There had been a feeling in the air prior to the Brazilian Grand Prix that the mystery box challenge of the Interlagos track could offer Sauber F1 their first points of the season. On Sunday, that feeling turned into reality as Sauber put aside the struggles of 2016 and celebrated the lifeline of a points finish.
A TALE OF TWO RACES
It serendipitously fell to Brazilian Felipe Nasr, who has had a bad year by his own admission, to bring home the C35 in 9th place and 2 points which takes the Swiss team above Manor in the Constructors Championship and a potential £30 million payout in 2017 if they remain there after the season ender in Abu Dhabi.
The race itself could best be described as organized chaos with multiple red flags in dreadful conditions and multiple crashes as the Brazilian weather lived up to its reputation. While the entire team celebrated the success, it was a tale of two races as Marcus Ericsson crashed out early while on intermediate tyres.
The Swedish driver had up to this point in the season looked the more likely to score Sauber’s points, coming painfully close in Mexico with an excellent 11th place. Ericsson, like many others in the field stopped early to switch to intermediate tyres and looked well on to push for points until a slight touch of the white line before the main straight saw him crash heavily, with the car coming to a rest across the pit entry.
Ericsson, long considered one of the best team players in F1, promised that we would see a “Swedish driver on a mission in Abu Dhabi:
“I am very disappointed. However, Felipe did a great job today scoring two very important points for us. This is great for everyone in the team. I will fight back at the final race of the season at the Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi.”
The day however belonged to Nasr who, one a different strategy, remained on the wet tyres and running high up in the points before the multiple stops thereafter. Despite the relatively less engine power of the C35, he held firm for much of the race, only dropping to 9th place toward the end. He was ecstatic:
“I have no words to say how happy I am at the moment. When I saw the weather forecast for today, I knew it could be an opportunity. The opportunity came, and I was ready to go for it. We did an exceptional job today. The team was great informing me about the track conditions, while I was giving them my feedback. It was a tricky race, as the track conditions were very difficult at some points. In the end it was just an incredible feeling”
An emotional Monisha Kaltenborn underlined the importance of these points for the team and fans around the world, many of whom had feared that the Hinwil based outfit would not have made it through this 2016 season.
Abu Dhabi is a very different challenge from Brazil and Sauber would only need to finish ahead of Manor to secure 10th place in the championship. The intervention of Longbow Finance and the possibility of FOM finances next season will go a long way to assuage the fears of the team.
But that is 2017, and for now Sauber are basking in the glory that was Brazil 2016.
(Image Courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media)