Mid-Season Review: Sauber

For the cash-strapped Sauber outfit, 2015 simply had to mark an improvement on a dismal 2014 – the Swiss squad’s worst ever season in the sport, in which they failed to break into the lucrative top ten for the duration. A strong showing during pre-season testing translated into a strong opening round, which saw Sauber exceed all expectations with rookie Felipe Nasr and Sauber newbie Marcus Ericsson both scooping points finishes in what was a race of attrition. However, the team have since struggled to match their heroics Down-Under, with underwhelming results somewhat highlighting the team’s struggles to keep pace in the frantic development race.

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Timeline of the season so far

  • 5th March – Giedo Van der Garde begins legal action against Sauber, indicating that he possessed a valid contract for a race drive at the team in 2015 and therefore, had a right to a seat.
  • 10th March – Sauber lose an appeal against the initial court ruling, as the Australian judiciary uphold that Van der Garde has a right to race.
  • 13th March – Van der Garde drops legal action against the team after uncertainty over the situation saw both Sauber’s sit out the first practice session at Melbourne.
  • 15th March – Felipe Nasr secures fifth place on his F1 debut, while Marcus Ericsson finishes eighth to secure a total of 14 points for Sauber, thus elevating them to third in the constructors after the opening round.
  • 1st July – Sauber appoint Mark Smith as their Technical Director. Smith fills a position that has been vacant at the team since James Key’s departure in 2012.

Team Performance

Current Constructors Standing: 8th (22 points)

As can be ascertained from a rather short timeline of events, Sauber’s season has somewhat fallen into the background. Midfield obscurity has unfortunately become a habit for the squad of late and is largely caused by their lackluster pace in F1’s all important development race. Since Felipe Nasr’s headline making result in an otherwise bland Australian Grand Prix, the team has struggled to record similar successes and as such, has slowly slid down the constructors standings.

In order to apply the brakes to the descent, new recruit Mark Smith will have to work quickly in inspiring more coordination within the technical team. In truth, it is unlikely that Sauber will re-emerge as midfield pace setters under next season at the earliest. However, 2015 had to primarily be about correcting the ills of 2014 and with the team scoring points on the opening weekend, Australia had already put a tick in one of the most important boxes for the Hinwil based team.

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Driver Performance

Felipe Nasr

Current Drivers Standings Position: 12th (16 points)

Best Finish: 5th (Australian GP)

Grade: B+

Marcus Ericsson

Current Drivers Standings Position: 18th (6 points)

Best Finish: 8th (Australian GP)

Grade: C- 

It is likely that one of 2015’s most memorable threads will be it’s nature as a year for the rookies. Both Carlos Sainz Jr and Max Verstappen have made a significant impression at Toro Rosso and, despite having to cope with a difficult car for the majority of the season, Felipe Nasr’s endeavors have also been admirable. Barring a decidedly “rookie” error in FP3 at Canada, which saw the Brazilian pitched into the concrete wall after attempting to weave with the DRS activated, he has been comfortable at the pinnacle of motorsport. Beating Daniel Ricciardo fair and square in the curtain-raiser has served to buy Nasr some time before his next stunning drive.

Certainly, the rookie had the measure of his marginally more experienced teammate Marcus Ericsson. The Swede was beaten by Nasr on a Sunday in the opening six exchanges, but his accident in FP3 at Canada and subsequent absence from qualifying gave Ericsson an opportunity to seize momentum. Since round seven of the championship, Ericsson has been much closer to the pace of his teammate, albeit not convincingly and unquestionably, not to the extent that his additional 16 races of experience should warrant.

Mid-Season Assessment

C-

Sauber’s explosive start to the campaign in Melbourne served to elevate all expectations regarding their potential this season. Ultimately, scoring points and lifting themselves off of the foot of the constructors standings had to be the number one target and Nasr and Ericsson’s career best result’s in Australia all but ensured that goal number one was secure. However, that afternoon in Australia remains the sole highlight in an otherwise uninspiring campaign for the Hinwil based squad who have felt the pinch of F1’s ever-fierce development battle. A similarly uneventful second half to the season could be imminent.

Image Credit: "Barcelona Test 3 Day 2" and "DSC_9557"
By Rachel Clarke and Jon Large (via Flickr) [CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0]
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