Felipe Nasr's Brazilian bonanza set to inject €35m to Sauber's F1 bank balance
Felipe Nasr’s ninth place in the Brazilian Grand Prix could be worth as much €35m for his Sauber team, provided they do not lose their 10th pla...
Felipe Nasr’s ninth place in the Brazilian Grand Prix could be worth as much €35m for his Sauber team, provided they do not lose their 10th place in the championship to Manor at the final round.
Sauber has struggled for cash and pace for much of the 2016 Formula 1 season.
The 24-year-old went from last on the grid to run as high as sixth during the rain-hit, disrupted race in Interlagos before several faster cars overtook him in the closing stages.
But Nasr was able to hang onto the two points available for ninth, which means Sauber is now above Manor in the constructors’ championship standings with one race of the season remaining. If Sauber can hang onto to its current position, the Swiss team stands to qualify for a slice of F1’s lucrative ‘column 2’ championship payments, directly hitting Manor's income from the F1 prize pot. It's a heavy blow to the Banbury squad.
Nasr was delighted by the result, which came in front of his home fans and represents the first points he has scored at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
He said: "For us, it tastes like a victory. Having a car that was super-difficult to drive, in terms of performance it would have been impossible to be in the points, but in conditions like this, the opportunity when it comes you have to be there to take it.
"I never lost confidence in the team, I always had the faith that we could have done it and we all deserve it. After such a difficult year, these two points mean a lot."
Before the Brazilian race, Sauber had endured a tough season and its best previous finish was Marcus Ericsson’s 11th place at the Mexican Grand Prix. The team, which had been in financial trouble for some time, was bought out just before the Hungarian Grand Prix by the financial investment firm Longbow Finance, which has links to Ericsson.
Since that takeover, the team has been able to produce more updates for the C35 and attract new staff members, but points had still continued to prove elusive.
Sunday's result came from good team operations under Xevi Pujolar, Sauber’s head of track engineering who joined the Hinwil-based team in August after leaving Toro Rosso earlier this season.
The strategy was decided by another 'import', Ruth Buscombe, who was behind Haas' bold strategies in their dream points scoring start in Australia and Bahrain. It is estimated that those two calls plus Sunday's must have netted the respective teams around €50 million in prize money.
Her plan closely mirrored Mercedes in sticking with wet tyres and looking to change sets under red flag conditions. And by focussing on track position, rather than looking for a silver bullet with intermediate tyres, her gamble paid off.
Pujolar described the tension on the pitwall in the closing stages of the Interlagos race.
He said: “For us at the end it was better to stay with the extreme-weather tyres and keep position. When fast cars were coming from behind we told Felipe: ‘don’t worry about him, let him go’.
“The last 10-15 laps, it was quite hard because you could see drivers like Fernando Alonso coming much faster but we had Esteban Ocon and Daniil Kvyat making a bit of a barrier and that helped us.
“Our engineers were talking to the driver and I was scared even on the last lap with our car, [thinking] ‘just don’t do anything wrong, don’t say anything on the radio until he crosses the line’.”
After the race, Sauber’s team principal, Monisha Kaltenborn, praised her squad’s efforts and mentality throughout a difficult season.
She said: “I want to thank the whole team at the track, as well as at the headquarters in Hinwil. Despite the difficult circumstances, the team has always worked very hard and believed in its skills with a strong belief – therefore, these points are well deserved.”
Manor’s Dave Ryan: “it’s not over until it’s over”
Pascal Wehrlein had given Manor what looked like being a decisive one-point lead over Sauber when he finished tenth at the Austrian Grand Prix, but Nasr’s two-point haul in Brazil now means the British squad sits 11th and last in the constructors’ championship.
Ocon, who joined Manor in place of Rio Haryanto ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix, had spent a large portion of last weekend’s race running in the points behind Nasr. The pair had moved up the order after a number of drivers had come in for intermediate tyres early on and were left stranded down the order by the multiple interventions of the Safety Car and two red flag periods.
The 20-year-old eventually slipped down the order and finished 12th, but Dave Ryan, Manor’s racing director, explained after the race that his team would not give up on reclaiming the lucrative tenth place in the constructors standings’ from Sauber at the season finale in Abu Dhabi.
Speaking to F1i, he said: “As a team, we did pretty well. I know it’s a pretty strange thing to say but we were up there the whole race, we were not lapping around at the back of the field. It just got away from us in the final part of the race. That’s life.
“Esteban had a really good run. Even with about three laps to go, it looks like he could have a go at Nasr as he was dropping back. But credit to Felipe, he drove a really good race.”
“Ericsson at the [Mexico] race was last at one point and he nearly got a point, so it’s an old saying but it’s not over until it’s over and you don’t give up until the last lap of the last race. And that’s definitely what we will be doing. All we can do is give it our best shot.”
What did you make of Nasr’s performance in the Brazilian Grand Prix? Do you think the fight for tenth place in the constructors’ championship has one last twist left? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.
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