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Sauber F1 team joins Red Bull and McLaren in suspension shift

A shift from push-rod to pull-rod front suspension is one of the most significant changes on the new Sauber C44 Formula 1 car, which was launched in London on Monday evening.

That choice was made by Red Bull and McLaren when the current regulations were introduced in 2022, and new Sauber technical director James Key was still working at the latter team.

The success of Red Bull’s RB18 and RB19 models and McLaren’s surge in form last year inevitably led other teams to examine the option, and Sauber has decided to take the pull-rod route in search of an aerodynamic benefit, in conjunction with a totally new bodywork package.

Key, who started work at Sauber in September, says that the C44 has little in common with its disappointing predecessor.

PLUS: The high-stakes design theory that Sauber hopes is key to 2024 F1 progress

“It is virtually a completely new car, with a few carry-over areas at the rear of the car,” said Key.

“The team had to take an ambitious direction well before I joined. There are many mechanical changes, some of which you can't see at all, but some are very visible.

“The front suspension is completely new, a tough and ambitious project for a team of our size.

“There are many aerodynamic changes, of course, as would be expected given that this remains the primary area of development - so, overall, the car will really look quite different to last year's car.

“We took a lot of new, exciting directions, all of which appear to hold quite a bit of potential, so we're looking forward to seeing them on track.”

James Key, Alfa Romeo F1 Team Technical Director

James Key, Alfa Romeo F1 Team Technical Director

Photo by: Alfa Romeo

Key acknowledged that over the past two years teams have converged in terms of their choice of concepts, while suggesting that there’s still room for different ideas.

“Since 2022, when these regulations came in, the cars have developed very rapidly, and there's a lot of potential in a lot of areas of the car,” he said.

“Whilst those trends will probably continue into year three, there may be people who start bucking the trends as well, and we've got to watch out for that.

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“Some of those areas appear to be progressing quite a lot through the past couple of years, and I'm sure will do so this year as well.

“For example, the front suspension is very different on our new car, as we switched to a pull-rod front suspension, which some other teams have also adopted. This was a choice dictated by aerodynamics, not mechanical reasons.”

Key conceded that it was a challenge to make a bold aerodynamic step while also introducing mechanical changes to the car.

“It is quite an important project to try and get the balance right, but the team has done a fantastic job with a very difficult project to produce something that should function as planned,” he said.

“Of course, aerodynamics dominates, so a lot of the external things that you'll see are for the purposes of generating more efficient downforce.

“The bodywork is a massive battleground in these cars, much more so than in the previous generation.

Sauber C44

Sauber C44

Photo by: Sauber F1 Team

“We can see trends developing there, and the direction we have taken is a lot more extreme than what we did last year.

“It's a new departure for the team as well, but more in line with where these trends appear to be going, and possibly a further step forward - I'm sure some of our competitors have done similar things, which will be interesting to see.

“Of course, underneath the car, the floor is where the majority of downforce is generated. 

"We have quite a different approach, a new concept, in that area, and it seems to be a pretty prolific solution at the moment. All of those things are new, there is a lot more under the skin.”

The new car will be shaken down at a filming day in Barcelona on Friday.

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