Ferrari will help Sauber emulate Force India
Sauber can emulate Force India's Formula 1 giantkilling now it has more Ferrari support, but needs three-to-five years to get there reckons team principal Frederic Vasseur.
While Force India has held fourth in F1's constructors' championship for the past two seasons and has been in the top six in the teams' standings every year since 2013, Sauber was bottom of the pile last season and has gone backwards since its recent high of sixth in '12.
But Sauber is now becoming a Ferrari junior team, running Maranello protege Charles Leclerc, getting latest-specification Ferrari engines and securing Ferrari stablemate Alfa Romeo as title sponsor.
Vasseur thinks those ingredients will eventually allow Sauber to match what Mercedes-affiliated Force India has achieved lately.
"Force India is a good model because they are working with Mercedes more or less as we are working with Ferrari," Vasseur told Autosport.
"They are working with drivers, they are working on collaborations, and working on the engine and some other parts, and it is more or less the same size as Sauber.
"It is a good example of what we could achieve and what could be the project."
He underlined that Force India had not reached its current 'best of the rest' status overnight.
"It took time for Force India to deliver, and you remember the old times when they were Spyker, they were struggling to be in the top 10," said Vasseur.
"They had a long-term project, something serious, and year after year they came back onto the pace and now they are quite consistent.
"We have to take things the same way. We have to be patient. It is a three-to-five year project.
"It is not that you will sign an engineer from Ferrari or Mercedes, then next week the car will be much better.
"When you are outside the business it is sometimes not easy to understand, and you may have the feeling that you can buy performance.
"Without the budget you won't fight with Mercedes, but you need to have a long-term project, you need to know where you need to go and how you have to do it."
He believes getting back into the points regularly is a sensible short-term goal for Sauber in 2018 after it spent most of last season at the very back.
"We were more or less far away from the guys in front of us, even if we closed the gap a little bit over the final races," Vasseur admitted.
"The first target for me was to close the gap because we have to come back into the race. We have to be able to fight with the guys around us.
"I think we will be able to close the gap.
"Then it is difficult to know if we will fight for P8, P9 or P10. More will be difficult.
"But it will depend also on the other teams and their projects."