Marcus Ericsson’s connections to the investors which put money into Sauber in the middle of 2016 inevitably prompted claims he would get favourable treatment within the team.
Ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix Sauber hit out at “speculative and widespread media reports today that our race drivers have not been, and are not being, treated equally”. Meanwhile team principal Monisha Kaltenborn was shown the door.
But for all this innuendo about what was going on within the team, the score line over the balance of the year came down solidly in Wehrlein’s favour.
He was the team’s only visitor to the points all year, Ericsson not having reached the top ten since the 2015 Italian Grand Prix. Wehrlein sat out the first two races and much of testing too due to injury but nonetheless out-qualified Ericsson in his first four races. In Canada, the race before Kaltenborn’s ejection, Wehrlein crashed in qualifying and Ericsson got the upper hand.
Wehrlein was less happy with his car’s handling in the races after the summer break. Ericsson out-qualified him more often than not in the second half of the season, but Wehrlein said he was much happier with his car’s handling after the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Lumbered with a year-old engine, the team took various gambles with their race strategy in an attempt to grab some points, but were usually unsuccessful. Unreliability also blunted their edge: Ericsson ran in the points early on in Mexico before being sidelined with a technical problem.
Ericsson vs Wehrlein: The scores
Ericsson vs Wehrlein: Season results
Ericsson vs Giovinazzi
Wehrlein took part in the first two practice sessions for the season-opening round in Melbourne before stepping down due to injury. That meant Antonio Giovinazzi was handed his F1 race debut at short notice, getting just 18 laps in final practice before qualifying began.
Impressively, Giovinazzi got within two-tenths of a second of knocking Ericsson out in Q1, and brought his car home 12th in the race. Two crashes at the next round in China took the shine off his debut, however, and at the next round Wehrlein was back.
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