Sauber named Mark Smith the technical director of its troubled Formula One team on Wednesday. Smith has a long history in F1 and has been technical director for Jordan, Red Bull, Force India, and most recently at Caterham. Since that team collapsed at the end of last season, he's been out of work – but now he's moving to Zurich to take over the technical department for Sauber.

For those unfamiliar, the role of technical director is a pivotal one for any F1 team. It sits just below that of the team principal, a role which is filled at Sauber by Monisha Kaltenborn. Part owner of the team, Kaltenborn was named its CEO in 2010 and took over as team principal from founder Peter Sauber after his retirement in 2012. While the division of responsibilities can change from team to team, the principal typically calls the shots. The technical director then runs day-to-day operations and serves as the team's most senior engineer.

The appointment comes at a critical time for Sauber, a team whose performance has dropped off dramatically in recent years. Once a solid midfield competitor, Sauber finished last year's championship in 10th place without a single point scored. That's a far cry from the respectable sixth place in which it finished as recently as 2012, when it landed on the podium four times. Its best days, however, came when it was under BMW ownership, finishing second in 2007 and third in 2008 when Robert Kubica won the Canadian Grand Prix – the team's only F1 race win to date. The team is currently ranked seventh place in the standings, ahead of Toro Rosso, Manor, and McLaren.

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