2017 is going to be a big year for a lot of teams, but perhaps more so for Sauber. A difficult 2016 and near oblivion means that a few good points finishes will be a victory for the Swiss based squad.
Had it not been for Marcus Ericsson affiliated backers Longbow Finance, the 2016 British Grand Prix would probably have been Sauber’s last race in Formula 1. Happily that wasn’t the case, and Sauber enter 2017 with new owners, more cash, and two solid drivers in the form of Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein. But a lot of work needs to be done for 2017.
As well as the near collapse, Sauber scored no points before the penultimate race of the year, and looked set to finish behind the Manor team in the constructors standings. Felipe Nasr’s two points were crucial for the teams 2017, netting them a further $34 million. The relief on the team members faces after this race was clear for all to see. It did however put the final nail in the Manor Racing coffin. The fresh 2017 regulations therefore, whilst expensive, perhaps give Sauber some hope of moving forwards from a thoroughly difficult season.
The C36 launched on Monday and wowed a lot of people. Not only was the aero stunning, so was the livery which celebrates 25 years of the team in the sport. But the car already has an achilles heel…they are running the 2016 Ferrari power-unit and they are the only team on the grid to run a year-old-engine. This hurt Toro Rosso massively last season as their good chassis was compromised with the 2015 Ferrari power-unit, particularly at Monza and Spa. So we have to assume this will hurt Sauber this year.
But perhaps some tracks will suit them, as long as the chassis is up to the job. Tracks like Hungary, Monaco, maybe even Singapore, might allow the team to fully exploit the C36. Whatever happens though, big points finishes must be on the agenda. The competition is going to be so tough this year. Renault will be ahead no doubt, Manor are gone, and Haas will make inroads. Sauber could well find themselves last in the standings this year so they have to take any opportunity they can with both hands.
Scoring as many points early on, as Toro Rosso did last season, has to be the early goal. Get those points on the board as soon as you can, and see what happens thereafter. They have two solid race drivers in Ericsson and Wehrlein. Ericsson had a quiet 2016 but was less vocal on the team’s issues than Nasr, and drove the car as best as he could and impressed with quiet but gritty drives. Wehrlein scored that sole point for Manor in Austria which so nearly kept that team going into this year. He was overlooked at Mercedes in favour of Valtteri Bottas but has a lot of speed and potential, and will surely continue to grow at Sauber.
2017 is a big, big year for Sauber. Whilst the 2016 Ferrari PU might make things tough, they have to take every opportunity and grasp them with both hands. Formula 1 can’t afford to lose another team. Especially one with such history as Sauber.