Charles Leclerc, Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018

2018 team mates battles: Leclerc vs Ericsson at Sauber

2018 F1 season review

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The contrast in fortunes for the Sauber drivers heading into the 2019 F1 season could hardly be greater. One has been shown the door, the other is off to join the sport’s most famous team as a likely championship contender.

Since moving to Sauber from Caterham in 2015, Marcus Ericsson had generally been shaded by team mates who were expected to show him the way. First Felipe Nasr and then Pascal Wehrlein found themselves losing F1 drives despite beating Ericsson (though Nasr was ‘only’ ahead in terms of points scored in 2016).

Charles Leclerc blew him away more decisively than his predecessors had. The 2017 Formula Two champion talked a lot about how complicated the transition to F1 had been, but he mastered it quickly. Tongues were wagging after Ericsson out-qualified him in the first two races but Leclerc swiftly put that right: Ericsson only beat him on two further Saturdays over the remaining 19 rounds.

But it was the scale of Leclerc’s advantage which really told. It wasn’t uncommon for him to beat Ericsson by half a second or more. The Ferrari junior’s way with the softer end of the Pirelli tyre range was something Ericsson could seldom approach. Small wonder Leclerc made more than twice as many Q3 appearances as his team mate.

More often than not Leclerc backed that up in the races, too. Towards the end of the season when the package had really gelled he was a consistent contender for ‘best of the rest’ honours.

Sauber were the most-improved team of 2018 by some margin in terms of outright performance. Yet they ended the season only eighth in the standings, behind one team which only counted points from the last nine races. For an explanation why, they need look no further than the difference in contributions from their rookie (39 points) and their fifth-year veteran (nine).

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Marcus Ericsson vs Charles Leclerc: 2018 Sauber team mates performance comparison

Season scores

Who was ahead?

The table below shows at which races Ericsson qualified or finished in front of Leclerc:

Marcus EricssonQ

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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34 comments on “2018 team mates battles: Leclerc vs Ericsson at Sauber”

  1. Leclerc easily the better out of the two although Ericsson did manage to match or even better him at times.

    1. @jerejj, it was noticeable that, when the conditions were wetter, it was usually Ericsson that came to the fore, not Leclerc – he outqualified Leclerc in Hungary, scored points in Germany whilst Leclerc went off the track and finished last and was generally quicker than Leclerc in the rain effected sessions in Brazil.

  2. Leclerc had a great recovery after the first two races in which he spun and was struggling a lot. How close is he to beat Vettel next year?

      1. Most people expected Vettel to mop the floor with Ricciardo.

    1. He should be fine to match vettel I think, however remember vettel performs better in odd years than even ones!

  3. Head to head he lost to Kobayashi, Nasr, Wherlein and now finally Leclerc. Still only lost his seat this year
    Didn’t score any points in two seasons at Sauber, while his teammates managed to score every season
    In the two seasons he scored, only managed 9 points, to Nasr 27 and Leclerc 39
    Managed to finish behind a STR in 2018

    Now that I think about it, I was too generous on the 2018’s rankings

    1. Johnnie Röös
      6th December 2018, 18:41

      Wrong, he did finish ahead of kobayashi with his 11th place

  4. José Lopes da Silva
    4th December 2018, 13:51

    Maybe pay-drivers are needed so that we understand that the role of the driver is really important, regardless of what it’s said.

    If Perez doesn’t slash Stroll next season the same way Leclerc did to Ericsson, he’s dead to me.

    1. Don’t forget stroll is good or at least decent at scoring points! He’s only slow in qualifying, and I don’t think perez is supposed to be better than massa, however deserves a chance in a top team, massa did and got close to winning the title.

      Therefore, I don’t think if stroll doesn’t get worse, that he will be slaughtered in points with similar reliability.

  5. I know it’s fanciful thinking and highly unlikely, but I can’t help hoping Leclerc goes up and puts manners on Vettel straight out of the box. He seems like the studious Prost to Vettel’s more erratic Senna. Leclerc has been an absolute star on and off the track since coming into F1. There were high hopes for him and he has more than matched them. He has been fast-tracked to the sharp end and I’m confident that he belongs there and will be a challenger for the foreseeable. It could be Max versus Charles for a long time to come.

    1. The comparishing between Max and Charles is easily made and Leclerc will probably have the car to be very very competitive. Though in junior series Leclerc has hardly been close to Verstappen in terms of performance.

      Verstappen absolutely dominated the kart series from start to end, winning nearly every championship…leaving Leclerc quite far behind. Both drve for VAR in F3… Max in 2015, he was quite dominant in a rather mediocre car, winning the most races of all drivers (10) combined with most DNF’s of all. While Leclerc just scored 4 wins and finished behind rather mediocre drivers like Markelov. In F3 Giovenazzi outscored Leclerc as well.

      Leclerc has done a great job so far, but Ericsson is hardly a frame of reference…every team mate beat Ericsson quite comfortably. I don’t think Leclerc will be a treath to Vettel just yet… that Ferrari though may be hard to beat in a RBR

      1. “Leclerc finished behind mediocre drivers like Markelov in F3, even Giovinazzi was ahead”, okay firstly Markelov was in GP2 in 2015.

        Secondly, you’re forgetting that Giovinazzi along with eventual champion Rosenqvist had many seasons in F3, Leclerc was top rookie.

        I get your point, Verstappen would definitely have been champion had a lot of those DNF’s didn’t happen.

        I must also add, Leclerc did once beat Verstappen to a championship in karting since you’re painting it like Leclerc never stood a chance.

      2. First of all, you can’t even have the year of your idol in F3 right.. not 2015, but 2014 it was.
        Second, Ocon cruised to the championship that year and eased off after the seventh of 11 rounds. So that’s after a little over 60% of the championship. That’s dominance. Dominance of Ocon that is, how on earth can you claim “Max in 2015, he was quite dominant in a rather mediocre car, (..)”? Oh yeah, you’re a notorious lying VER F-Boy.
        Thirdly, just like my 2nd point, VER only won one more race than OCO bc OCO eased off at 60% of the championship. Just to give an example of how much Ocon eased off in the last 4 rounds, is by looking at how he fared against his teammate. In the first 7 rounds he scored 233% of the point of his teammate, ie far more than doubled him. In those last 4 rounds it was just 99-93.
        4) VER did not DNF the most of all
        5) Unlike VER, LEC (and OCO) did win a championship that year, namely the Rookies’ Championship
        6) Markelov didn’t even drive in F3 the same year LEC, so how can LEC finish behind him? Hahhahahahahahhaahha
        7) The only time Markelov and LEC did race together was in F2 last year. And guess who won this F2 (formerly known as GP2) despite being a rookie and Markelov being in his 4th year and being three years older, and being in the slower car by far? Hahhahahahhahahah

  6. Ericsson has always been an “also ran” for me. His performances have never really caught my attention unless someone else (commentator or fan) have pointed out that he has done something notable.

    Leclerc however has really got my interest for next season on the boil.
    I have felt for some time, and still do, that Max will be the next new WDC, he just needs the right car and a steadier start to the seasons.
    Now Leclerc has burst in on the party and to me he seems capable of causing an upset.
    There are too many variables to be sure though. Will he fit in at Ferrari? Will Ferrari let him compete against Seb? Can he handle the extra pressure of being up at the front?

    So much to answer – so much to look forwards to :)

    1. Also, can Ferrari produce a championship contender car? Doesn’t happen very often unfortunately…

      1. Doesn’t happen very often unfortunately

        Since 1997 (granted, I’m picking a starting point convenient to my argument!), Ferrari has produced a car capable of challenging 15 times out of 22; nearly 70% of the time. Even in the last 10, they’ve challenged 4 times, which is more than McLaren for example and only one year less than Mercedes and Red Bull.

        1. Yes, that’s a great %, undoubtedly, if you want to have always a decent car, the team you want is ferrari, historically; mercedes is very strong but hasn’t been in f1 for long, same goes for red bull.

    2. Will he fit in at Ferrari?

      I think he will, he is a small bloke. I wouldn’t fit if I’m honest

  7. @keithcollantine the last graphic (who finished/qualified ahead) would be a bit easier to digest if it had the finishing position rather than a tick. you could keep the green/red/grey colour. points per finish might be a nice addition to the season scores graphic – I always think this is the most telling stat.

  8. Well paydriver, who is not a paydriver? I think most of the drivers have backers with lots of $$

    1. @freguz For me, if a driver is bringing money to the team then he falls into 1 of 2 categories. The team either end up taking the money despite the driver, or they take the money because of the driver. Yes they get the money either way, but the former gets regarded as a pay-driver because his ability had nothing to do with getting the drive.

      1. Well @bealzbob I don’t see how you can tell the difference which category it is, or most likely a combination of both.

        For example, R. Kubica is a highly rated driver, but had to bring quite a pile of money into Williams to get that seat.

        Besides backers and driving skills, I think the teams are looking for loyalty and social skills, teamplayers, etc

        1. With Kubica, they wanted the driver’s ability, but with losing Stroll’s money they couldn’t afford him without backing. So they clearly wanted the driver in that situation.

          1. … and while I agree that there may be situations where it’s hard to know which category they fall into, or which percentage of both. I think 9 times out of 10 we have a fair idea which it is.

          2. @bealzbob, do they want the driver or the cash in the case of Kubica though?

            Williams have confirmed that Kubica’s sponsors, PKN Orlen, are going to have their logos “on the rear wing, nose, intake system and both mirrors of the FW42” – they are giving his sponsors the primary sponsorship positions on the car, and some have suggested that Kubica’s backing from PKN Orlen is worth up to $25 million. From the way that Williams are giving such prominence to his backers, it sounds as if cash might have been fairly influential in the case of Kubica’s return to Williams.

            At times, fans do also seem to treat the term “pay driver” in a malleable fashion, using it at times when they want to insult a driver, and at other times leaving the term out when there would be an argument that it could be applied.

            For example, let us look at Carlos Sainz Jr – his junior career was heavily backed by the oil company Cepsa, and Cepsa’s sponsorship of Toro Rosso seems to have been extremely influential in getting him a seat at Toro Rosso (coming at a time when Toro Rosso had just purchased additional land to expand their factory).
            Equally, there were quite a few individuals who had predicted that Sainz Jr might have been off to Renault given that, in the run up to announcing his contract, Renault had been signing a number of Spanish sponsors – Mapfre in particular seems to have been the one that most took as a sign that Sainz Jr was off to Renault. In those cases, where do you draw the line between the influence of his sponsorship and of his ability?

  9. I dont know if we looked at the same sport, but Nasr did got beat the second season in a majority of races. There were some hints from Marcus about Leclerc getting some special ferrari treatment, with more power available, i wonder if we will ever get the facts there. Anyway, Leclerc seems like a really nice guy, and fast aswell, not a very common combination, it will be very interesting to see how he performs in the red one.

    1. Is that you, Marcus?

    2. Fair point – Nasr did out-score Ericsson in 2016 but on other counts Ericsson was superior. I’ve added a note to that effect.

  10. I’ve always found it hard to judge Erricson’s time in F1. On the one hand on his best days he was merely solid and I struggle to think of a single stand out performance that justifies 5 years in the sport. On the other he was exactly what was needed by Sauber at that time. His financial backing seemingly kept the team afloat for a lot of his time there and as the article points out he was a very good benchmark for the younger drivers coming through the team. He was a known quantity and the relative performance against his teammates has helped distinguish Leclerc from the likes of Nasr and Wehrlein.

    Next year Giovinazzi will be up against Kimi, who although past his best, will be a much tougher yardstick putting more pressure on him during his year there. Would Leclerc have had the emotional strength to reach the same highs if he was still struggling to match his teammate after 5 races instead of 2? And Vandoorne shows what can happen when a rated rookie goes up against a world champion.

  11. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
    4th December 2018, 16:01

    Even though Leclerc trashed him, it looked like Ericsson got his act together this season. No more in team fighting, and he finally took points whenever he had a good race.

    Even if he was utterly defeated, he did much better than I expected

  12. Hamiltonspalebrother
    4th December 2018, 16:13

    One Sauber could produce purple sectors in last race weekend. Not just the faster team mate, but out of all. Race pace are close every race, FP 1 & 2, but saturdays LEC was suddenly .5-.8 faster. Pretty intersesting…

    1. Ferrari have invested millions in Leclerc so obviously they would like him to shine ( both marketingvice and confidencevice ) against the “Paydriver” Ericsson… The two first races probably forced them to do something so they simply did that, with or without Saubers/Vassaurs knowledge, “Take it or leave it…either atleast one of your cars Will have Ferrari sweet-mode or non of them”. I think Its pretty obvious when Leclerc preduce purple numbers on pretty much a pure straight sector in Abu Dabi in quali when Ericsson is not near those times. If you ignore that you are blind to F1-history ( Especially the Ferrari-part of it ) or refuse to see the logic because it doesnt suit how you would like it to look like ( pretty much like Brittish media in general ). Leclerc is both talented and good and have had a very good season 2018. But there has not bin a fair fight between him and Ericsson this year. It is too obvious even if noone insider ever would admit it.

  13. Clearly Leclerc have special treatment from Ferrari compare to Ericsson. That was so clear Especially when he made purple sectors in Abu dabi quali on pure straight-sectors…. Leclerc is strong and talented, no doubt. But if you think he and Ericsson had the same Pre-condiotions in Ferrari-backed Alfa Romeo Sauber in 2018, then you are a blue-eyed with a romantic view of F1…. Ferrari are way to powerful to not have their way of things and Leclerc is their golden boy they invested millions in.

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