Sauber team principal Frederic Vasseur has suggested that it will take more than “one or two years” for the team to return to Formula 1’s competitive midfield.

Embarking on its first year with newly signed title sponsor Alfa Romeo, Sauber has been optimistic that it can improve upon the performance shown during a 2017 season in which it finished last in the constructors’ championship.

The team’s 2018 challenger, the C37, is a heavily redesigned car versus its predecessor. The closer ties with Ferrari courtesy of the Alfa Romeo tie-up means that the team is now powered by current specification Ferrari engines.

However, Vasseur has stated that a return to the midfield battle will not be instantaneous and that the team and title sponsor are being pragmatic when setting expectations.

“It’s going to be a mid-term project to be in the midfield, it won’t be in one year or two years,” he said.

“Look also at Force India for a good reference and a good project. They were more than at the back. They built up something very strong. They were consistently fifth, fourth in the last two or three seasons. But it took 10 years for them to be at this pace.

“We have started at the back and far away at the back. We have to be realistic. I know perfectly that it will take time to deliver and to improve.

“I don’t want to say that we don’t have to deliver next week. We have to be better next week than today. We have to be better in Bahrain than in Melbourne.”

Sauber’s progress has recently been hindered by financial concerns, with the team struggling for resources as a result. The Alfa Romeo partnership brings greater financial stability to the team.

As a result, Sauber has recently been able to recruit more personnel. In September last year, the team had a workforce of 320 people. Vasseur now estimates that number to be around 400 personnel, with that figure anticipated to grow to 450 during the year.

“It’s not easy, and you have to do it step by step,” said Vasseur of the recruitment process. “You have to eat and digest and eat and digest. You have to take 20 guys and reorganise a bit the company, then 20 guys more.

“We have to do it step by step. Renault did it in the last 18 months and we will be able to do it in the future.”