ALFA ROMEO SAUBER F1 TEAM – POINTS: 48 | POSITION: Eighth
It was a year of serious progress for Sauber, climbing from the bottom of the championship in 2017 to finish eighth and establishing themselves as a serious midfield contender.
The Swiss team was able to score points on a regular basis with Marcus Ericsson and the Ferrari-bound Charles Leclerc in particular starring for the majority of the season.
The strengthening in partnership between Sauber and Ferrari in 2018 led to a substantial jump in performance. With the arrival of veteran Kimi Raikkonen, the team will be hopeful of continuing their upward trajectory.
2018 SEASON SUMMARY
Much was made of the return of the Alfa Romeo name returning to Formula One however it wasn’t the start to the 2018 season they would have been hoping for.
Charles Leclerc admitted himself he had struggled to adapt to the demands of F1 after dominating the Formula 2 championship the year before.
Although he was overshadowed by his teammate, Marcus Ericsson was the source of the team’s first points in Bahrain with a strong drive to ninth.
As the season hit the European stage, Leclerc had addressed his issues and Sauber’s strengths were revealed.
Strong pace at power circuits with their Ferrari power unit arguably the class of the field at that stage, the Hinwiil-based team enjoyed points on a regular basis and showed they had moved up from back marker status.
The Monegasque driver’s potential was on full display in Baku where he scored the team’s best finish of the season with sixth.
From that point on, the teams step forward in performance was evident until the end, picking up a further 14 points finishes and cementing themselves amongst F1’s midfield runners.
Semi-regular appearances in Q3 throughout the season for Sauber also added to their growing confidence, the Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying a highlight with Ericsson and Leclerc comfortably starting inside the top ten from sixth and seventh respectively.
The decision of team principal Fred Vasseur before the beginning of the season to abandon plans to use Honda power and instead strengthen ties with Ferrari were vindicated as the team fought hard to finish in eighth place ahead of the Honda powered Toro Rosso team.
Strong points finishes in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi wrapped up 2018 on a high note for the team that will have an all-new driver line up next season.
Ericsson only contributed nine points to the teams total of 48 and will make the jump to IndyCar whilst Leclerc will be under the microscope at Ferrari.
In their place, Ferrari academy driver Antonio Giovinazzi will get his first full season in F1 whilst the return of Kimi Raikkonen to the team he began his F1 career with will be a positive addition as they look to build on their strongest season since the beginning of the hybrid era.
Sustaining their level of performance will be tougher than ever with the midfield battle closer than it has been in years. Whether losing their star performer in Leclerc or technical director Jorg Zander will have any lasting effect on the team will remain to be seen until Melbourne but Sauber are on the up and look like they could reach greater heights still.