Unveiling the Stake Sauber C44 at a glittering event in London, the engineers at Hinwil have undertaken a complete revamp of their car's design philosophy and moved closer to a Red Bull and McLaren concept.
Last year Stake Sauber was hit by stagnant improvements on its car design amid a revamp of its technical team. Parts were regularly making its way to the C43, but very rarely would they make significant improvements to lap time.
It was telling that Valtteri Bottas felt the car was at its best at the opening race in Bahrain finishing eighth, a feat that he would repeat later on in the season at the Qatar Grand Prix.
This year's project was led by Technical Director James Key, who moved from McLaren and replaced Jan Monchaux at the beginning of last year.
Speaking at the launch, he outlined the approach the team is taking as it looks to improve on ninth place in the Constructors' Championship.
"We're going into the season with the most aggressive approach we can," Key explained.
"We will have new parts for race one, we'll have more new parts in those first handful of races to try and steal a margin on our competitors but it's going to be a year-long thing. Like last year, it's going to be a battle."
The most obvious design trait that resembles the Red Bull is the radiator inlets, which feed into the downward sidepod ramp to direct air towards the floor. There is also a lot of work that has been done underneath the bodywork to back up their aerodynamic platform.
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Improving under the hood
"If you took the hood off this car, you'd see a gearbox which is along lines of what we did last year with a few tweaks in certain areas to adapt to what the new car needs. Our colleagues at Ferrari are providing the engine, but forward of that everything is very different," explained Key.
The eagle-eyed will have noticed the new roll-hoop, which had to be changed from the single-pillar design into a more conventional shape due to the increased load tests. This was the result of Zhou Guanyu's dramatic roll-over accident at the start of the 2022 British Grand Prix.
The main area that has been re-engineered by the team is at the front, where Sauber has adopted a pull-rod front suspension similar to Red Bull and McLaren and a push-rod rear.
The advantage of this is to control the 'dive' effect under braking, enabling the car to have a much more consistent aerodynamic behaviour at the front and for the rear ride height to be lower - thereby enhancing the ground effect from the floor.
"The front suspension is very new. Mechanically, it's a compromise, you never design this if you're a front suspension designer just designing a suspension for its own right," said Key.
"That way of doing things is not nice mechanically. You typically have a push-rod which goes in the opposite direction and connects at the top of the chassis. So why have we done it? We've done it because it's better for aerodynamics."
Laying down the ground work
Key admitted that much of the ground work was already done by the engineers at Hinwil before he joined the team, but emphasised the importance of the exploiting the aero platform.
"It basically shows, more than ever with these current generation of cars, that suspension geometry is very much an aerodynamic device, as well as something which just holds the wheels on and connects you to the springs and dampers.
"That was a tough mechanical project and I have to hand it to the team, that all happened before I arrived, they've done a fantastic job because that's not an easy thing to do."
With that in mind, Key expects a closer field after much of the grid was separated by tenths of a second during qualifying for the final round in Abu Dhabi last year.
"I suspect this year we'll continue to see a lot of development. The grid began to converge a lot in the second half of last season," said Key.
"It was super close to the end of the year, which means little steps can make a big difference. So it's going to be another aggressive year and it does present opportunities."