Contenders again – With Ferrari F1 backing how far can Sauber go?
Scuderia Ferrari
Posted By: Editor   |  12 Jul 2018   |  4:58 pm GMT  |  67 comments

They’re already profiting from an increased collaboration with Ferrari and, with the recent arrival of the Scuderia’s technical chief Simone Resta, is the growth set to continue?

Since the start of the hybrid era, Sauber’s form could be described as having greater troughs than peaks, but their desires to climb from back-markers to consistently competitive midfielders has involved a much closer working relationship with Ferrari, and the acquisition of Resta as technical director is a perfect example of it.

Resta – a Ferrari employee of fourteen years – officially started his Sauber role at the beginning of July, just over one month after he was announced by the Swiss team. In a time when gardening leave is commonplace among staff transfers in Formula One, the comparatively quick turnaround of roles points to an increased working relationship between the two outfits.

Sauber have a lot of history with Ferrari. Ignoring their brief spell under the ownership of BMW (2006-2009), their association goes back to 1997, when they would buy Petronas-branded Ferrari engines.

Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher tests Sauber’s 1997 car – the C16 – to aid development.

One of the first moves made by team principal Fred Vasseur when he took the reins at Sauber one year ago was to cancel the planned switch to Honda power units for 2018.

Instead, he decided that Sauber should have a greater partnership with Ferrari and, as well as a supply of up-to-date power units, gearboxs and rear suspension components, the team now have a partnership with Alfa Romeo, sister company to Ferrari.

Expectations at the start of the season weren’t too over-the-top from Sauber, they merely wanted to be more competitive, to reduce the gap to the midfield and at least be ‘in the mix’.

Their early season form suggested that they were doing just that. They had enough pace to compete in the lower-midfield positions and challenge for an occasional point.

But despite being one of the smallest teams on the grid, they’ve made some of the bigger improvements on the grid, having extracted more performance from the C37.

Their average deficit to the fastest midfield runners in qualifying has decreased. At the start of the season, typically the fastest Sauber set a time at 101.3% of the fastest midfielder (often a Haas or Renault) in the session when Sauber were eliminated (usually Q1).

More recently, Sauber’s quickest qualifying times are at around 100.7% of the pace of the fastest midfielder.

Whilst some of this improvement will be down to Ferrari academy driver Charles Leclerc acclimatising to Formula One, this is backed up by Marcus Ericsson’s only Q2 appearances coming in two of the last three races.

If this level of progression continues, then the Sauber personnel might just be looking forward to a productive second half of the season, as well as 2019.

With this year’s car having a longer wheelbase than last year’s, similar to Ferrari, time will tell if their 2019 car will have any more similarities to the red cars, particularly with Resta’s involvement.

On the driver front, with Leclerc destined for a drive at Ferrari next year, it’s probable that one Ferrari junior will be replaced by another; Antonio Giovinazzi, who had a stellar GP2 campaign in 2016 before securing his reserve driver role at Ferrari.

Cost cap workaround

With Liberty Media looking to control the costs associated with Formula One, it’s anticipated that the long-awaited cost cap will be introduced in the regulations shake-up for 2021.

One of the areas affected is likely to be research and development, including the staff associated with this sector.

Given Sauber’s increased involvement with Ferrari (and subsequently their sister company Alfa Romeo), Resta’s switch to Sauber is an example of how teams could work around these pending rules.

With the top teams still looking to retain as much expertise as possible, they could simply ‘park’ their employees at one of their partner teams.

This works because the employee is still within the top team’s ‘stable’, but there is a reduced cost to retaining them.

It can also be beneficial for the employee as they will gain more experience, possibly in a higher position, better preparing them for any bigger roles which might appear within the higher team.

The smaller teams benefit, too. They can profit from the additional expertise that might have otherwise remained at the bigger teams.

Whilst some of the top team bosses have said that a cost cap would lead to job losses, Liberty Media’s aims are two-fold. It helps lower the benchmark set by the bigger teams, and it can give some of the smaller teams the tools necessary to reduce the gap.

By: Luke Murphy

All images: Motorsport Images

Do you think Sauber have made the right call in creating closer links with Ferrari? Do you think more teams should follow their example (along with Haas)? Leave your comments in the section below.

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As I have previously mentioned, these next 2 years of F1 are a road to nowhere for the second tier-come-midfield runners and back markers. Nobody knows who is going to stay and who will leave if the next contracts contain clauses which don’t make good business sense for them. An exodus might be coming which shocks Liberty, the FIA and the fans.

That said, if Sauber is being welcomed deeper into the Ferrari stable, their progress will only get stronger and more successful as their closest competitors fall behind them with a progressively negative view of what is coming post 2020.

If they do make leaps and bounds toward the 4th or 5th best team, I really do wish Dan Ricciardo would bite the bullet and try to do a deal with them for the next 2 years. His experience would benefit the R&D of the cars, he already knows the deal with having to “coach” a young gun as his partner and being on the inside walls of Maranello could give him the leg-up he needs to replace someone in a Ferrari for 2021.

His demeanour at present is very dark and negative in comparison to his usual happy-go-lucky personality and it simply because he knows he will be stuck in a rut with RBR if he stays.

Good luck to Sauber, I sincerely hope they do go forwards and become a major player in the fight for the last step on the podium, I just hope that they can see the benefits of having Dan in the team and that they can do it together.

I’m not confident, more extremely hopeful!

søren christensen

Sauber is the Swiss Force India, always had a very lean, but great operation with good staff and engineering.

Remember much of the state of art factory and technical equipment were created during the BMW years.

Now they also have professional leadership, with one of the best no nonsense race directors in business, Fred Vasseur.

And not least, the Ferrari/ Alfa connection paired with the best young driver there is in the current F1 field. If Sauber in 2019 has 2 drivers on par with Leclerc, they are in the Haas league – or best of the rest, after the big4.

I will not count Mclaren and Williams as part of any big teams in the foreseeable future


I think Sergio Marchionne’s target is to have 2 Ferrari drivers & 1 Alfa driver on every podium. . . . . . . . . & Haas waiting to fill the gap for when Max puts a hole in the plan.


What is the point if you can’t win?


Sauber is Alfa Romeo period. If not now then So on, I’d arguee they are now


@ Chris D AFAIK Alfa is a branding exercise ATM. Nothing more. the big involvement is Ferrari. That may change in the future but Alfa do not build F1 race engines and most likely never will.


Sauber have done an amazing job with help of Ferrari (including tech and team member collaboration). By end of year, they can get above Toro Rosso and Williams.

Special mention to Force India who year after year keeps doing great with limited budget albeit with Mercedes engines.


This sort of b team thing is good for those lucky enough to be pretty much hopeless but for the teams that have had success and now have a dna of success it means they are the ones that end up battling to stay relevant. All well and good saying they should invest more and hire more but the mercedes ferrari and red bulls hire pretty much everyone thats any good robbing the rest of the grid of talent.

They also seem like very nice employers compared to the likes of mclaren and williams

that seem to have only retained the least talented people trying to figure out what

the big book of procedures means in 2018.

Cost cap may mean the talent is spread around again so I look forward to reading how

its going in the next 5-10 years.


It’s clear that Sauber made the right choice, the results proof that. Having said that, it also becomes clear that we will probably have 4 different PU manufacturers beyond 20121 despite the ‘new’ regulations. This also will lead to PU’s being more or less equal regarding their performance, (though certain characteristics might differ), due to the fact that the development steps will get smaller and smaller how longer a PU has the same buildup. This also means with PU’s being more or less equal, that development will be more focused on aerodynamics. So one might expect a leveled playing field? Nope it will not. The Big four of the future, being Mer, Fer, Red/Hon and Ren, will never ever allow a customer team of their PU’s to surpass them. So what I think what will happen is that we will have 8 cars fighting for the win, (by means of the best drivers hired and spending the most on aero development and some other areas) and 12 will be close and sometimes they might even be on the podium. Haas is the perfect example for this trend and also Sauber atm. So we might get more and more racing for positions and cars might even be able to pass another car without DRS assistance, wouldn’t that be nice. Last but not least, this hybrid solution for customer teams could enable F1 to attract one or two new teams, which in my opinion is really necessary, not only to have more action during races, but also to have more opportunities for talented drivers in the lower classes.


I applaud the success Sauber been having of late and hope it continues….I know someone always has to be at the back but I am feeling it hard for Williams…they are not supposed to be the Marusia, Caterham, HRT of the field. There should be no midfield…every team/car after the top six should be challenging each other and closer to each other.


It’s a great package…Sauber and for that matter Haas seem to be gaining momentum as the season unfolds.


can anyone translate this into english?


@Twitch_6 & @Redline:

I agree that B-Teams are better than failing Caterham/Marussia/HRTs, and with no other manufacturer coming in, this is going to be the way forward.

The modern F1 team is built around 1 lead driver. Mercedes with Lewis and RB with Max have come round to the Ferrari philosophy that 2 alphas may be entertaining but 1 alpha wins the championship.

The concern I have about this is the same as those to the Ferrari 3 car plan. In 2022, it will effectively be Norris in Renault (McLaren or Renault), LeClerc in Ferrari/AlfaRomeo/Haas, Max in Honda/TR and Russel/Ocon in Mercedes/FI/Williams.

If one of the cars is better than the others, then the seasons might get a bit boring. I am hopeful that the McLaren + Renault model of 2 competitive teams wins out, but the benefit of 4 cars/shared teams/shared budgets seems to be stronger one.


It has to be better for Sauber to get into bed with Ferrari, than to just carry on plodding around at the back. It’s good to see them turning out goid cars, and is great to see them running a goid driver. I wonder how long Ericsson’s contract runs for? Money is always useful, but look at how close to Torro Rosso they are in the constructors! If they are running Giovinazzi next year, they could do with an experienced driver alongside him. How about someone who drove for them before, and would have driven for their sponsor if it wasn’t for that rally crash…..


Certainly they are benefiting from their association with Ferrari, and Merc need to keep an eye that their brand is not damaged by the poor performance of Williams, as this reflects on them negatively just as the Sauber resurgence and Haas success reflects positively on Ferrari.

Will Ericsson survive a season when he has been so outperformed by LeClerc? One can blame the car for only so long, until a talented teammate comes along and shows the car is not all that bad, then it becomes inconveniently plain to the sponsors that the driver could be part of the problem. Ericsson would do well to step it up before he is obliterated by LeClerc’s talent.


Jon, not a bad point regarding the reputational damage involved in having your engine finish last. Maybe the FIA could introduce an engine cup to be given to the manufacturer whose PUs scored the most points.


@ Stephen Taylor

It would appear Kimi will indeed not get a new contract


An interesting article but I do wish someone would do an article on Renault. We see Mercedes and Ferrari and even Red Bull experimenting with teams and personnel etc, but what on earth are Renault doing? I find it amazing that Honda got so much criticism and in some instances rightly so, but now they are close to the same engine performance as Renault, who were not new to F1 at all and had the same lead time as Mercedes and Ferrari.

I remember last year Renault spoke of an engine update in the works that would propel them forward greatly. That then got delayed to this year, and then got delayed to the final 3rd of this year. I mean… it’s a joke isn’t it? Why aren’t they criticized more for what is effectively the worst power unit improvement over the last few years of any manufacturer? Does no one ask Abiteboul this? My understanding is the Renault head is not a fan of spending carelessly in F1 but at this rate Renault without Red Bull will be nowhere in the standings. They might want to bail out if they are routinely beaten by Ferrari and Mercedes B teams and perhaps Honda powered teams also. I wonder how their board meetings go…oh the performance is great guys.. just push our targets out another year..

Tornillo Amarillo

Williams is in the backfoot with this replicas. Mercedes said they could work with Williams as a replica… they should do it! Otherwise, Williams will be dead last for years! Sorry, be open to the change 🙂

ps: Stroll should have to remember people he was Ferrari Academia member, and try to buy a Haas or Sauber seat for next season.


I’m confused with’s strategy. This is an Autosport Plus article on Autosport – but free here?


The strategy is make money, it’s not confusing 😛

The funny thing is I think they think each website gets a lot of individual clicks, when most race fans I know and chat with, we all check all the sites. Eg on my phone, in my browser, I have about 10 tabs open at any one time, and at least 6 of those are racing websites. When I check one, I check them all lol.

Another “interesting tactic” I’ve seen since Motorsport took over is that we get “insightful” articles like the one about the spat post Silverstone – an article which many people proclaimed was unworthy of this usually quality site. At the same time as that trash article by “Eddie the Editor” was published here, James himself had a Prime article on, offering actual insight into how he thinks the future of F1 and FE will play out.

I really think the only reason motorsport network is keeping this blog going is to generate add revenue of the comments section


The “salary cap”, which is what it is effectively, will inevitably lead to quasi works teams. Where the top 4 works teams (MB, SF, R and RB/H ) balance out their costs across multiple “supported” teams, a strategy which effectively double or triples their budget.

Mercedes park their above cap employees (costs) in Force India and Williams.

Renault park theirs in McLaren and they really need another team to replace RedBull next year. Maybe an opportunity there for a new or returning team.

Ferrari park theirs in HAAS and Sauber.

With RedBull and Torro Rosso sharing resources and their Honda engines.

In some ways it makes a mockery of the “salary cap” but pales into insignificance when compared to the opportunities for car manufacturer teams to utilise employees from their other divisions. The opportunities for rorting is huge and is going to be difficult to police, after all F1 teams spend their lives finding ways around regulations.

The next, obvious question, who is going to check compliance with the cap? Do the FIA simply waltz along once a year and “audit the books” or do they have FIA officials embedded in the teams, 24/7/365. The latter is really the only credible way, otherwise it’s just a sham.


The moves made by Vasseur were a no brainer. Kaltenborn was really an unmitigated disaster considering some of the silly things done, with ‘multi drivers contracts’ as an example. Had they stayed with the Honda option they would be nowhere near their current position. Yes, it’s good to see the AR livery back on track but AFAIK, that’s all there is to it…a branding exercise with the attendant large caches of $$$ attached. I have very little problem with the overall mix n match principles but there is a downside to all of this, one which we are witnessing at an ever increasing rate….free passes and no racing against the manu. supplier. Wolff had the temerity to state after Monaco that ‘that’s the way it is’. ! With that display of control we are really seeing semi fixed results and that can’t be good.


Question is how long that partnership will last. As it seems that it will mostly depends on who will come after Marchionne.


I think Sauber definitely made a good decision! They have a strong sponsor, a strong and reliable engine, an engineer who worked in Ferrari and I think that they will fight for the 5th place in the championship next season! I think they had one chance for that, maybe Force India with Mercedes, although Hype it’s there now, I really doubt.


can they match haas?

Stephen Taylor

The longer things go on without confirmation the more fanciful the stories about Leclerc joining the Ferrari senior team seem . Maybe Ferrari deliberately planted and let the rumours slip out there just to see how KR would react in the races before the summer break . As far i’m concerned KR is answering the call to deliver results . Leclerc I don’t deny would be a big asset for Mr Marchionne in potentially attracting younger customers for Ferrari’s road cars but Kimi is delivering good results for the WCC . The stronger likelihood than anything else that Kimi will be retained in my opinion and that journalists have been duped by Ferrari’s PR department.


Yes but doesn’t this always happen? Kimi raises his game and starts delivering only when the contract renewal starts to look in question, then once signed up for another year he’s back to half a second per lap behind Vettel. Ferrari must know by now he’s lost the fire.


Right Stephen SM played this strategy to perfection By offering but not signing the deal with CL Ferrari got the ultimate win win If it went south they bring him up and retire Kimi But if KR steps up and he has with six podiums and three in a row Ferrari are in position to win the constructors championship and reward Kimi with another year, while CL gets more F1 seasoning with Sauber!


great post Stephen. I’ve been a tifosi since the 60s and feel that moving up Charles Leclerc for 2019 would go against Ferrari’s patient approach to young drivers. they more likely (imo) will keep Kimi for 2019 and leave Charles at Sauber for another year of seasoning. after all, his performance at Sauber is also nicely filling another of Ferrari’s needs….that is….making Alfa Romeo look great. exchange ericsson for giovinazzi and you’ve got a terrific junior team…and then why not let Leclerc and Giovinazzi slug it out for the Ferrari ride?


The issue of Charles moving up is just fodder to the gossip columns as it will be too early for him. Might turn out like K-Mag and Mclaren which Ferrari are wise to avoid. Kimmi for 2019, with Charles & Giovanzi at Sauber.


I get the impression that there is a tug of war going inside Ferrari. At one end there are people who want a new, young driver who will be cheap and possibly a world champion for them. At the other end are people who want to keep Kimi because he’s great for marketing, is great to work with and still performing.


Every time Kimi finishes in the top 3 the pro Kimi party gains a little more pull. With him having 6 podiums this year it’s hard to argue any other driver would a better job without generating friction with Seb. Losing a WDC or WCC because the drivers are fighting each other is the nightmare scenario for any team.


Check Kimi’s body languege and quotes in the press conference

“Bwoah, I think I did the best I could, but obviously there are a lot of people who think that isn’t good enough or something.” I paraphrased that a bit, but his actual quote isn’t far off.

Watch that interview, pay attention to what he says, and ask yourself if that looks like a guy who knows he has a contract with Ferrari next year.


Could be talking about Journalists and commentators who are going with the rumour.


Indeed, Sauber’s performance has been a welcome surprise of the season which has given the fans a good underdog story to root for

Certainly, the team owe their turn in fortunes to the vision and wisdom of Fred who had the insight to team up with Ferrari who currently have the best engine on the grid

Regards Charlie, how lucky is he that he joined the team when it’s more competitive which in turn means his performances has impressed the bosses at Maranello thus giving him the chance and honour to be Ferrari’s youngest ever driver

As for Marcus, unfortunately for him a more competitive Sauber isn’t good news for him because such a car can unmask him as a genuine pay driver because he no longer has the benefit of a doubt should he have a difficult race.

Overall, all teams should follow the Haas/Sauber business model because in the 21st century the most profitable businesses practice the art of outsourcing


Damn it, I always do this….forgot to link the actual interview

If you like racing stories, it’s definitely worth listening to, there is some pure gold in there 🙂


Shouldn’t have second guessed myself lol…I did link the interview. Fail

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