Sauber’s F1 dilemma: Waiting game or strategic mishap?

Alfa Romeo, soon to be officially known as Sauber once again, seems to be caught in a peculiar state of limbo. The team, bracing for a major transformation with Audi’s anticipated entry into Formula 1 in 2026, finds itself at a crossroads, according to insights from two distinguished F1 pundits, including Sky Deutschland’s commentator Sascha Roos.

The forecast for Alfa Romeo in the 2023 season, under the watchful eye of Andreas Seidl, was initially optimistic. Roos had envisioned a year of blossoming for the team: “Ahead of the 2023 season, [I] had predicted that with Andreas Seidl staying in the Hinwil factory this year to oversee the Audi transition, the Swiss-based team would ‘blossom’ this year.” Yet, as the season unfolded, this prediction did not materialize. Instead, the team, with drivers Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou, found themselves barely outperforming Haas in the constructors’ championship.

Roos candidly assesses the team’s underwhelming performance, admitting, “The team is vegetating a bit. This wasn’t a good year for them and I’m afraid it won’t get any better in the next few years.” He also highlights the team’s singular focus: “They couldn’t find any bright spots at all. Everything is being put into preparing for Audi’s entry in 2026.” This statement underscores the team’s transitional phase, where current performances seem secondary to future prospects.

Amidst this scenario, rumors of Audi’s potential retreat from its F1 project have surfaced, adding a layer of uncertainty. Roos emphasizes the need for clarity from Audi: “That’s why I think it’s particularly important now that Audi makes a clear commitment to its entry into Formula 1,” he insists. “It would also make the work of Andreas easier, who is in the background as CEO recruiting staff to build a powerful team.”

Roger Benoit, a veteran Swiss journalist and a seasoned observer of Sauber, offers a unique perspective on the team’s dynamics. He critiques the harmonious relationship between the team’s drivers, a stark contrast to the competitive atmosphere in other teams. Benoit observes, “Since 2021, Alfa-Sauber have been the prime example of a driver relationship that is too harmonious.” He further elaborates on the team’s atmosphere: “While other teams’ drivers avoid each other at dinner, the Hinwil couple are always seen together. You can’t sense a rivalry at all.”

Benoit compares the Alfa Romeo duo to other F1 teams where rivalries and tensions are more palpable, suggesting that a lack of internal competition might be affecting the team’s edge. He points out, “There’s Leclerc and Sainz, Hamilton and Russell, Norris and Piastri, Hulkenberg and Magnussen. Verstappen is so dominant that he simply ignores Perez at Red Bull,” and adds, “But Ocon and Gasly have not been able to stand each other since they were young. And Alonso is exercising his dominance at Aston Martin in such a way that the owner’s son Stroll can’t even complain.”

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