Felipe Nasr has admitted that the sudden departure of technical director Mark Smith is a blow for the Sauber team, but believes that enough planning has been put in place to ensure that the C35 continues to develop through the season.
The Briton only joined Sauber at the start of July last year, having previously held design roles at Caterham, Jordan, Force India and Red Bull, but little information accompanied his exit, save for a brief statement confirming that Smith had 'decided to go back to the UK for family reasons'.
Sauber missed the opportunity to run its new car at the first of the pre-season tests in Barcelona, getting just half the track time of its rivals before heading to least weekend's Australian Grand Prix, and Nasr, entering his second year in the top flight, concedes that Smith's exit is a blow.
"It's a shame because I think Mark was doing a very good job in the team since he came in, leading the C35 project," the Brazilian commented, "I admired his work - he was a great addition to the team and it was a shame to see him leaving that early because there is still room for improvement in the development of the car and he was the person to be leading that. I'm sure the team is looking for someone else to replace him as soon as they can."
Despite his disappointment, Nasr hoped that the development of the C35 would not be compromised too heavily, with the Sauber team already having an idea of what needed to be worked on as the season progressed.
"I think we know most of it, this direction, has been done," he explained, "We have planned out the things we should do, but it is also true to say that, when you have the car running, you have a better read of what has to be implemented, which area has to have priority, and someone in his position was able to see that. [Technical leadership] is a must for any team."
Speaking in Melbourne, the Brazilian said that he expected more progressive development of the new car, despite Smith's departure, but added a note of caution as Sauber attempts to play catch-up after falling behind its rivals early in the testing process.
"We had the least mileage car on track compared to everybody else, so there were still a lot of things on the background to do, on the systems side, on the chassis side ….. [and] we definitely need more time through the races to develop," he confirmed, "I still think we had good mileage on the car, and got a good baseline, but it is also true to say that there are things we hadn't gone through. There are so many things on the background to do that, in four days, you cannot do 100 per cent of them.
"Let's take it step by step. We have upgrades planned for the year and, hopefully, we can get them done, but this depends on the financial side of the team. We have things planned and I'm sure they will be a great addition to the car if we can make them happen."