Out-going Sauber driver Charles Leclerc has predicted a bright future for the Swiss team after a promising 2018 F1 season.
Sauber started with renewed gusto in 2018 with the partnership with Alfa Romeo and the incoming of Leclerc alongside the experienced Marcus Ericsson. The team were certainly looking to bounce back after few years of drop in performance.
With Frederic Vassuer at the helm, the season did not necessarily started off hugely but as the year went on, the Swiss outfit looked in a much better shape while constantly battling for the Top 10 positions – even ending as the best of the rest.
It most definitely moved itself up from the bottom rug and left behind Williams and McLaren in the development battle, even though the latter finished ahead due to the points scored earlier in the season.
The team did manage to beat Toro Rosso though and nearly caught up with Racing Point, who became their benchmark squad to beat after the outfit’s points scored until Hungary were taken out due to change of ownership.
Sauber looked in a much better shape than the expectation before the season which Leclerc reckons will be useful in 2019 as it steps up to take on the front-end of the midfield group. The Monegasque feels Sauber will be in a great position to fight in the top half.
When asked by the media including FormulaRapida.net if Sauber can eventually challenge the likes of Renault and Racing Point next year for fourth place, Leclerc felt very much as the likely case. “Honestly [yes], they have the package to do so,” he said.
“The people in the team are extremely talented and Fred is managing the team – for me he is a great guy – so I believe in all that they have a very good package. They started also to develop next year’s car very early on, so it is looking good for them at the moment.”
The team scored 48 points in all which is the best they have since 2013 when they scored 57 in that season with Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez. They accumulated 36 points in 2015 with Ericsson and Felipe Nasr, but dipped in performance in 2016 and 2017.
The turnaround has been remarkable with fresh investment, new and experienced people. The 2019 season could bring more laurels as 2007 F1 champion Kimi Raikkonen returns to the team after 18 years with Ferrari junior Antonio Giovinazzi alongside.
Looking at the 2018 season though, Sauber seemed like the only team to make a better step, even though the positions for Renault and McLaren improved. Leclerc pinned it to an overall development for the improvement rather than one single thing.
“I think it is always difficult to pick one bigger influence but I believe it is teamwork,” he said. “I think we have worked extremely well together and that’s what made an amazing season for the team.
“We have grown a lot, myself as a driver, the team as a race car. Obviously, they [Sauber] started the year with not many people and a lot of people came in and we were always on the up, so I believe it is more than one thing.”