The 2017 Formula 1 season hasn't begun yet but Sauber technical director Jorg Zander has revealed plans for 2018 will be getting underway soon as the privateer team attempts to realign itself with the sport's midfield competitors.
Having come perilously close to folding last season as debts mounted, Sauber is confident its future has been assured following a buyout by the Longbow Finance company, a deal that has already signalled notable change in luring a number of key figures, including Zander, Ruth Buscombe and Xevi Pujolar.
Nevertheless, Sauber heads into 2017 with a view towards a firmer foundation for the future, eschewing the opportunity to use a new specification Ferrari power unit in favour of a year-old engine in an effort to get a head-start on design for the C36 by using familiar components.
Even so, Zander reveals Sauber has the long-term in sight and will already begin switching focus to the 2018 model amidst rumours it will change engine supplier after this year.
“Together with my technical team, I will start with the 2018 concept soon,” he said. “This won't happen too early, as we want to conduct a fundamental analysis of where we stand at the beginning of the 2017 season.
“I want to have a good organized team with satisfied and motivated employees, which becomes a name in Formula One that can spring surprises once in a while. I also want to look after confidence and long-term stability. From what I have seen so far, I am very optimistic that we can achieve that.”
Though Zander – who formerly worked with Audi on its Le Mans and WEC programmes - is keeping expectations for Sauber relatively modest for 2017, he nonetheless wants to see a 'clear improvement' on 2016 as Sauber attempts to re-establish itself as a mid-field runner.
“I want to see a clear improvement compared to last year. All of us in Hinwil want that. Our objective is to establish ourselves in the mid-field. In comparison to last year, we will implement our development plan for the whole season, but we have to be realistic as our reference is at a lower level than the ones of our competitors.
“We are on plan with the C36 and we are optimistic that our current development is heading in the right direction. At the moment it is impossible to make any predictions compared to our competitors due to the new regulations. Overall, 2017 will be an important year for us. The structure and process optimizations have to be defined and implemented.
“These are not procedures that can be implemented through literature or instructions – these are individual adjustments in which human attributes and culture play an important role. The team has to accept those changes and get comfortable with the new circumstances. That takes time.”
Sauber will feature a revised driver line-up of Marcus Ericsson and newcomer Pascal Wehrlein, who joins from Manor.
As a Mercedes junior, Wehrlein's presence has raised speculation Sauber could become a Mercedes customer beyond 2017 after the demise of Manor, though it has also been linked to becoming a Honda satellite outfit.
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