Sauber left China with one badly damaged car and one which had fallen from first to tenth during the race. But the race gave Sauber renewed confidence they are heading in the right direction.
“From a technical point of view, China was a successful weekend for our team,” said head of track engineering Tom McCullough.
“We had taken some measures before that race which proved to be effective. We now have a direction, and we know what has to be done.”
Nico Hulkenberg led the race early on but poor pace on the soft tires and his final set of medium tires saw him fall to the bottom of the points places.
“It was quite a mixed race with mixed emotions,” said Hulkenberg. “It was obviously very nice to be leading again, and to be at the front battling with the top teams.”
“I had a reasonable start and some nice battles in the first couple of laps. I was able to gain some positions, but, somehow, towards the end of the race, we were losing or lacking a little bit of pace.
“Once you are in the lead or second you understandably hope for more. Nevertheless, it might not have been the true picture, as we were racing out of sequence with other people who were starting on soft tires.”
Hulkenberg reached the top ten shootout for the first time this year in qualifying. But rookie team mate Esteban Gutierrez was knocked out in the first round at the beginning of a tough weekend which ended with him receive a five-place grid penalty for crashing into Adrian Sutil.
On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.
And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.
Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.
The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.
“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.
“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.
“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”
A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.