With Audi fuelling rumours that their F1 project is either behind schedule or indeed the current board is getting cold feet about joining the sport, Sauber-Alfa Romeo have sought to dispel the murmurings and claim the German manufacturer is on target.
Yet the silence from Audi on the matter is just plain weird.
Sauber deflect Audi rumours
Sauber chose not to nominate a team principal this season but their ‘Team Representative’ Alan Bravi recently attempted to clarify the situation before the Sau Paulo Grand Prix.
“The commitment is there,” he said. “This commitment comes from a decision not only of the board of Audi but also the advisory board of Audi and the Supervisory Board of Audi/Volkswagen.
“Why there is a lack of communication is simple. We are Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake.
“So until the end of the year, we have certain limitations in communicating about the team, about the future, about the involvement of Audi, and we fully respect Alfa Romeo for this and we don’t want to make any kind of announcement or more than what is strictly related to the race and the Championship.”
Audi remain silent with no comment
This of course is Bulls**t because Audi are capable of speaking for themselves and for the very reasons Bravi states, why then is Sauber-Alfa Romeo being forced to comment.
At the end of this season Sauber will part company with Alfa Romeo and the team is expected to compete is just Sauber for 2024. Audi are scheduled to move from their current partial ownership to complete a full takeover of the Swiss based team and participate under the German brand in 2026.
Bravi concluded, “We are working hard to develop the structure of the team.
“We have a strong recruitment plan in place. James Key [Technical Director] is one, but we have on a weekly basis new appointments.
Alfa Romeo Sauber performance worse than expected
“And it’s not a matter of, you know, the involvement of Audi in financing the team or sustaining this development process” claims Bravi.
Audi is currently owned by two entities and the governance transition Audi have set out, Bravi claims will continue over the next two seasons before Audi take full control.
At present Alfa Romeo have had a poor season with a points total of just 16 with two F1 weekends remaining. The team are ahead of Haas who have 12 points and are now behind a resurgent Alpha Tauri who are five points ahead of the Swiss team.
Last season Alfa Romeo racked top a total of 55 points and finished 6th in the constructors’ championship, yet their 2023 car has filed to deliver in spectacular fashion.
Sauber C44 a revolution not evolution
The woeful results now have forced a rethink within the team and Alumni Bravi now states the C44 car will “not be an evolution of this year’s car”.
Bravi revealed the team have exhausted their attempts to make the C43 car work, but have hit the end of the road.
“It’s not a matter of car balance; it’s the overall package that we need to improve.
“We are lacking grip, especially in high-speed corners. This has been one of our weakness points this season.”
Sauber new appointments in pipeline
When Ferrari snatched Fred Vasseur from Sauber at the end of last season, Sauber in turn went hunting and agreed with McLaren that they could recruit the papaya team boss Andreas Seidl. He in turn brought back James Ket as Technical Director to bring around a turnaround in the team’s performance.
“We are really happy about having James on board,” Bravi stated. “Next year’s car will not be an evolution of this year’s car, because we think that there are some limits in this concept that we cannot exploit further.
“We will have a completely new car from chassis to suspension, everything, all the areas.”
Sauber have other key appointments in the pipeline and they will have input for next year’s car as Bravi reveals.
Sauber concept to be ditched
“We are working hard; the group is growing. We have new appointments that are joining, and that will be able to contribute also to next year’s car, but the answer will be given to all of us next year in Bahrain.”
Mercedes are following a similar path as they ditch the concept they formed for 2022 and continued with this season. The problem for both teams is the rest of the field have settled on a design philosophy and have been updating and fine tuning both this season and last.
Of course Alpha Romeo and Mercedes will have gained a good amount if knowledge from running this season, but will be forced to find their baseline from scratch in Bahrain testing in February.
This will not be straightforward and while this will be difficult for Mercedes for a team like Sauber the learning curve will be much steeper.
Strange Sauber driver announcement
With the persistent paddock whispers suggesting the Audi project is in some kind of difficulty, Sauber can for now just hope the contract they have signed will be fulfilled by their new German partners.
At present 2024 is set to be the first season in F1 history with no rookies on the grid unless Williams replace Logan Sargeant and Sauber have no home for a rookie either.
Yet Alumni Bravi also recently revealed in a somewhat mystic kind of way:
“Despite the fact that we confirmed our driver lineup for 2024, Theo Porchaire will remain as one of our drivers and we are now looking for him what will be the best racing programme to keep racing shape,” Alunni Bravi told the media.
Three drivers – 2 cars???
“But he’s part of our driver lineup, we will have three drivers next year – not two official race drivers and one reserve.”
How Sauber intend to manage three official drivers rather than the traditional two is yet to be seen, but Porchaires recent outing in Mexico was less than informative.
The Frenchman’s first F1 appearance of 2023 was effectively over before it began at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, as he made it out of the garage but was unable to set a time due to a brake-by-wire issue on his car.
Bravi confirms Pourchaire will have another FP1 outing at the final F1 race weekend in Abu Dhabi.