Sauber's new technical director James Key reckons it is still possible to turn the team's poor season around, and has begun an "ambitious" program to get his squad back on the pace.
After impressing in preseason testing, Sauber has had an abject start to 2010, its cars stuck in the midfield and struggling for reliability. Key has joined the team to replace the retiring Willy Rampf, having previously overseen Force India's transformation from backmarker to top-10 contender. After a month in his new post, Key is optimistic that it is not too late to rescue Sauber's 2010 campaign.
When asked if he felt major improvement this year was possible, Key replied: "I believe it is, because we now know what we need to do with the current car. However, for some issues there are no quick fixes. Some current characteristics of the car need to be developed to produce new characteristics, which takes time.
"So, we will work as quickly as possible to turn that around. Targets have been set and they are very ambitious. It's certainly possible to move up the grid, but the competition is fierce so we have to do everything we can to develop quicker than they do."
He said there is no mystery about Sauber's current shortcomings, and that efforts to address them were already under way before he joined.
"The race weekend in China really helped, because I was able to see the car running and talk to the drivers and people at the track in more detail," said Key. "From all of that, I am forming a plan of the way we go forward, which fundamentally is attacking our known weaknesses and investigating areas we don't understand so well yet.
"The good news is the team is well aware already of some of the deficits that the car has compared to where it should be. I've been able to reinforce that and introduce a few other directions and ideas as well."
Key reckons the root of Sauber's difficulties is the uncertainty that followed BMW's withdrawal and the abortive Qadbak buyout last winter, before founder Peter Sauber stepped in to guarantee the team's future. He believes its subsequent downsizing from a well-funded works outfit to a lower-budget independent team also meant a period of adjustment.
"The team is still recovering from its uncertain situation in the second half of 2009," said Key. "It requires a slightly new approach to the way certain areas work to make better use of the size the team is now."
He hopes to avoid a repeat of Sauber's current situation by making early headway on 2011, without compromising this year's recovery push.
"Work on the 2011 car has started already," said Key. "I have a schedule in mind of how we need to split the balance between the development of this year's and next year's car, which fits the structure of the team."