Sauber team principal Frederic Vasseur claims their “spiral” of good news over the last year convinced Kimi Raikkonen to drive for them in 2019.
Sauber cancelled a planned Honda engine deal in 2017 and signed a new arrangement with Ferrari – one which gave them the use of a latest-specification engine after spending that season with a year-old unit.
Since then the veterans of the Formula One grid have signed a title sponsorship deal with Alfa Romeo, helped shoot Charles Leclerc to stardom and have made key additions to their team, including Ferrari man Simone Resta as technical director and Audi aerodynamicist Jan Monchaux.
Speaking to Autosport, Vasseur said: “We had Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, we had Charles joining the team.
“We took Jan Monchaux, Simone Resta, brought them into the factory.
“Each week we had good news, it’s like a spiral. The motivation is there, the mood is huge compared to last year, the team spirit.”
Vasseur claimed that the deal with Alfa Romeo has completely changed Sauber’s outlook on recruitment and sponsorship.
“For me, drivers are the same. Good engineers you can motivate with the salary but they love racing and they want to get results,” he explained.
“We’re in a much better position to recruit, to have top guys in every single department. I have the feeling that we’re really attractive as a project.
“Drivers are the same story. Kimi knows it will be difficult for us to better than P7 without an accident [for bigger teams].
“The motivation can come from somewhere else. The fact we’re improving, we’re growing up, we’re building something – I think it’s a huge feeling for all the team members, including drivers.”
Vasseur wants the team to become a consistent top-ten threat, with their current recruitment drive reflecting this.
“We recruited a lot since last year to improve on every single part of the company and it’s paying off,” he said.
“When we started to work at the end of ’17, people joined at the beginning of ’18 and some of them were working on the ’18 car.
“Some of them switched directly to next year’s car. It’s the first results of this recruitment. I hope it will get more and more.”