Sauber team principal Frederic Vasseur has warned against expecting too much progress from the team based on its upgraded Ferrari power unit deal.
Last year saw Sauber using a year-old Ferrari power unit, with the announcement claiming it would allow the team to start work earlier preparing for the 2017 regulations. However, Sauber was often well off the pace and finished bottom of the constructors’ championship with just five points.
While a new Alfa Romeo title sponsorship will see Sauber use the latest version of the Ferrari power unit this year, Vasseur says there are other weaknesses that need addressing.
“I don’t know if it’s crucial,” Vasseur told RACER of the power unit change. “For sure in terms of performance it will be a step forward. That’s dependent on the track, dependent on the conditions but it will be a step forward for sure. This step forward will allow the team to be part of the fight and this is important.
“But to be honest, it was not the biggest issue we saw so far. We are working a lot on the aero and we are recruiting a lot in the aero department and we know that we have to do a step forward. I think we are doing it. I don’t know if it will be enough but we are improving.”
Asked if he sees the aerodynamic department as one of Sauber’s weaknesses since he joined the team last year, Vasseur believes circumstances prevented it from showing its true potential last season.
“The issue is that we started the 2017 car quite late due to the situation in the team at the end of 2016. Then it’s difficult to catch up when you start the car a couple of months late. It’s quite impossible to catch the field up during the season. Then quite early we decided that 2018 will be a crucial season and opted to switch to the new car quite early in 2017.
“At one point of the season when I joined we were 1.3 seconds off compared to the last one and it made no sense to work on the car to try and have a couple of tenths’ improvement, because you won’t change your position on the grid.
“We were pretty focused on the 2018 car. It will be the first car designed and managed by Jorg [Zander, technical director] but we had too many changes in the past and it was difficult. I think now that even if we started a bit late due to the change of engine we are really focused on the car right now. The team is well-structured and it will be the first car of the new Sauber.”
Sauber’s 2018 car – the C37 – will be launched online on Tuesday, with Renault also unveiling its new car on the same day.