After a strong start with the C34 car, the financially-struggling Swiss team stagnated throughout the season due to a lack of development and looks set to finish ahead of only the crisis-struck McLaren-Honda and backmarker Manor.
“We knew that we would have a difficult season,” admitted Brazilian rookie Felipe Nasr, “but we realised the potential of the car with our limited budget.”
So for 2016, Sauber has signed up the former Caterham and Red Bull technical director Mark Smith, who Nasr says is heading a radically different project.
“We understand what is necessary to make progress,” said Nasr. “All I can say is that the plans for next year’s car look very different to what we have now.
“The current car and last year’s car are very similar, but the new project is much more aggressive,” he revealed.
“It is Mark Smith who decided on this approach. With the current car it would have been difficult to improve, so we have decided to change the philosophy,” added Nasr.
Nasr’s Swedish teammate, Marcus Ericsson, also backs Smith’s plan.
“To get more than we have now, we have to take risks,” he admitted. “We have a small team so we cannot afford to be conservative — we need to try something new.
“With our limited resources, I think it is the right thing to do,” Ericsson added.
However, 2016 could still be a difficult season for Sauber, as the similarly-small Force India is a long way up the road, while McLaren has the might of Honda behind it and Manor is switching to Mercedes power.
“Everybody is trying to improve,” agreed Nasr, “and not just Sauber, McLaren and Manor. All I can say is we have sacrificed part of this season in the hope of having a better car next year.”