Sauber boss Frederic Vasseur says his team can take inspiration from Force India’s progression as the Alfa Romeo-backed squad looks to move up Formula 1’s pecking order. 

The 2008 Canadian Grand Prix race-winning outfit has slipped down the F1 grid in recent years as financial struggles stunted development growth, with the team failing to record a podium appearance since 2012. Sauber scored just five points last season as it recorded its worst-ever finish in the sport, finishing bottom of the constructors’ championship.

But the addition of new title sponsor Alfa Romeo and current-spec Ferrari power units has boosted the Swiss team, which Vasseur says is the start of a long-term project to return Sauber to competitive ways in F1. 

“For sure Alfa Romeo can't expect to be in this kind of situation,” Vasseur said. “The target for us is to come back into the pace [of the midfield]. We are far away. We were very far away last year. The first step for us would be to catch up the field. 

"[When we catch up] we will be more and more attractive for the engineers, for the drivers, for everybody.”

Vasseur cited the rate of progression from the likes of Force India’s as a sensible and realistic target for Sauber to emulate in the coming years, with the SIlverstone-based outfit steadily building itself up from backmarker to midfield leader over the last 10 years. 

“You can't build up a team [immediately],” he said. “If you have a look at other projects like Red Bull 10 years ago, Mercedes seven years ago, it took time for them to be able to fight for championships and to win. In Mercedes' case, they took over Brawn who was world champion. It took five years to become world champion again.

“We have started at the back and far away at the back. We have to be realistic. I know perfectly that it will take time to deliver and to improve. I don't want to say that we don't have to deliver next week. We have to be better next week than today. We have to be better in Bahrain than in Melbourne.

“It's going to be a mid-term project to be in the midfield, it won’t be in one year or two years. Look also at Force India for a good reference and a good project. They were more than at the back. They built up something very strong. They were consistently fifth, fourth in the last two or three seasons. But it took 10 years for them to be at this pace.”

Sauber’s recruitment drive has increased since Vasseur took over from Monisha Kaltenborn last year, though he stressed the process will not be rushed. 

“We moved up from 320 [staff] to more or less 400 today and [then to] 450 perhaps during this season. It’s not easy, and you have to do it step by step. You have to eat and digest and eat and digest. 

“You have to take 20 guys and reorganise a bit the company, then 20 guys more. We have to do it step by step. Renault did it in the last 18 months and we will be able to do it in the future.”

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