Frederic Vasseur, the Team Principal of Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team, has issued words of caution to those expecting a big jump in performance from the Hinwil-based team just because they are now using the current specification of Ferrari power unit in 2018.
The 2017 season saw the team using a year-old Ferrari power unit, which despite Vasseur commenting that they could not blame the poor results on using that engine, it would have been beneficially to use the current specification, particularly as it would have been updated throughout the season, something that did not happen with the old specification.
Vasseur insists they need a big jump from the aerodynamic performance in 2018 to truly make a jump forward, and he hopes the car, which will be publicly launched on Tuesday ahead of next weeks opening test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, will be good enough to at least jump into the midfield battle.
“I don’t know if it’s crucial,” said Vasseur to RACER. “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.”
Vasseur felt the decision to start the design of the 2017 car late was a big factor in the teams inability to show their true potential last year, and it was obvious early on that the focus would be best switching early to the design of the 2018 car, which will be the first to have input from technical director Jörg Zander.
“The issue is that we started the 2017 car quite late due to the situation in the team at the end of 2016,” said Vasseur. “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.”