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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.

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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.

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

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Why Gutierrez could be first in line for the Force India seat

Pascal Wehrlein, Esteban Ocon, Felipe Nasr, Dave from the chippy and Steve from accounts have all seemingly been linked to the Force India seat for 2017. In Thursday’s Drivers’ Press Conference ahead of the Mexico Grand Prix, Esteban Gutierrez threw his name into the ring in not-so-subtle fashion.

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Five things we learnt on day one (test two)

The second and final pre-season test in Barcelona commenced today and it was a familiar face at the top of the timesheet. Nico Rosberg managed 82 laps this morning before handing driving duties over to his teammate, and sat on top spot throughout with impressive times on both the medium and soft compound Pirelli’s. For the first time this pre-season, Ferrari and Williams looked adrift of the Mercedes on pace.

Here are five things we learnt on the fifth day of winter testing.

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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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Mark Smith: Sauber’s “Smart” Appointment

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.

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