January 18, 2016 / 5:03 PM / 2 years ago

Sauber to have old car at first pre-season F1 test

3 Min Read

Sauber Formula One driver Felipe Nasr of Brazil powers his car during the second free practice of the Brazilian F1 Grand Prix in Sao Paulo, Brazil, November 13, 2015.Paulo Whitaker

LONDON (Reuters) - Sauber will take last year's car to the first of Formula One's two scheduled pre-season tests in Spain next month because their new one will not be ready due to late changes in the race calendar, a spokesman for the Swiss-based team said on Monday.

He said Sauber, who have had financial difficulties in recent years and finished eighth of 10 teams in 2015, planned to debut the new C35 car at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya on March 1.

The first four-day test starts at the same venue on Feb. 22.

The opening race in Australia was originally scheduled for April 3, in what would have been the latest start to a season since 1988, but was brought forward to March 20 when the final calendar was published in September.

That meant the start of winter testing, where teams prepare their cars for Melbourne and a record 21-race season, was also advanced.

Some of the smaller privately-owned teams, including Sauber, have suffered cash-flow problems over the winter months in recent years but the team spokesman said the revised timetable was the main reason for the delay.

All teams start designing their cars for the following season to a tight schedule and long before the calendar is finalised but the smaller ones have less flexibility due to their relative lack of resources and budget constraints.

Force India missed most of pre-season testing last year after delays to the build of their 2015 car due to financial difficulties in paying contractors.

Sauber, Force India and Manor have all sought advances on their 2016 championship payments, with Sauber principal Monisha Kaltenborn saying she had made the request because the other two teams had done so and she did not want to be at a disadvantage.

"If you can make your liquidity easier, of course it helps the company," she said in December. "We are not in a position where you can say it doesn't matter at all."

Sauber, who made their F1 debut in 1993, have never won a grand prix as an independent team. Their one race success, in Canada in 2008, came during a four-year ownership by BMW.

Most of the other 10 teams, including U.S.-owned newcomers Haas F1, are expected to launch their 2016 cars immediately before or at the first test -- several of them with online presentations.

McLaren, who are hoping to be much more competitive this year after a woeful start to their new Honda partnership last season, announced on Monday that their MP4-31 car would be unveiled to all online on Feb. 21.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Justin Palmer

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