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Reflections on F1 2016 - struggling Sauber scores last-gasp jackpot

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Reflections on F1 2016 - struggling Sauber scores last-gasp jackpot
Jan 3, 2017, 11:16 AM

Sauber slipped back to tenth place in the Formula 1 constructors’ championship after a year of financial hardship and poor results, but it did at...

Sauber slipped back to tenth place in the Formula 1 constructors’ championship after a year of financial hardship and poor results, but it did at least avoid a second pointless season in three years and last place in the teams’ competition.

The Swiss team showed flashes of pace in the early season as Marcus Ericsson finished 12th in Bahrain and Spain, but Sauber struggled to make much progress towards the points in a crowded midfield.

The team’s financial difficulties meant upgrades were few and far between in the first half of the year, and its low moment of 2016 occurred at Monaco, where Ericsson and Felipe Nasr collided moments after the Brazilian driver had refused an order to let his teammate through.

Felipe Nasr Marcus Ericsson

Just before the Hungarian Grand Prix, the Longbow Finance investment firm, which has links to Ericsson, bought out the squad and this allowed Sauber to put its upgrade plans into production and new employees began to join the team

Operations engineer Xevi Pujolar and strategist Ruth Buscombe came on-board during the mid-season run and former Audi sport technical director Jorg Zander was hired shortly after the German marque quit the World Endurance Championship as a result of the VW emissions scandal.

Despite the cash injection and Ericsson’s insistence that things were “moving in the right direction”, Sauber remained rooted to the foot of the constructors’ table heading into the final races of the year.

Felipe Nasr

That changed when Nasr drove an inspired race in treacherous conditions at his home event at Interlagos to finish ninth and provide two points that put Sauber above Manor in the final standings.

Monisha Kaltenborn, who remained team principal after the Longbow buyout, hopes Sauber can build on its late progress from 2016 heading into next year.

She said: “What we have achieved in this tough season is credited to our team work. We have stuck together, continued to work hard and fought throughout the season. We can build on that next year and we already look forward to 2017.”

Monisha Kaltenborn

Nasr vs Ericsson

Nasr was defeated 13-8 by Ericsson in the inter-team qualifying battle and he did not put in the eye-catching performances that characterised his rookie season in 2015. Some of that was down to the car but Nasr did not make the progress he would have been hoping for. However, his drive in Brazil was sublime in difficult circumstances and proved that he still has something to offer in F1.

Marcus Ericsson

Ericsson was the faster qualifier at Sauber and he scored the majority of the team’s best finishes before Brazil. Overall, it was another solid but not spectacular season from the Swedish driver – who is signed up for a third year at the Hinwil-based squad in 2017 – but his drive in Mexico with an epic one-stop strategy was top-draw and deserved a points finish, which he came frustratingly close to achieving.

There has been much speculation in recent days that Sauber will sign Mercedes junior Pascal Wehrlein for 2017 with Valtteri Bottas set to replace Nico Rosberg at the reigning world champion squad. Wehrlein raced for Manor in 2016 and scored the British team's only point of the season when he finished tenth at the Austrian Grand Prix. A move to Sauber would allow Mercedes a further year to evaluate the 22-year-old's performances and suitability as a long-term F1 prospect against his former Manor teammate, and 2017 Force India driver, Esteban Ocon.

What did you make of Sauber in 2016? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JA on F1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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About this article

Series Formula 1
Drivers Marcus Ericsson
Teams Sauber