The 2016 Formula One Championship season wasn’t a very strong one for the Sauber team with only one points finish in the 21 races contested, a ninth place for Felipe Nasr in the penultimate round in Brazil.
The two points earned in that race were just enough to put them into tenth place in the constructor’s championship, that until that point was held by Manor, the smallest team on the grid that has since gone into administration.
Clearly this was not the result the Hinwil based squad had aimed for at the start of the season and everyone connected with the team will agree that improvements need to be made in the upcoming 2017 Formula One season.
Part of the plan to make those improvements happen is the return of Technical Director, Jorg Zander, who left the team back in 2007.
Speaking to the team’s official website, Zander spoke of his hopes, expectations and objectives for the coming season…
Jörg, welcome back to Sauber! The first weeks in Hinwil are over, what are the first impressions about the potential and capabilities within the factory? Can you draw a comparison to 2006/2007 yet – your last time at Sauber?
First of all, the impressions are positive. I have received a warm welcome and felt comfortable early on in a well-known environment. I am pleased with the attitude of my team. After the frustrations and fears of the recent turbulence, everyone is now much more motivated. There are obviously expectations; the team wants change, stability and direction and that is what we strive to achieve together. The technical conditions are ideal. In terms of the development and production we are independent, which enables short development cycles and flexibility. The Sauber wind tunnel is one of the best aerodynamic development sites in professional motorsport. The model parts for the wind tunnel tests are created in a short time in our own rapid prototyping with SLS- and SLA-systems. This enables efficient aerodynamic development. In terms of the chassis, we can create all carbon composite structures on our own. A lot has happened in the past years.
Tell us about your tasks as a Technical Director
To begin with, my tasks are the definition and optimization of the technical organizational structure. We have brilliant engineers and technicians here, so we now have to combine these competences and resources according to the requirements. It is important that we optimize our communication and decision processes, so that we can work even more efficiently. Furthermore, my focus is in engineering, mainly leading and guiding the construction as well as development departments. The concept of our racing cars is mainly defined through vehicle dynamics, aerodynamics and vehicle construction. With team work we develop the direction – based on facts. Besides the empirical investigations in the wind tunnel, the vehicle functionalities and dynamics are analyzed and predetermined with the aid of simulations. I want to make sure that these analytical processes for defining the vehicle concepts are connected, so that we can produce results in an efficient way, which is the baseline for vehicle concept decisions. I also want to play a part in contributing to our team with everyone sticking together even more in order to support, exchange ideas and understand each other. Formula One is a team sport!
In your last position you worked in top level endurance motorsport. What are the technical differences between endurance and Formula 1 cars?
In professional endurance motorsport, different types of sports cars with various powertrain technologies are used. These are open and closed prototypes with hybrid technology as well as similar to street-legal GT sports cars – a mixed field. In the WEC, LMP1-H is operated by car manufacturers. On the basis of Equivalence-of-Technology (EoT) different powertrain concepts are possible. That means that different combustion engine concepts (diesel or petrol-driven car) and hybrid systems with energy transmissions up to 8 MJ (Megajoule) per lap are permitted in Le Mans. This is comparable with Formula One on an average GP track with 4MJ. The hybrid energy content is approximately comparable in Formula 1 with the 4 MJ regained energy per lap. The MGU-K of an LMP1-H sports car is fitted at the front axle. With the “boost mode” these cars accelerate with all-wheel drive, which is not possible with a Formula 1 car.
In Formula One the performance is limited by the maximization of the volume flow rate. The LMP1-H cars are also performance limited; they are about 100 kg heavier and have only a defined amount of energy (fuel) available per lap. The development of the WEC vehicles is mainly focused on the race at Le Mans so the cars are especially aerodynamically designed for that race and reach higher efficiency numbers than a Formula One car. The downforce of a Formula One car is significantly higher. Both vehicles only differ slightly in the overall make-up – they are both trimmed on lightweight construction. In WEC and Formula One carbon fibre chassis are used, as well as double A-arms vehicle systems with complex spring and damper elements and high performance carbon brakes. With up to 1000 PS and all-wheel drive the WEC cars are, despite their high weight, quite fast but around 10 seconds slower on GP tracks compared to Formula One.
The 2017 GP season is not just a new start for you, but also for Formula One. A new era with many innovations and regulation changes
Yes. The vehicles will be wider, from 1.80 up to 2 meters. We will also have 25% wider tyres, the front and rear wing will also be wider as well as the diffusor being increased. All-in-all that means more downforce, more grip and therefore faster lap times. The apex speed will be increased as well as the air drag. Therefore, the regulation for the energy recovery will be changed. The car will have a lower top speed, but can brake later due to the higher downforce. The braking distance therefore becomes shorter, which has an impact on the energy recovery. There needs to be different driving profiles and strategies in order to pick up the limited energy of 2 MJ on the MGU-K. The aero concept will again be crucial when it comes to the performance. The cars will look strong because of the wider tyres and the overall length of 2 meters. Just looking at them, you can feel the incomparable dynamic power. The powertrain is sure to play a big role, but at the beginning of the season the chassis, as well as the reliability, will make the difference.
What are the expectations and objectives for the 2017 season?
I want to see a clear improvement compared to last year. All of us in Hinwil want that. Our objective is to establish ourselves in the mid-field. In comparison to last year, we will implement our development plan for the whole season, but we have to be realistic as our reference is at a lower level than the ones of our competitors. We are on plan with the C36 and we are optimistic that our current development is heading in the right direction. At the moment it is impossible to make any predictions compared to our competitors due to the new regulations. Overall, 2017 will be an important year for us. The structure and process optimizations have to be defined and implemented. These are not procedures that can be implemented through literature or instructions – these are individual adjustments in which human attributes and culture play an important role. The team has to accept those changes and get comfortable with the new circumstances. That takes time.
What are your long-term objectives with Sauber?
Together with my technical team, I will start with the 2018 concept soon. This won’t happen too early, as we want to conduct a fundamental analysis of where we stand at the beginning of the 2017 season. I want to have a good organized team with satisfied and motivated employees, which becomes a name in Formula One that can spring surprises once in a while. I also want to look after confidence and long-term stability. From what I have seen so far, I am very optimistic that we can achieve that.
Besides motorsport, what are your hobbies and passions?
I am definitely passionate about my family and the people who are close to me. Besides motorsport my other love is triathlon. If I can, I will make it to the 70.3 Ironman in Rapperswil (Switzerland) in June depending on how much time I have for training. But in July I should be in a good shape for the Olympic distance triathlon in Zurich.