Ericsson

The fallout of McLaren’s 2020 IndyCar commitment

Going (kinda) big rather than going home

From the moment that Fernando Alonso and McLaren failed to qualify for the 2019 Indianapolis 500, a full-time McLaren IndyCar entry was somewhat of a guarantee.

When Kyle Kaiser of the under-funded Juncos Racing squad dumped Alonso out of the qualifying 33 on bump day, McLaren had all the evidence it needed that simply rocking up to the Brickyard once a year aspiring to beat IndyCar stalwarts in one of the most competitive arenas on the planet was a pipe-dream.

Commitment was required and has been duly delivered. McLaren has merged with Schmidt Peterson Motorsport to become the Arrow McLaren Racing SP entry for 2020 – a two car entry formed of SPM’s current seats.

Fernando Alonso Indy '19

Michael Conroy (AP Images)

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Kaltenborn’s departure is bad news for Wehrlein

Sauber team boss Monisha Kaltenborn has parted company with the team following 17 years with the Swiss squad, according to reports that first surfaced this morning.

Kaltenborn, who relinquished her shares in the company when Longbow Finance purchased the team in 2016, leaves her position as team principal and chief executive officer.

Her influence on the team of late is unquestionable and her departure signifies that Sauber is a team whose philosophies could be set for an overhaul.

monisha-kaltenborn

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Sauber’s Superman the big story on Saturday in Melbourne

Ferrari’s scintillating pace, Grosjean’s excellent sixth and Ricciardo’s heartbreak were all big stories in the opening qualifying session of the new era. It was a Saturday with plot points aplenty, yet one of the most fascinating and awe-inspiring tales came in the battle to progress from Q1. Unusual, but stick with me on this one.

Unusual, but stick with me on this one.

2016 GP2 Series runner-up Antonio Giovinazzi has been parachuted into the Sauber seat vacated by Pascal Wehrlein, who following his accident at January’s Race of Champions and subsequent truncation of his winter training programme, is not sufficiently fit to complete a race distance.

Finding out that you are to make your Grand Prix debut on the morning of Qualifying day is hardly ideal. No one told Gio that though.

Antonio Giovinazzi

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Stunning C36 livery conceals potential problems on Sauber’s horizon

Launch week has commenced this morning, with Sauber tweeting the first photo of their 2017 challenger – the C36 – which sports a stunning new livery. Sauber celebrates 25 years in the sport this season, and their paint shop has crafted a suitably striking blue, white and gold livery to commemorate the milestone.

The colour scheme may well have proved an early hit with fans – even if some have dubbed it a Ligier – but it does potentially mask some looming issues on Sauber’s horizon, despite last years eleventh-hour investment.

sauber-c36

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Wehrlein signing signifies make or break 2017 for Ericsson

When Nico Rosberg headed for the exit door of Brackley with his Drivers’ Championship trophy in hand, speculation regarding his replacement took the F1 world by storm. For quite some time now, it has seemed a two-horse race between Williams star Valtteri Bottas and Mercedes’ very own protege, Pascal Wehrlein.

Bottas became the front-runner in mid-December and with Wehrlein now confirmed at Sauber for 2017, the Finn seems to have edged the German out of F1’s most sought-after seat.

With all talk centering around Mercedes, one element of the story that seems to have been overlooked thus far is the impact the signing will have on Sauber. Wehrlein’s move to Hinwil will have some fascinating consequences, not least what it means for Marcus Ericsson’s career.

The Swede is about to enter his fourth season in the sport and has been solid, if far from spectacular, during his stay. In his defense, his anonymity in 2014 was much more a product of Caterham’s imminent doom rather than a reflection of Ericsson’s speed. His two years at Sauber have seen him buried in midfield obscurity, again, suspected to be more down to car performance than a lack of talent.

The only measure of a driver in Ericsson’s position is his performances against his teammate. Battling against Felipe Nasr for the past two seasons, Marcus has fared relatively well, particularly during the latter stages of the 2016 campaign. Sure, it was Nasr whose points in Brazil secured tenth place in the Constructors for the team, yet Ericsson’s drive to 11th in Mexico was just as special, albeit not rewarded.

Why then, am I rabbiting on about Marcus Ericsson on Pascal Wehrlein’s big day. Well, neither Kamui Kobayashi, (Ericsson’s teammate in 2014,) nor Felipe Nasr have been touted as having the outstanding potential that Wehrlein has. If Ericsson can out-perform the heir to a Mercedes drive over the course of the next season, his stock will rise significantly.

Despite Wehrlein’s tender age, the Mercedes badge on his overalls and DTM Championship Trophy on his mantlepiece means that we finally have a more meaningful yardstick to judge Ericsson by.

There is an enormous amount of attention on Wehrlein and as a result, Ericsson will now experience similar scrutiny. He’s been flying somewhat under the radar thus far, but 2017 will be a make or break year for the Swede.

Nasr or Gutierrez: Sauber’s dilemma

The 2016 silly season has been more about musical chairs among F1’s current roster, rather than teams taking the plunge on fresh blood. Sure, Williams have taken a punt on Lance Stroll, but this largely goes against the grain.

Even Stoffel Vandoorne feels like a known quantity having raced for McLaren in Bahrain and being a familiar paddock personality already.

Sauber’s seem to be following the seasonal trend. Marcus Ericsson has unsurprisingly been confirmed at the team for 2017, leaving just one available seat at the Swiss squad.

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Ericsson delivers knock-out performance at the perfect time

Marcus Ericsson has been a driver seemingly trapped in midfield obscurity, without a clear path to the limelight, for some time. He quietly arrived at a Caterham outfit about to plunge into disaster in 2014 before silently switching to Sauber, where more forgettable performances characterised his 2015 season.

marcus-ericsson-mexico

I’m sure by this point, Ericsson fans have clicked elsewhere. They stopped reading too soon.

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