After the highs of 2012, Sauber seems to have hit the rock bottom this season. Rachit Thukral takes a closer look at the Hinwil-based team’s struggles.
Peter Sauber and the entire management at Sauber deserve full credit for rescuing ‘Team Hinwill' following BMW’s exit at the end of the 2009 season. Now only did they managed to save the team, but they turned it around into a competitive midfielder in a matter of years.
Last few seasons, however, have been tough for Sauber. The team has run into financial trouble and its driver lineup is not up to the mark. The incoming of Haas F1 team has also made things difficult for a team that was once Ferrari’s unofficial B-squad.
Technical department is the backbone of any team. And Sauber added an important pillar to their team of engineers with the recruit of Mark Smith in July, 2015. However, it failed to retain his services for long, with the Englishman quitting ahead of this season.
Moreover, on-going financial issues have hindered the development of the car, with the team unable to bring planned upgrades on track.
Formula 1 has always been an expensive sport to compete in. Over its 65 year history, a number of independent outfits simply ran out of money and were forced to pull the plug. And with the introduction of new, expensive hybrid power units, the sport has become more expensive than ever for smaller teams.
But considering that some of the other teams have done a better job at managing its financial resources, most notably Force India, Sauber can partly be held responsible for the situation it finds itself in.
After all, the concept of ‘survival of the fittest’ also rings true in motorsport.
After regaining the status of an independent outfit, Sauber employed some quality drivers to spearhead its charge to the midfield. Some notable names were Nick Heidfeld, Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg.
However, Sauber’s driver lineup has deteriorated over the past few years, with their current pairing of Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr regarded as one of the worst on the grid.
Yes, Sauber’s financial conditions doesn’t allow them to employ a top-rated driver. But there are plenty of pay drivers lurking around who can do a decent job on track.
The Sauber C35 doesn’t have the underlying pace to score points on merit. Hence, the team must jump on any opportunity to finish in the top 10. One such chance came at the Monaco Grand Prix where changing weather conditions made it possible for Sauber to score some valuable championship points.
But a dispute over team orders served as a precursor to a messy collision between Ericsson and Nasr, with both drivers retiring from the race.
Getting back on its foot
F1 faces a major overhaul of chassis regulations in 2017, which can potentially allow Sauber to claw back into the sharp end of the midfield. These regs were finalised only a few months ago, meaning all teams have minimal time to get their cars prepared for next year.
If Sauber shifts focus early to the new car, it can possibly move up the order and take in extra cash in form of increased FOM payout.
Moreover, Sauber must also secure its long term future by bringing new investors to the team. For only a major cash injection can ensure long-term survival of a squad who has been present in Formula 1 since 1993.
by Rachit Thukral