(Photo credit: Artes Max)
As predicted in my article last year, Sauber endured another awful season in 2017. Formula 1's only Swiss team struggled throughout the campaign and consistently ran at the tail of the field. They only finished in the points on two occasions, and one of those was due to a crazy race in Azerbaijan.
A shake-up in the regulations didn't provide the jump up the pecking order that Sauber required to be competitive once again. A combination of what was probably the worst chassis on the grid, a year-old Ferrari power unit and little development saw them begin and end the year as the slowest package in the paddock. Not even Pascal Wehrlein, a Mercedes young driver who could've ended up driving for the Silver Arrows, could drag the car into the points regularly.
As for Ericsson, the less said about him the better.
The biggest cause for optimism for Sauber in 2018 is undoubtedly their new driver, Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari young driver academy member joins the team after dominating Formula 2 last year. The last driver I saw school that series to the same degree was a certain Lewis Hamilton, and we all know what he's achieved since. However, all is not good news on the recruitment front, as instead of retaining the services of Pascal Wehrlein, a man who scored all of Sauber's points in 2017, the Hinwil outfit have opted to keep Marcus Ericsson.
Ericsson hasn't scored a point in F1 since 2015 and his on-track blunders have been well-documented, but his financial backing seems to have given him diplomatic immunity. Leclerc is one of just two rookies on this year's grid but will attract a lot of attention thanks to his so-far deserved reputation. It'll be interesting to see how well the Monegasque will handle a series in which the machinery isn't equal for each driver, but I'd back him to succeed and have a solid first season of Grand prix racing.
So far in testing, Sauber have been solid if not a little unspectacular. Both Leclerc and Ericsson have struggled in the cold, rainy and sometimes snowy conditions in Barcelona, but they're far from on their own in that respect. Their Ferrari engines, now with current season specs, have proven to be reliable and decent in a straight line. However, their overall lap times have been near the bottom of the charts, suggesting that the chassis is still behind most of their competitors.
With a hot prospect on board and Alfa Romeo money being injected into the team, 2018 could well be the start of Sauber's recovery. But for now, it's difficult to see them being anything other than the team that regularly brings up the rear. In terms of overall pace, they have remained fairly static, so it'll be difficult for them to catch up with the field. However, I do expect them to be able to challenge Haas, Toro Rosso and potentially Williams on their day.
Where points are concerned, Sauber will have to rely on the strategical genius that earned Wehrlein an excellent eighth in Spain last year, or hope for a storming drive by Leclerc to make it into the top 10. Aside from that, only the weather can be their saving grace, because the C37 likely won't be.
But how do you think Sauber will perform in 2018? Let us know in the comments below!