Sauber head of track engineering Xevi Pujolar admits the last 10 laps of the Brazilian Grand Prix were “quite hard” to experience from the pit wall, with Felipe Nasr on the verge of opening the team’s 2016 point tally.

The Brazilian eventually held on to ninth place, which is enough to lift the Swiss outfit past Manor and up into 10th place in the Constructors’ championship.

Nasr was even sixth before the final re-start in a rain-hit race that saw two red flags and five Safety Cars, but the 24-year-old then had to deal with faster rivals on fresher rubber charging through.

“For Felipe, it was quite hard many times as our tyres were getting older and it was getting more difficult out there,” Pujolar said. “It was just managing the pace, how much you can push and it was getting quite dangerous especially up the hill.

“For us at the end it was better to stay with the extreme-weather tyres and keep position. When fast cars were coming from behind we told Felipe ‘Don’t worry about him, let him go’.

“The last 10-15 laps, it was quite hard because you could see drivers like Alonso coming much faster but we had Ocon and Kvyat making a bit of a barrier and that helped us.

“Our engineers were talking to the driver and I was scared even on the last lap with our car, just don’t do anything wrong, don’t say anything on the radio until he crosses the line.”

Having left Toro Rosso after the opening grands prix of the current campaign, Pujolar was Sauber’s first high-profile recruit following the team’s change of ownership over the summer.

The Catalan has been followed by Nicolas Hennel de Beaupreau, who was signed as head of aerodynamics, Ruth Buscomte, who joined as strategy engineer, and recently Jörg Zander, who will start as the new technical director next year.

“There has been some developments on the car and on how we operate,” Pujolar replied when asked on Sauber’s progress over the second half of the season. “We are trying to change a little bit with what we have seen through our experience at other teams.

“There is still much more to come. It’s good to see that we are already making progress but it will take some time to put everything in place and 2017 needs to be a big step for us but I think we can do it.”

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