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Sauber F1 team's reaction time a major weakness, says Bottas

Valtteri Bottas reckons the key weakness Sauber must address is the time taken between the team identifying gains in the wind tunnel and actually bringing upgrades to Formula 1 races.

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo

Bottas left Mercedes to join the Sauber-run Alfa Romeo team (now renamed Stake) for the return of ground effect in 2022.

He enjoyed a strong start to the campaign, scoring points in seven of the opening nine grands prix, as the Swiss squad pipped rivals by hitting the new 798kg minimum car weight limit out of the box. 

But the team and driver fell back thereafter by losing out in the development race, with Alfa finishing the season in sixth before falling to ninth (only ahead of Haas) in 2023.

This came despite the gradual takeover from Audi, which has enabled the team to finally spend up to the budget cap. 

Ahead of Audi formally returning to the grid in 2026, Bottas says the team must speed up its reaction time when identifying areas to improve in the wind tunnel.  

Speaking exclusively to Autosport, the Finn said: “For us at the moment, the way we can turn around upgrades [is a key area that needs to be addressed]. 

“At the moment, we find something in the wind tunnel, how long it takes to actually get it in the car... That's, I would say, one quite big thing compared to some other things.” 

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C43

Photo by: Alfa Romeo

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C43

The team has hired ex-McLaren technical chief James Key. Meeting for dinner for the first time, Bottas relayed to Key that chassis balance and aerodynamic characteristics also needed improving. 

Bottas continued: “Mechanically, a few things here and there in terms of balance tools, but then also aero side [need work].  

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“[Key]'s seen all the numbers and the aero behaviour of the car, the yaw and roll. He's got fresh in his mind how the McLaren [aero] maps look like. So, he's seen some things that he definitely agrees that there's room for improvement. 

“Of course, the mind of a guy who's been in that kind of role starts to roll and lots of ideas are coming. I like him as a person.  

“He seems really motivated to deliver and I think he obviously wants to do well.” 

After a five-year stint at eight-time constructors’ champion Mercedes, which yielded 10 GP wins, Bottas says there was a noticeable drop-off in terms of facilities upon arriving at the Hinwil-based outfit.  

He continued: “Some machinery is a bit outdated. But I think the team is all sorted at the moment trying to make sure that we don't have a deficit on that side. But I could notice a difference.  

“The good thing is the wind tunnel is very good. The amount of ovens where you're curing the carbon and stuff like that. And then also human power – way less people actually laminating stuff.”

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