Marcus Ericsson expects the fight in the F1 midfield to be “very tight” in 2016, but hopes Sauber can improve from the eighth place it secured in the Constructors’ championship last year.
The Swiss team managed to bounce back from a pointless 2014 campaign and though its pace eventually tailed off after a strong start Sauber still managed to keep McLaren-Honda at bay.
While Ericsson predicts the Woking outfit will make significant strides in its recovery, that does not mean the Swede and his team intend to fight a rearguard action this year.
“I think in the midfield it will be very tight this year,” Ericsson told F1i. “There will be a lot of teams there fighting and trying to be in a position to score points. I expect obviously McLaren to improve with the budget and strength they have.
“I think it’s good for F1 that Haas has entered, obviously another team, also Manor pushing with a new Mercedes power unit. It will be interesting to see where these guys are but for us as a team we need to look forward. We need to look at the guys ahead and try and catch them. That’s how we grow as a team. That’s where our focus is.”
Ericsson adds that he “hopes” Sauber can challenge Toro Rosso, which finished seventh in the 2015 Constructors standings. Both teams now have a Ferrari power supply but only the Hinwill-based outfit is using the latest power unit specification from Maranello.
The 25-year-old admits Sauber’s hopes and goals are fundamentally linked to the performance level of the new C35, whose introduction was delayed to the second pre-season test in Barcelona.
“Before you know where all other people are and where you are it’s so difficult to set any targets in F1 because it’s so depending on your car obviously.
“But as a team of course we always want to improve. I think last year was still a decent year for us. We scored some points and we were there fighting also to score some Q3s. It was alright but we want to be better, that has to be the goal.”
Sauber is starting the new season on the back foot with technical director Mark Smith leaving the team ahead of the Australian Grand Prix as well as financial difficulties reflected in the late payment of staff wages in February.