Sauber's new challenger

THE Sauber team unveiled its C18 chassis last week at the Jean Tinguely museum in Basle, and the Swiss team was keen to play down any hopes of any big leap forward in terms of results. The car is an evolution of the C17 which features an upgraded version of the Ferrari-based Sauber Petronas V10 engine, codenamed the SPE 03A. It will be driven by Jean Alesi and the team's new signing Pedro Diniz. The arrival of the Brazilian multimillionaire in the team is signalled by the arrival of Parmalat - Diniz's major sponsor - on the Sauber's rear wing, but there is no sign of rumored sponsorships from Swissair and from the watch-making company SMH. Diniz is understood to have brought as much as $9m with him and the savings on Johnny Herbert's salary means that his signing has been worth around $12m to the team. This should allow the team to invest in the future, while the Ferrari engines - which account to around 30% of Sauber's budget - are paid for.

"We have a very good budget," said Alesi at the launch, "but that is decimated when you pay to rent an engine." The Frenchman said that he expects the championship to be much the same as in 1998 and said it would be "amazing" if Sauber could improve on its sixth position in the Constructors' Championship.

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