2015 Formula 1 Season Review

The moisture farmers from Tatooine

No, the managers of Sauber are not trying to farm moisture on a desert planet, but their lives are almost as difficult. Ever since BMW abandoned Peter Sauber’s people, the team has been sliding backwards in the standings. The Swiss team hit rock bottom in 2014, so naturally the only way was up afterwards. The 2015 season was complicated, but Sauber showed some progress.

A difficult start behind the scenes

Sauber had shown promise during the pre-season testing, but they almost did not race in Australia. Giedo van der Garde took legal action against the team for breach of contract. The Dutch driver’s backers had paid a significant ‘sponsorship fee’ to secure a 2015 race seat for him. Giedo had a valid contract with the team, but Sauber still ended up fielding up Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson as its 2015 race lineup.

The Swede and the Brazilian came with more lucrative sponsorship packages. When signing Ericsson and Nasr, however, Sauber did not pay van der Garde’s backers back and the Australian Grand Prix scandal ensued. The lawsuit could have resulted in the team’s cars being seized by the court in Melbourne, but a last minute settlement in which the Dutch driver was compensated appropriately put an end to the storm in a water glass.

The moment the Brazilian finds a better spot further up the grid, Banco do Brasil will jump ship too.

A great start on the track

The drama off-track in Australia was offset by a great performance in the race. The pointless 2014 was all but forgotten after a marvelous double Top 10 finish in Melbourne. Felipe Nasr finished his first ever Formula 1 race at P5 and eclipsed even the debut of Max Verstappen. A combination of a significantly improved Ferrari power unit and only 11 cars finishing the opening race gave Ericsson and Nasr a good opportunity to show their worth.

Five additional point-scoring finishes later on in the season took Nasr to 13th position in the drivers’ championship, five positions higher than Ericsson. The standings difference between Sauber’s two drivers is the biggest between teammates in 2015, a season in which most driver pairings appeared one in front of the other in the driver standings.

All the right ingredients

Sauber has a really great infrastructure and is one of the best equipped midfield teams, but it is struggling. Its finances have not really recovered since the relationship with BMW ended. Banco do Brasil is a solid title sponsor but it is only there to support Felipe Nasr. The moment the Brazilian finds a better spot further up the grid, Banco do Brasil will jump ship too.

Nasr will not stay around for long. As soon as the veterans Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button start retiring, the Brazilian will be poached. He is certainly far more talented than Giedo van der Garde, but the manner in which the van der Garde situation was handled makes one wonder if Sauber’s current management is up to the task.

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