The latest chapter in a summer of remarkable driver market bombshells has confirmed that Charles Leclerc will join Ferrari after only one season in Formula 1, swapping seats with Kimi Raikkonen for 2019.
The news has generally been met with excitement – Leclerc will be the second youngest Ferrari driver in F1 history when he rolls off the grid as a 21-year-old in Melbourne next season and as one of the most promising talents of his generation, it’s a golden opportunity that has been merited.
But it’s not just Leclerc who emerges from the news as a winner – in fact, nearly every party involved in this particular story can look upon the news positively.
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.
In the lead up to last weekend’s British Grand Prix, it was announced that Mark Smith would be joining Sauber as a Technical Director, as part of a technical reshuffle. While the team intends to maintain its ‘design-by-committee’ approach, Smith is the first Technical Director to be appointed by Sauber since James Key’s departure in 2012, and judging by how the team have struggled in the 2015 development race to date, a refinement to the technical team seems a smart move.
After securing a milestone 40th career pole in Malaysia, Lewis Hamilton has continued his string of Saturday success, by claiming his 41st today. The Brit’s benchmark time came on his first timed lap – a lap time which was nearly eclipsed by a fast-charging Nico Rosberg, who has been growing into the weekend. Ferrari were never a threat in qualifying trim, nor were they expected to be. However, with Sebastian Vettel in P3, they could well take the fight to the Silver Arrows in tomorrow’s race.
And with today’s chequered flag, the first pre-season test in Jerez has come to an end. It certainly has whetted the appetite of fans ahead of the 2015 season, prompting many talking points which will keep us going for the next seven days as the circus moves north to Barcelona for the next two tests. Many of this weeks trends defined today’s running, with Ferrari and Sauber heading the timesheet while Mercedes opted for longer runs and consistent times. McLaren suffered yet more technical troubles, and Williams slipped under the radar, working away in their usual stealthy manner – just another day at the office. (more…)
As the chequered flag fell on today’s session, it was with distinct abruptness that I realized – the first test is drawing towards a close. With just one day ahead, racking up the laps becomes more and more important and as such, day three saw three teams score centuries – the likely candidate of Mercedes topped the mileage stakes for a third day running, but it was Toro Rosso and Sauber who also passed the triumphant 100 mark, with the latter also topping the timesheets. The Swiss side are beginning to get a taste for life towards the top of the timing screens…
While the crowds may not have flocked to Jerez in the manner in which they did on Sunday’s pre-season launch day, the second winter test session offered up plenty of talking points and reinforced many early conclusions draw yesterday. Sebastian Vettel once again topped the albeit academic timesheet, once again posting impressive times in the SF15-T. Meanwhile, Mercedes again conquered in the mileage stakes, but a water leak prevented Lewis Hamilton from reaching a century of laps – the first chink in the W06’s armor.