A stuttering start in Australia suggested another tough season may be in store for the Swiss squad, but since that Grand Prix, they have only failed to land at least one car in the points on four occasions. They currently sit ninth in the standings, on 18 points, and with Toro Rosso in their sights when the F1 action resumes in Belgium later this month.
But it isn’t just race day where they have improved. Their qualifying pace has been impressive, with rookie Charles Leclerc spearheading their charge this season. The Ferrari protege has reached Q3 at three of the last five races, highlighting Sauber’s ability to battle with the midfield teams.
The progress made since that pointless performance Down Under has delighted Vasseur, with the Frenchman particularly happy with the gains they have made compared to their F1 rivals.
“Yes, I think we are on a good path,” he said. “If you compare with the beginning of the season and the first part of the season - not only Melbourne - but I think we improved a lot, more than 1.5 percent compared to the front of the field. It’s a huge step forward for us now.
“But I know perfectly that the more you move forward the more the steps are difficult. It’s good to have expectation because it’s the best way to put some pressure on the team to put some pressure on the guys, on the drivers - and this is the key point for the team.”
Next season will see the introduction of new aerodynamic regulations, with the simplification of the front wing and modifications to the rear wing, and some teams trialled the new front wing during in-season testing in Hungary.
And Vasseur sees the 2019 rule changes as a huge opportunity for Sauber. He added: “If all the other teams are continuing to push and develop it will be more and more difficult but we also know that the big gain for us will be more next year than this year.
“Honestly, if we finish the championship eighth, ninth or seventh, it’s not a huge difference. There’s a huge change to the regulation next year, we have a great opportunity and we have to consider this as a real challenge.”
The first half of the season ended on a sour note for Sauber, after Leclerc and team mate Marcus Ericsson both failed to finish in the points in Hungary. They trail eighth-placed Toro Rosso by ten points in the constructors’ standings, and will want to bounce back in Spa.