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Sauber hoping to surprise rivals with return to midfield

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Sauber's new technical director Jorg Zander wants his team to be able to spring surprises on its opposition this year and re-establish itself in the midfield.

Sauber scored the second-worst result of its 24-year history in Formula One last year as it struggled to tenth in the championship, just one point ahead of the now-defunct Manor F1 team. Historically, the team has run in the midfield and as recently as 2012 scored four podiums in a season on its way sixth in the standings.

New investment should offer the team a better financial platform for 2017, but a supply of year-old Ferrari engines are likely to leave it hamstrung against its opposition. Nevertheless, Zander, who returns to F1 after two years working on Audi's Le Mans project, is targeting a car capable of solid midfield results.

"I want to see a clear improvement compared to last year," he told the Sauber website. "All of us in Hinwil want that. Our objective is to establish ourselves in the midfield. In comparison to last year, we will implement our development plan for the whole season, but we have to be realistic as our reference is at a lower level than the ones of our competitors.

"We are on plan with the C36 [Sauber's 2017 car] and we are optimistic that our current development is heading in the right direction. At the moment it is impossible to make any predictions compared to our competitors due to the new regulations.

"Overall, 2017 will be an important year for us. The structure and process optimizations have to be defined and implemented. These are not procedures that can be implemented through literature or instructions -- these are individual adjustments in which human attributes and culture play an important role. The team has to accept those changes and get comfortable with the new circumstances. That takes time."

Despite the difficulties Sauber is likely to face in moving up the grid, Zander wants to see his team in a position to spring surprises on the opposition this year.

"Together with my technical team, I will start with the 2018 concept soon," he told the Sauber website. "This won't happen too early, as we want to conduct a fundamental analysis of where we stand at the beginning of the 2017 season.

"I want to have a good organized team with satisfied and motivated employees, which becomes a name in Formula One that can spring surprises once in a while. I also want to look after confidence and long-term stability. From what I have seen so far, I am very optimistic that we can achieve that."