Zhou Guanyu, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber C44 during the Saudi Arabian GP at Jeddah Street Circuit on Friday March 08, 2024 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Sam Bloxham / LAT Images)

Formula 1 News: Saudi Arabia a wake-up call for Sauber & Audi

(GMM) The Saudi Arabian GP was a “wake-up call” for the Swiss Sauber team, now German owned, formerly known as Alfa Romeo.

For 2024, in preparation for a full Audi takeover by 2026, Sauber’s naming deal with Alfa Romeo lapsed, resulting in the awkward ‘Stake’ and ‘Kick’ identities.

The new neon-green car, however, is so far only better than the crisis-struck Alpine team – with both outfits an average of over 2 seconds a lap slower than pacesetters Red Bull.

But amid the switch to Red Bull-like pullrod front suspension, and news that Audi’s 100 percent acquisition has now gone through, Sauber also has other problems so far this season – like botched pitstops and crashes.

Referring to the new suspension, Auto Motor und Sport magazine noted: “Sauber does not seem to be able to exploit its full potential yet.”

Roger Benoit, a veteran Swiss journalist for Blick newspaper, has been repeating for months – even years – that the fundamentals at Sauber need radically improving.

“What can be changed and improved as quickly as possible with a view to 2026?” he asks. “The CEO (Andreas) Seidl finally has to go to the front line and take responsibility,” Benoit added, referring to Seidl’s so far mainly factory-based leadership.

“The fans can no longer hear why something goes wrong every time,” he said. “Conclusion: either the C44 is too slow, or the two drivers are.”

Andreas Seidl, CEO, Sauber Motorsport
Andreas Seidl, CEO, Sauber Motorsport

Indeed, Sauber is so far reluctant to give any signs about whether the contracts of Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou will be extended beyond 2024 – let alone into the Audi era.

Finn Bottas, a former Mercedes race winner, finished second to last both in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, with his Chinese teammate dead last in Jeddah in the wake of his big practice crash.

“Jeddah has to be a wake-up call for us,” Bottas, 34, said. “It’s only the second race and we still have a few things in the pipeline, but we definitely have to improve.”

Valtteri Bottas, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber
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