Just days after announcing that Marcus Ericsson would drive for them in 2015, Sauber have today added another name to the confirmed list of 2015 challengers, declaring that current Williams reserve driver Felipe Nasr will join the Swede at the Hinwil based outfit. The news ends speculation in regards to two of the most highly contested seats in the paddock this year, yet more than likely rules the current Sauber pairing out of contention for 2015 drives. However, early rumblings of a potential move to Sauber for Nasr had gone quiet over the past few weeks, yet we arrive at today’s news. It certainly demonstrates the unpredictability of F1’s driver market.
The Fountain of Youth
F1 is certainly becoming a young man’s sport. With 17 year-old Max Vestappen gearing up to smash the current record for the youngest participant, Sauber will field a pairing with an average age of 23 next season. However, age is but a number – a driver is defined by his talents.
In regards to Marcus Ericsson, it is difficult to determine the value of his talents. Unquestionably hampered by the political instability at Caterham this season, Ericsson’s last few races have demonstrated that he has the ability to compete in the sport, yet this pace has been discovered in bizarre circumstances. After struggling with brake-by-wire issues all season, the Swede apparently asked his engineers to alter the car set-up to ensure stability under braking, but at a cost of electrical power from the MGU-K. Despite being significantly down on straight line speed, Ericsson’s performances in Singapore and Russia highlighted his potential as he finished ahead of both Marussia’s for the first time at Marina Bay, before his best qualifying result of the season at Sochi. Much has been made of Marcus’ lacklustre debut year, but in the circumstances, it is simply too early to judge him. As such, I am glad that Sauber have seen his potential and are willing to give him a drive. He may have lucrative pockets, but so does Esteban Gutierrez.
Meanwhile, Felipe Nasr’s signing came as somewhat of a surprise. While speculation of a potential move for Nasr to Sauber initially rumbled after Williams locked in their 2015 pairing, news of the switch had been quelled recently. In Austin, most commentators were suggesting that the second seat was a two-way fight between Gutierrez and current Sauber third driver, Giedo Van Der Garde – Adrian Sutil was seen as a rank outsider. In ever-so-typical nature, the sport sprung a surprising headline overnight and Nasr pinched the drive.
The Brazilian will bring significant sponsorship next season through Banco Do Brazil, and it could be argued that his signing is a sign of the current financial climate in the sport – let us not forget that the run-away GP2 champion, Jolyon Palmer, is yet to secure a drive. However, Nasr is a hugely competent driver, if not the most spectacular where overtaking is concerned. It is his consistency which has taken him to second place in the GP2 Series. Whether it is enough to make an impression in Formula 1 remains to be seen. Hopefully it is, or else another driver will be unable to shake the pay-driver stigma.