Vasseur: Sauber is an Alfa A-team, not Ferrari B-team

Frederic Vasseur (FRA) Sauber F1 Team
© Copyright: Photo4 / XPB Images

Sauber principal Frédéric Vasseur has dismissed suggestions that the team is now just a junior Ferrari squad.

Sauber announced a multi-year technical and commercial partnership with Alfa Romeo in November. Alfa is one of the marques owned and operated by Fiat, Ferrari's parent company run by Sergio Marchionne.

Sauber's former test and development driver Giedo van der Garde suggested last month that this meant the team was now a de facto junior Ferrari squad.

"Thanks to that deal with Alfa Romeo, they are now, of course, Ferrari's B-team," the Dutch driver said. "That's nice for them."

But Vasseur disagreed with that. He said that despite the decision to drop Mercedes protégé Pascal Wehrlein in favour of Ferrari development driver Charles Leclerc in 2018, Sauber was no mere B-team.

"The company's executives want a full-fledged Alfa Romeo team," Vasseur told Auto Hebdo this week. "Even though it has to rely on the Ferrari engine for the moment."

"The goal is not to have a Ferrari B-team, but an Alfa A-team," he insisted.

"There will still be a bridge between the two entities with the driver part, the training part," he said.

Vasseur said it was important for the team to find financial stability after years of declining fortunes. He speculated that the days of independent teams were almost over.

"Personally, in the long run, I do not see the survival of a private team in Formula 1," he said.

"It may have one or two great seasons, such as Force India," he explained. "But at the slightest hint of a crisis, everything can switch.

"[With our partnership with] Alfa Romeo, the team will stabilise."

The new arrangement means that Sauber has been able to spend the off-season recruiting. Auto Motor und Sport says the team will have hired 20 new technical staff by the time pre-season testing begins next month.

"The first began with us on 1 November," Vasseur confirmed. "The others will start step by step ... In many cases, we will only benefit from them in the second half of the season in 2018."

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