try these things.”
New technical director Mark Smith, who joined Sauber last month, has confirmed the team will likely strike an arrangement in the near future for the use of a simulator.
“A simulator would be on our wish list, but we have to be realistic about what’s on that wish list,” Smith said. “So much of the design, development and analysis happens in the virtual world, and a driver-in-the-loop simulator is the ideal way of combining a lot of that virtual reality, and getting the driver to be an integral part of that.
“So yes, we’d like one, but in the interim period there are opportunities available to work on simulators, either with other teams or outside of F1.”