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2015: Battle of the Team-Mates – Sauber

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I will be posting a series of articles over the coming days speculating over what to expect from the inter-team battles in 2015.

I’ll be starting with the constructors seeded lowest in the championship, and working my way to the Mercedes duo who claimed the Constructors title in dominant fashion last season.

So, lets look at Sauber’s overhauled driver line up in light of their disappointing 2014 campaign without a single top 10 finish from either Adrian Sutil or Esteban Gutierrez.

I’ll begin by discussing Marcus Ericsson:

Marcus will be the team’s most experienced driver next season. He had a peaky debut season with Caterham, with regards to how he fared against the far more experienced and highly rated Kamui Kobayashi.

He was lagging behind Kamui for the first 5 races of the season, but when it came to the battle of attrition that was the 6th race at Monaco it was only a highly determined, forceful and ruthless move from Jules Bianchi that came between Marcus and his first championship points, along with what would have been Caterham’s first points in their 5th season in the sport.

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Sauber F1 Team

A mature drive, nevertheless. The mid-season was characterized for Caterham by unreliability, and Marcus had to wait again for another street circuit to put in another stand out drive, claiming 15th position in Singapore.

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At this point in the season Marcus said the team had made adjustments to the energy harvesting system of the brakes that had made him feel more confident in the car. It showed as he beat his teammate Kobayashi on the road in Suzuka, a track where Kamui had finished on the podium for Sauber 2 years ago.

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Marcus Ericsson

Many label him as a pay driver due to his funding and ascension through the motor-racing ranks despite inconsistencies in his performances. Those who back him, however have likened him to Alain Prost in that he is calm, calculating and decisive. After a test with Brawn GP in ’09, Ross praised the then young Ericsson for his maturity and the quality of his technical feedback. I feel that there is a real quality driver in there, as shown by his stand out performances.

He seems to currently fall into the category of driver who is TOO cerebral in their approach – driving a racing car at high speeds is an instinctive thing, and those who are too much in their own head and not enough in the moment tend to produce the inconsistent levels of performance Ericsson has thus far in his racing career. I’m sure with experience and a growing confidence in himself and hopefully the machine he’s racing he can race to his full potential more often.

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Now we have a driver who’s had a year as Williams’ reserve driver, but no race starts – Filipe Nasr

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Filipe Nasr

Nasr has enjoyed a relatively successful junior career. In his first full season of single-seat racing (2009) he claimed the Formula BMW European title by a convincing 104 points, finishing in the top two in 14 out of 16 races. This success earned him the opportunity to test the BMW powered Sauber F1 car, but BMW pulled the plug on their involvement with Sauber and F1 which meant this opportunity never came through for Nasr.

From there he went on to compete in Formula 3 where he enjoyed a mixed first season, and dominated the series in his second, scoring 318 points to teammate, now former Mclaren F1 race driver (Currently test/reserve driver) Kevin Magnussen’s 237.

Since then after 2 seasons in GP2 he hasn’t scored a single victory, but has impressed with consistent driving and strong race craft. Both seasons he raced in GP2, Marcus Ericsson was also racing. In their first season together, Marcus outscored Filipe, in their second the tables turned.

After a year out of full-time competition in Williams’ reserve role for 2014, Filipe is hungry to prove himself in Formula 1.

Hopefully the money these two bring from their backers can help the troubled Sauber team re-emerge from the back of the pack, and we can see if these two stylistically different drivers prove their worth over the other junior drivers looking to establish a name for themselves in the sport.

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This is on paper a very balanced driver line-up, with Marcus providing a now experienced hand and astute technical input, alongside Nasr who’s an exciting grab the car by the scruff of the neck racer. I’m sure with some financial investment and a bit of team chemistry this can be a year Sauber get back on the right track, so to speak.

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