Over the course of the US GP weekend in Austin, we found out that Marcus Ericsson has managed to secure a seat in the Sauber team for 2015.
Ericssson’s not done much to impress the paddock during his debut season, although he brings a substantial sponsorship package to any team he’s driving for, which Sauber desperately needs.
With his seat secure for next year, the question is who will be lining up alongside him in the garage.
Originally the plan was to have moved Ferrari’s Jules Bianchi into the team as part of his journey into a seat at Maranello to replace Raikkonen in 2016, although his injury at Suzuka has made that incredibly unlikely, which is creating a few opportunities around the rest of the grid.
Esteban Gutierrez is currently the second junior driver in the team. There was an air of the Mexican driver being a straight replacement for Perez when he moved to McLaren in 2013, but he’s not managed to deliver the electrifying performances of Checo, although in part he’s suffering with a poor car this year. Gutierrez has decent sponsorship from Telmex and there’s a Mexican GP set for 2015, so you’d think his seat should be safe.
Possibly not. His performances haven’t really shown enough to justify him remaining in the team, and unless Sauber find some performance in the last 2 races, they’re going to lose out on a huge chunk of cash for next year. Sutil on the other hand also brings decent sponsorship from Germany, and although he’s not been spectacular, he’s been generally pretty solid through 2014, and getting into Q3 in Austin may have helped his cause.
On the other hand, Guido Van der Garde is apparently waiting in the wings with a big chequebook. The Dutch driver is popular up and down the grid, and although he’s not seen as a major contender, he’s done alright in some of the junior formulae, so at least the Sauber team can position him as a racer who’s joining the team on merit rather than just as a pay driver.
Van der Garde is probably the most likely occupant of the seat, perhaps on a shared basis with Gutierrez (especially at the Mexican GP) so that Sauber can continue to retain some of the sponsorship from Telmex, and hopefully use next rear to rebuild their reputation as a solid team.
It’s been announced this morning that the second drivers seat at Sauber F1 will be filled by Felipe Nasr, the 22 year old Brazilian who has spent the 2014 season as the Williams F1 test driver.
See our full post about the announcement here.