February 20, 2018 / 2:06 PM / a year ago

Motor racing-Sauber launch catch-up car after dismal 2017

LONDON, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Sauber presented the first Formula One car of their new Alfa Romeo partnership on Tuesday, with a flurry of preceding sponsor announcements pointing also to a sounder future after a dismal 2017 season.

The Swiss-based team finished that campaign last overall, with Swedish driver Marcus Ericsson failing to score any points, after using a 2016 Ferrari engine rather than the latest specification.

Ericsson's previous Mercedes-backed team mate Pascal Wehrlein has since departed, back to the German Touring Car (DTM) series, with Ferrari protege and Formula Two champion Charles Leclerc taking his place.

The Monegasque is seen as a future Ferrari prospect and his arrival, along with the steadying hand of team principal Frederic Vasseur who was appointed in July, has revived confidence.

The new C37 car, with prominent Alfa branding on a red and white livery replacing the previous blue and white, was presented on the team's website (www.sauberf1team.com) and across social media.

"The aerodynamic concept has changed significantly, and the C37 has several new features in comparison to its predecessor," said technical director Joerg Zander.

"We are positive that the new concept offers us more opportunities and will help us to make improvements during the course of the season. The 2018 Ferrari engine will also give us a boost in terms of our performance."

Vasseur said the target for the season starting in Australia on March 25 was clear: "We have to catch up with the field and continue improving our performance during the course of the season.

"The return of Alfa Romeo to Formula One sets another milestone in the team's history, and I am proud that such a historical brand has chosen us for their return to the sport."

Alfa Romeo, a brand in the Fiat Chrysler (FCA) stable which is also run by Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne, have a long history in the sport dating back to the pre-war years and the birth of the world championship in 1950.

The first two world championships in 1950 and 1951 were won by Italian Giuseppe 'Nino' Farina and Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio in Alfa cars, but the Italian marque has been absent for more than 30 years.

Vasseur, who was previously at Renault, said Ericsson would provide experience and accurate technical feedback while Monegasque newcomer Leclerc had shown his talent during a dominant F2 campaign.

Testing starts at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya on Monday. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)

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