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'Harmonious' Sauber team is 'vegetating' - pundits

'Harmonious' Sauber team is 'vegetating' - pundits
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Alfa Romeo, which will revert to its Sauber moniker for 2024 as the naming sponsor departs Formula 1, is merely treading water in Formula 1 ahead of the 2026 transition to works Audi status.

Alfa Romeo, which will revert to its Sauber moniker for 2024 as the naming sponsor departs Formula 1, is merely treading water in Formula 1 ahead of the 2026 transition to works Audi status.

That is the concerned observation of two well-known and experienced F1 pundits, including Sky Deutschland commentator Sascha Roos.

Ahead of the 2023 season, he 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.

Ultimately, 2023 turned out to be almost anonymous for drivers Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou as Alfa Romeo only managed to beat the hapless Haas in the constructors' championship.

"The team is vegetating a bit," Roos admits. "This wasn't a good year for them and I'm afraid it won't get any better in the next few years.

"They couldn't find any bright spots at all. Everything is being put into preparing for Audi's entry in 2026."

However, recent rumours suggested Volkswagen-owned Audi may in fact be backtracking on its F1 project.

"That's why I think it's particularly important now that Audi makes a clear commitment to its entry into Formula 1," Roos insisted. "It would also make the work of Andreas easier, who is in the background as CEO recruiting staff to build a powerful team."

As for the highly-experienced veteran Swiss journalist Roger Benoit, a seasoned Sauber observer and critic, he thinks one of the team's biggest problems at present is the "harmonious" driver lineup.

"Since 2021, Alfa-Sauber have been the prime example of a driver relationship that is too harmonious," he told Blick newspaper, referring to Chinese Guanyu and his experienced Finnish teammate Bottas.

"While other teams' drivers avoid each other at dinner, the Hinwil couple are always seen together," Benoit added. "You can't sense a rivalry at all.

"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," he said.

"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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Valtteri Bottas at the Mexico GP on October 26, 2023
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