Launch week has commenced this morning, with Sauber tweeting the first photo of their 2017 challenger – the C36 – which sports a stunning new livery. Sauber celebrate 25 years in the sport this season, and their paintshop have crafted a suitably striking blue, white and gold livery to commemorate the milestone.

The colour scheme may well have proved an early hit with fans – even if some have dubbed it a Ligier – but it does potentially mask some looming issues on Sauber’s horizon, despite last years eleventh-hour investment.

sauber-c36

The Hinwil based team eventually finished 10th in the 2016 Constructors standings, after narrowly defeating Manor. Felipe Nasr’s points haul in Brazil proved decisive in the tussle and with Manor having since slipped into administration, failure to secure this lucrative tenth spot would likely have seen Sauber face a similar fate.

It’s no secret that the team are seriously cash-strapped. It has seemingly been this way since BMW pulled out of F1. They had built up an operation on a manufacturer scale during their stint and their exit meant that Sauber suddenly had to re-learn what it was like to be an independent team on a shoe-string budget.

Difficult to do when you have been operating like a manufacturer for four years.

Sponsors and high profile partners are critical to small teams and while the C36 looks beautiful, I cannot help but notice the void of sponsor logos on the car. F1 sidepods are prime real estate as far as commercial bigwigs are concerned and Sauber’s are bare. Engine covers are the next best location for brands. A “25 Years” logo may be good fan service, but it certainly doesn’t generate that all important revenue.

Engine covers are the next best location for brands. A “25 Years” logo may be good fan service, but it certainly doesn’t generate that all important revenue.

Minor partners can be seen in less prominent areas of the car, yet these are a far-cry from the revenue-rich title sponsorships that are the life-blood of an independent team. Martini’s influence at Williams is no-doubt crucial. Heck, they are even partially responsible for the return of Felipe Massa to the cockpit this year.

Would I buy a model replica of the C36? Absolutely. It is a beautiful car, with aerodynamic details that far more technical minds than me will be analysing long into this evening. It certainly reveals far more about F1 in 2017 than last week’s FW40 images offered. I’m not a huge fan of the shark fin, but it seems that we will be seeing plenty more of those in the coming week. At least it’s better than a stepped nose.

My only concern is for Sauber’s finances. Given that they are running a 2016 specification Ferrari powertrain this season, maintaining pace in the development race could be decidedly challenging. Poor performance on track will make Monisha Kaltenborn’s job of securing further sponsorship all the more challenging.

Let’s hope their new investors, who entered the fray last year, have deep pockets to subsidise a lack of income. If we all buy Tropicana, it might just allow Sauber to breathe a little easier.

 

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