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Progress at Sauber

THE Sauber team is hoping to have the Sauber-Petronas C16 ready to test by mid-February with an official launch being planned in Zurich on February 20. This will mean that there will only be time for a week of testing in Spain before the cars have to be despatched to Australia.

The project was seriously delayed because of the problems negotiating a deal to use Ferrari V10 engine, rebadged as Sauber Petronas V10s. The delays are likely to mean that the team will not be fully competitive until the European season at the end of April at Imola.

The Sauber design team at Hinwil is unchanged from last year under chief designer Leo Ress and so the C16 will be an evolution of last year's effective but under powered Sauber-Ford C15. The aerodynamic research has once again been done by Dutchman Rene Hilorst and Briton Mike Jennings. The pair are expected to make a lot of detailed changes to the car this year as they are now able to use half-scale models, following the upgrading of the 40% rolling-road windtunnel at the Schweizerische Flugzeugwerke facility in Emmen, near Lucerne.

Adapting the 046 Ferrari V10 engines to the chassis has not been an enormous problem. The Sauber Petronas (nee Ferrari) has a wider 75-degree v-angle than the 72-degree Ford and it is an inch shorter, but the two units weigh about the same.

The engines are to be prepared in workshops in Maranello, independent of the main Ferrari competition department. This facility will be staffed by engineers from the Ferrari F1 and sportscar programs and from the old Alfa Romeo International Touring Car team. Sauber Petronas engine supremo Osamu Goto is currently splitting his time between Maranello and Hinwil. The Japanese engineer is currently recruiting engineers for Sauber's new engine department, which will be installed in the 60,000sq ft Hinwil facility and should begin producing its own prototype engines in 1998.

Sauber is planning to continue its current arrangement with reserve driver Norberto Fontana, who is expected to continue to race in Formula Nippon in Japan.

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