Sauber: Lap times irrelevant but performance ‘encouraging’


A late run by Zhou Guanyu saw Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber finish third fastest ahead of Red Bull's Max Verstappen on the final day of official pre-season testing at Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir.

The team was quick to play down the achievement and pointed out that it was far too early to make comparisons with their rivals.

However, Sauber technical director James Key conceded that the Swiss outfit's performance was still an encouraging sign of the off-season progress achieved by the squad.

"There’s no point talking about lap times, as each team had its own priorities during testing," explained Key. "We will surely learn more about each other’s performance next week [in the Bahrain Grand Prix].

"Still, the feeling at the end of testing is positive, and we’ll be aiming to move forward in this direction throughout the season.

"It’s challenging to evaluate the full potential, especially with a completely new car," Zhou commented after the end of the session. "We’ll continue working and making strides over the next few days.

"We feel good and will use the remaining days to learn and find margins for improvement," he added. "However the true performance and how we rank compared to the other teams is yet to be seen until the first qualifying and race."


That first Grand Prix will be here before we know it, with first practice for the Bahrain season opener just six days away.

For now, Zhou was pleased by what they had achieved over the three days as a whole. “We had another good day where we focused a lot on our long runs and managed to complete a second full race distance.

"We got through our programme and experimented with various setups and configurations to draw our conclusions," he added.

Unfortunately His team mate Valtteri Bottas didn't have quite such a trouble-free time on Friday, as he had been in the car when the second red flag of the week came out for a dislodged drain cover at turn 11.

"The red flag cost us quite some running time. Ending the session with some precautionary checks resulted in a few missed test items and laps, but we still managed to get through our planned priorities," said the Finn.

"It’s still quite difficult to evaluate the true performance and the competitive field, but we are confident in the data we collected. Now, it’s all about analysing, learning and improving ahead of the race weekend.”

Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Sauber C44. 23.02.2024. Formula 1 Testing, Sakhir, Bahrain, Day Three. -, EMail: © Copyright: Bearne / XPB Images

Key said they had learned a lot from the three days of testing. "Much like every other team we came with a list of items we wanted to tick off, and many new bits we wanted to get to know better.

"The C44 ran as it should, completing about 380 laps across three days – a testament to the good job done by the team back home in Hinwil during the winter. Everything seemed to be running as expected.

"There were no surprises in the garage, and despite having to cut Valtteri’s session short earlier today due to the red flag and to run some precautionary checks, we still managed to achieve all that we had planned.

"Overall, it’s been three productive days full of learnings for our team, and all the data gathered will provide a solid foundation to work on ahead of the first race of the season."

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