Monaco was a special moment for Sauber’s Charles Leclerc, the 20-year-old the first Monégasque driver on the Monte Carlo grid since Olivier Beretta in 1994 – a space of 24 years.
And while a dramatic brake failure forced him to crash into Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley in the race’s closing stages, Leclerc still outqualified his experienced teammate Marcus Ericsson for the fourth-straight event.
There’s no doubt Sauber is on the up, having scored 11 points, more than double its 2017 total. But behind the scenes, change is ongoing – with its former technical director Jörg Zander gone following the Azerbaijan GP.
And it’s not an uncommon situation in the F1 pit lane at the moment, with other teams shedding their technical chief in a bid for better performance – former chief designer, Ed Wood leaving Williams, while over at McLaren, Tim Goss has been removed as chief technical officer.
Zander’s replacement will be former Ferrari chief designer Simone Resta, the Italian set to join the Swiss squad from July 1.
Team boss Frédéric Vasseur has said Resta’s recruitment is a “significant step ahead of a long term project”, but it speaks volumes about what could happen in the future…
… with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne, who’s led Alfa Romeo back into F1 – very passionate about growing the brand’s appeal.
SOUNDBITE (English) SERGIO MARCHIONNE,
CEO, FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES:
“I've been waiting to see this [partnership] for long, long time. To be able to see that on a car, to be able to see an Alfa red on the thing to see the support of the FCA team and Ferrari in bringing us back is a big, big deal.”
Alfa Romeo’s return to F1 after more than three decades – albeit as a title partner for now with strategic, technical and commercial support – is no doubt a boost to the independent Swiss team…
…which has previous manufacturer team experience, with Sauber under BMW ownership from 2006 to 2009 in the V8 era.
SOUNDBITE (English) FRÉDÉRIC VASSEUR,
TEAM PRINCIPAL, SAUBER:
“Alfa Romeo is not just a matter of sponsorship, it’s much more a partnership. It means that we’ll be much more attractive for everybody, for the media and for the sponsors also but it’s also an mainly huge motivation for the team to have an iconic brand with us.”
The next few months will tell as to whether the Italian car brand goes ahead with a full-scale buyout, but Sauber has top team facilities to build upon. And Resta could be the one to do the due diligence.