Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Engine Blood Ranks The 2018 Contenders: 1. Sauber or Alfa Romeo or something, I dunno

HISTORY: Sauber first appeared in 1993, and got some eye-catching results straight off the bat with a gaggle of ex-sportscar drivers of no little pedigree and the various backings of both Mercedes and Ferrari, plus sponsorship from Red Bull.  It's a crazy sport, folks.

After introducing both Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa to the sport, they were bought out by BMW and won their first and only grand prix in 2008 with Robert Kubica behind the wheel.  Then global financial distress occurred and BMW dumped them, with the team scraping back onto the grid only courtesy of Toyota's similar pull-out.

Since then there's been ups with Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez impressing, and downs, with a near-total lack of sponsorship and the disastrous reign of former boss Monisha Kaltenborn.  We currently find them in the unenviable position of being dead last, although a closer relationship with Ferrari might help out, and has given them the Alfa Romeo name, back in F1 for the first time since the eighties.


From Sauber, as published on BBC Sport.
Sigh.  Now we have to talk about the halo.

For the uninitiated, the halo is a head protection device necessitated by the FIA's new policy on the subject.  It's a step towards a closed cockpit, which along with a gradual shift towards electric power, seems an absolute inevitability for Formula One.

However, let's be very clear about this - it's a fucking state.  We still don't understand why the halo was introduced over the shield, which was the alternative.  We guess time must just have run out in terms of introducing something, anything to do it, which just smacks of the wrong arbitrary deadline being picked.

The best we can say for it is that it hasn't caused any problems yet.  But I wouldn't want to be in the position of introducing a device that limits drivers' visibility.  On top of which, you can't mitigate for an accident like Jules Bianchi's WITHOUT going full closed cockpit, so this seems an unfortunate intermediate step that works for no-one.

...Hm?  What do we think of the car?  S'alright, I guess.  Better than the anonymous blue they had last season, though I worry it might not be easily distinguishable from a Williams at distance.


9. Marcus ERICSSON (SWE)
16. Charles LECLERC (MON)

Marcus Ericsson is definitely a person of some sort.  An oddly "common or garden" driver who's never left much of an impression, he came up through Caterham in 2014 and hasn't really done much since, outside of some points finishes two seasons ago.

This next part is particularly galling to type, given that Ericsson is ten years younger than us, but he's knocking on a bit too compared to the Verstappens and Strolls of this world.  He might be alright though, as long as his team-mate isn't some young go-getter with this bit between his teeth and something to prove...

...Oh dear.  Leclerc is a rookie but he's just won the GP3 and Formula Two championships in consecutive years, he's seven years younger than Ericsson and he's on Ferrari's radar, as a peer of the aforementioned Bianchi.  Ah well, Marcus; there's always Formula E.

LAST YEAR: 10th in Constructors' Championship, 5 points.

94. Pascal WEHRLEIN (GER) - 18th, 5 points, best finish: 8th.
9. Marcus ERICSSON (SWE) - 20th, 0 points, best finish: 11th.
36. Antonio GIOVINAZZI (ITA) - 22nd, 0 points, best finish: 12th.

On that evidence, you'd have to say they were dropping the wrong driver.  However, given their closer relationship with Ferrari, and Wehrlein's status as a Mercedes prospect, it makes sense from a political standpoint.  Giovinazzi was a stand-in for Wehrlein at the start of the season, as the latter recovered from an injury.  He didn't make much of an impression, but he also wasn't massively inferior to Ericsson, and it's a fair assumption we'll see him again at some point.

PROSPECTS: ...I mean, it's not going to be great is it?  Surely?   One unheard-of driver, one very ordinary-looking one, still dead last in testing and with McLaren improving, possibly even further off the pace.  This could be a looooooong old season for these guys.

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