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Interview with Sauber team boss Frédéric Vasseur

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Interview with Sauber team boss Frédéric Vasseur
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How do you explain the clean miracle?

V asseur: It is the combination of many factors. First, we have the current Ferrari engine. That is a huge step forward compared to last year. In terms of engine performance and motivation. The team knows that we have an excellent engine and therefore the same basis as our competitors. That made us much more attractive to partners. Second, we had a strong driver pairing. Ericsson has improved tremendously. He worked hard on himself over the winter. Charles is the rookie of the year. Thirdly, we increased our aerodynamics department by 40 people and nominated a new boss in Jan Monchaux. Fourth, we are well on the way to restructuring our team. And finally, the partnership with Alfa Romeo helped us, not just because of the money. It makes us visible, interesting for other partners and good people whom we want to bring into the team. It gives the whole project a serious look and has sparked a dynamic that takes us further.

Were you surprised that the success came so quickly? Many other teams are hiding behind three- or five-year plans.

Vasseur: I don't believe in that. I didn't want to stay in the same state as last year for four years. And let's be honest: The step from 10th to 8th place is easier than from 8 to 6 or 6 to 4. I know that every next step will be more difficult. Still, we can be proud. We are now at the front end of the midfield, although we stopped aerodynamics development very early in favor of 2019.

What influence did aerodynamics have in small instead of large packages to develop further?

Vasseur: We are practically forced to do so due to production bottlenecks. Clean is still a small team. It's difficult for us to produce large aero upgrades in a short amount of time. So we made a virtue out of necessity. It was more efficient for us to bring small stages of development to the car in every race. We made this decision before the season started. I also don't know whether that's the key to our good development curve. Much more I believe that we have a good correlationbetween the wind tunnel and the racetrack. The upgrades practically always met expectations along the way. That will also help us in the future. We know that we can rely on our tools and simulations.

ams
Sauber aspired to the top in 2018. In 2019 they want to go further ahead in the midfield.
How close do you want to be to Ferrari in the future? As close as HaasF1 or with more distance?

Vasseur: We concentrate on ourselves and don't look at HaasF1. We know that we still have weaknesses and that we are too small in some areas, such as production. It is important for us that we use our greatest asset. This is our wind tunnel. We must get maximum benefit from this. That is why we will always develop the outer skin of the car ourselves. And also the things for which we need a lot of time in terms of production. Ferrari can release many components late because they have a large production capacity. If we were to rely on your design, we would not be able to manufacture the parts on time.

You upgrade cleanly. How difficult is it if you don't know where Formula 1 is going after 2020 and what budget cap is really going to come?

Vasseur: Honestly, I don't care how high it is Cost cap will be. We're miles below that anyway. That's why I can upgrade the team without any risk. Whatever is decided there will not influence our company philosophy. Being small, and comparing myself to Force India, isn't such a bad thing. That creates a very special team spirit. It's easier to get 400 people involved than 1,000.

What will Kimi Raikkonen bring to the team?

Vasseur: We will have a strong team of drivers next year too. Antonio showed in the Friday training sessions that he gives good feedback from the car. Kimi will bring us the reference to a top team and a lot of experience. That's a strong combination.

Does he know that seventh places at Sauber count like a victory that hemaybe three times fewer engineers on the car?

Vasseur: He loves racing and he likes the atmosphere in our team. I am sure that he will also feel comfortable in the small group.

How difficult was the choice between Giovinazzi and Ericsson for you?

Vasseur: The choice was more between Raikkonen and Ericsson.

The interview was held on Saturday (November 10th, 2018) before the Brazilian GP.

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