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Sauber chief insists team are 'not far behind' F1 frontrunners

Sauber chief insists team are 'not far behind' F1 frontrunners

Sauber chief insists team are 'not far behind' F1 frontrunners

Sauber chief insists team are 'not far behind' F1 frontrunners

Sauber technical director James Key has said that an ‘immensely tight grid’ has given him optimism for the team’s prospects in 2024.

The team fell from sixth to ninth in the constructors’ championship in their final season with the Alfa Romeo name, as drivers Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu could only manage 16 points between them in the C43.

However, the Swiss outfit have been preparing in the background for the arrival of Audi in 2026, with the appointment of former McLaren man Key being a visible sign of progress.

Speaking with Autosport, Key said that a performance differential of 1.5% between world champion Max Verstappen and Red Bull and the midfield this year will bode well for next season, suggesting that the small gains will be valuable.

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Sauber technical director James Key is optimistic for the team for 2024
The team finished ninth in the constructors' championship this season

Key: 'Sauber not far behind frontrunners'

“It's an immensely tight grid,” said Key.

“Unless you really track the numbers it's not obvious from outside, because the pecking order is still similar. But if you look at the lap times, 1.5 per cent overall, it means we're all at 98.5 per cent of the quickest car. And sometimes it's less than that.

“I won't bang on about this, but if you look at an overlay between let's say, us and Mercedes or Red Bull, it's just a few corners, a little bit of braking or something.

“It's not like this massive difference you used to see with a car that was in sort of P8/P9 position, compared to a car which is in P1/P2. The difference was very stark just a few years ago, now it's incredibly close.

Key believes the close grid will boost the team's chances for the new seaspn

“So that suggests if we get everything right, both at the track and at the factory in our decisions on development, decisions on the car, then there's plenty more opportunity there.

“Everyone's in the same boat. But there's no reason to believe we are stuck in this position at all, I believe we can definitely move further forward.

“And if you look at that band of, I guess it's P5/6 at the moment really down to P10, it's immensely close. In that respect there's every reason to be optimistic that we can go further forward."

READ MORE: Bottas admits being in denial as Hamilton's Mercedes F1 team-mate

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