Sauber sees Force India as inspiration for long-term F1 revival
Sauber and Force India may have been separated by six spots in the Constructors’ Championship across the past two years, but Frederic Vasseur says the latter can act as inspiration to the Swiss team.
Sauber finished a best of fourth in the standings in 2001, and challenged for podiums as recently as 2012, but slumped rearwards in recent years, stymied by financial issues and chassis/engine woes.
Sauber regressed to its worst ever classification of 10th in 2014, a position it repeated in both 2016 and 2017, scoring just seven points across the past two seasons.
However, Sauber has grown since Longbow Finance’s takeover mid-2016, and Vasseur, who joined last summer, has targeted a return to the midfield pack through 2018, pointing to Force India’s growth as a source of hope.
Force India entered Formula 1 in 2008, providing stability to the Silverstone-based operation, which had undergone strife through the latter years of Jordan, and its transition into Midland and Spyker.
Having placed 10th – and last – in 2008, it emerged as a regular points scorer in 2010, flicking between sixth and seventh in the standings, before improving to fifth in 2015 and fourth in 2016, a position it repeated last year.
“For sure Alfa Romeo can't expect to be in this kind of situation,” Vasseur said of Sauber’s new primary partner.
“The target for us is to come back into the pace. We are far away. We were very far away last year. I think the first step for us would be to catch up the field.
“Step by step we have to come back to catch the field. We will be more and more attractive for the engineers, for the drivers, for everybody.
“We have to be realistic. I know perfectly that it will take time to deliver and to improve.
“I don't want to say that we don't have to deliver next week. We have to be better next week than today. We have to be better in Bahrain than in Melbourne. It could be the only philosophy of everyone in the team.
“I know perfectly that it's going to be a mid-term project to be in the midfield. Look also at Force India for a good reference and a good project.
“They were more than at the back. They built up something very strong. They were consistently fifth, fourth in the last two or three seasons. But it took 10 years for them to be at this pace.”
Vasseur also revealed that Sauber’s partnership with Alfa Romeo had led to greater interest in the motorsport world, and reckons it has acted as a boost at Hinwil.
“It's an iconic brand and we are much more attractive to other sponsors, much more attractive for the guys when you have to work with [a top brand],” he said.
“It was a bit tough in the past. When we did the announcement, we received much more CVs than over the last 12 months!
“We have the feeling that the project is motivating around the team.
“For sure it's a good step forward. It's not just a matter to work with, but you have to work with the good ones.”