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Zander: Sauber more motivated for 2017 following takeover

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Recently-appointed Sauber technical director Jörg Zander says that the team is “much more motivated” following the takeover by Longbow Finance last year that secured its long-term future.

Sauber endured a difficult 2016 season that was largely beset by financial concerns, with the ship being steadied when investment group Longbow took over the operation in July.

The deal allowed Sauber to push on with upgrades that helped it overtake Manor in the constructors’ championship and gain a boost in prize money in the process.

The injection of cash also gave Sauber the chance to go on a recruitment drive, with Zander joining after Audi’s decision to end its LMP1 program, having previously served as its technical director.

Speaking in an interview on Sauber’s website, Zander said that he found the F1 team to be much more motivated following the takeover, and expressed his confidence in the operation at Hinwil.

“The impressions are positive. I have received a warm welcome and felt comfortable early on in a well-known environment,” Zander said.

“I am pleased with the attitude of my team. After the frustrations and fears of the recent turbulence, everyone is now much more motivated. There are obviously expectations; the team wants change, stability and direction and that is what we strive to achieve together.

“The technical conditions are ideal. In terms of the development and production we are independent, which enables short development cycles and flexibility. The Sauber wind tunnel is one of the best aerodynamic development sites in professional motorsport.”

Zander has set his sights on a “clear improvement” from Sauber in 2017 after it scored just two points through the 2016 campaign courtesy of Felipe Nasr’s ninth-place finish in Brazil.

“Our objective is to establish ourselves in the midfield,” Zander said.

“In comparison to last year, we will implement our development plan for the whole season, but we have to be realistic as our reference is at a lower level than the ones of our competitors.

“We are on plan with the C36 and we are optimistic that our current development is heading in the right direction. At the moment it is impossible to make any predictions compared to our competitors due to the new regulations.

“Overall, 2017 will be an important year for us. The structure and process optimizations have to be defined and implemented. These are not procedures that can be implemented through literature or instructions – these are individual adjustments in which human attributes and culture play an important role.

“The team has to accept those changes and get comfortable with the new circumstances. That takes time.”

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.