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Sauber upbeat as fresh investment draws near

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Sauber drivers Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson both feel upbeat amid speculation that the financially-struggling team could be close to securing fresh investment.

Sauber has faced uncertainty for much of the past three years, with the lack of financial backing being reflected in its on-track displays and resulting in salaries being paid late to its staff.

It currently sits 10th in the constructors’ championship without a single point to its name.

Team principal Monisha Kaltenborn said in May she felt confident that these issues could be resolved, and in Austria this weekend, team manager Beat Zehnder spoke of the progress being made.

“Paying salaries definitely helps for the atmosphere in the team,” Zehnder told Reuters.

“Paying the salaries, the outstanding salaries, is part of a comprehensive solution we were still working on. Obviously, there is a change in atmosphere because now everyone believes again that there is a future.

“The crucial thing so far was not to give up and I think we can be very proud of our team here on the track and at home that kept on pushing in our very limited areas.

“There was always light at the end of the tunnel. But as you know, Switzerland has just opened the longest railway tunnel in the world. The light was always there, the tunnel was just massively long. The tunnel is getting shorter now.”

Ericsson and Nasr said that the shift in atmosphere was noticeable at the team, and hope that it will result in the car being updated soon.

“I think it’s going in the right direction, definitely. We’ve passed the most difficult part,” Ericsson said.

“It seems to be better, which is positive, and hopefully the updates in the pipeline are getting closer. I think for everyone in the team it’s been tough, but now it’s looking like it’s going in the right direction.

“[Kaltenborn] hasn’t told me any details about why it’s looking positive. I know it’s been tough for the team, but now it’s in the right way.”

Nasr added: “The situation seems to have got better from what I hear – getting all the employees and the salaries paid it just gives a boost to everyone back at the factory, at the track,” he said. “I’m sure we can soon start updating the car.”

Valtteri Bottas wins chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix

Mark Thompson/Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas won a chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix while six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after getting a late time penalty Sunday.

The Formula One race was interrupted three times by a safety car, and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon – who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.

Hamilton was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Drivers take knee before race

Bottas led all 71 laps in the eighth victory of his career. It was the second consecutive victory in the season opener for the Finn, though he won four months earlier in 2019 after this season’s start was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lando Norris of McLaren F1 celebrates after his first podium finish (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).

Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, but it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.

But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari, and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures – and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria – with third place.

It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium, and his superb final lap was the fastest of a dramatic season opener.

Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third-youngest ever in Formula One.

Valtteri Bottas leads Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).