Despite Williams jumping the gun and showing off a CGI render of their 2017 car, Sauber were the first team to show us their effort for a new season full of new regulations, coming at the start of a year that really will test the Swiss outfits racing attitude.
Last year wasn’t the most successful of Sauber long and storied history in F1 – one that’s proudly displayed on the engine cover of the C36 – and, in fact, it was one of the worst; only 2014’s miserable, pointless campaign was worse. Thanks to Felipe Nasr’s wet weather heroics in Brazil, however, Sauber overtook Manor to finish as the 10th best team, and with it more prize money.
Their new design is reflective of their struggles in recent years too. It’s more of a trend of revolution rather than evolution, a trend that started in 2015 and has carried on. While the Williams FW40 renders were more like mock designs of the 2017 regulations and lacked full detail, the Sauber is a hard copy, ready to race.
Only Manor went bust in the winter and now Sauber will be viewed as, technically, the worst team out there. You’d be hard pressed to argue the case against that fact – it’s well known the team struggled financially at the start of 2016 and are only racing now thanks to new owners Longbow Finance rescuing them from the same fate as Manor.
The message coming from the C36 launch is that stability is the key to success – there will be no chasing of downforce in terms of development, but more of maximising what they have, and the year-old Ferrari power unit will provide strong power to start with, with the possibility of curtailing performance as other teams upgrade. It’s a bold path to go down that could see success like Toro Rosso saw last year, but could also see opportunities being few, and far between.
Sauber need find inspiration wherever they can find it. It may come from strategy – the signing of Ruth Buscombe from Haas saw an upturn in tyre management that culminated in the Brazil points – which might end up being their best weapon in getting a firm footing in the midfield, as is the potential talent of Mercedes junior Pascal Wehrlein if he’s fit. The fact that it feels like you have to think about where the performance is coming from means it’s going to be a long season indeed for one of F1’s longest-serving teams.
Livery Critique – Alex Odell (@ajokay)
Sauber are celebrating 25 years in Formula One this season. That’s no mean feat in a quarter of a century that’s seen a revolving door of backmarker teams and changes in ownerships. They’re what I consider to be the last of the garagista teams (yeah, technically Jordan are still around, albeit with a distinct Indian flavour, but they’re too far removed now).
In 1993, Sauber’s first season in F1, the pair of cars wore a very smart, yet of-the-time charcoal grey car with white wings, numbers and sponsor logos. We’ve seen these colours used by the team after their split from BMW at the end of 2009 (though it wasn’t until 2013 that they finally used them in the correct proportions, with the grey the dominant colour).
Thanks to some very welcome sponsorship, for the past two seasons the Saubers have been royal blue, yellow and white. The 2017 livery is clearly an evolution of that, with the now absent Banco de Brazil yellow having liquefied into a warm gold worthy of the quarter century celebrations, and the blue darkening slightly with a metallic lustre.
My first impression was that it looks like a cheap tin of chocolate biscuits. And I still feel that. I’ve seen people comment that it’s similar to the 1996 Ligier JS43. Maybe a little, but cursory second glances evoke the memory of another mid-nineties machine, the 1995 Pacific PR02. The blue base, the swooping whitewash on the sidepods, and the glint of yellow running along the entire length of the body.
Is it the best livery ever? No, but the colours work very well together and it’s somewhat classy, but there are some odd design choices. Such as the blue making a mess of itself around the sidepod inlets and those silly outboard vanes (why are they still a thing?) I think that would have looked better as solid white. And just forward of the rear wheels, the blue oddly dips down into the white again for reasons unknown [It’s for the inclusion of their partiality to large numbers – Ed]. On the plus side, bonus points for any team that hide the shark fin. Shame they didn’t use some of that same dark grey on the nose nubbin!
It’s nice to see a little change, and the rich blue and bright gold will certainly catch the sun and turn heads on track. And as always, I wish Sauber the best of luck this season!