The pre-season preemption of Formula 1 in 2017 painted a grim landscape of a Noah’s ark running order of two-by-two linear team finishes with sizeable gaps between each team. How wrong this stance has proven to be. There’s a fight at the front, a midfield scrap between Force India, Toro Rosso, Williams and Renault and even at the foot of the Constructors, Sauber have set a surprising precedent against Haas and McLaren.
Whilst it may have been more difficult for the Swiss team to bag points at the Spanish Grand Prix had Verstappen, Raikkonen and Bottas finished the race, it remains a huge achievement that Pascal Wehrlein was there to pick up the points after making a one-stop strategy work.
It wasn’t just the fact that Wehrlein was able to stretch the tyre life out, but the fact that Carlos Sainz, who was all over his back in the second phase of the race, was unable to pass the C36. After the race, Wehrlein said,
“I think it was the perfect strategy for today. Plan A was one stop, Plan B was two stops, and we committed to the one-stop since yesterday, and I said I want to try one-stop, otherwise there are no points we can get from this race. We have to take the risk. At the end it paid off, and I’m really happy about it.”
– Pascal Wehrlein
The result means that Sauber can sigh a collective relief for getting off the mark early on in 2017, jumping McLaren in the Constructors in the process and even halving the deficit to Haas in 8th. It gives Sauber more confidence heading to Monaco, a circuit in which the difference in power is negated by the nature of the circuit. If the team can pull off another alternative, effective strategy, they could find themselves bagging even more points at the next round.
Of course, the elements of Monaco that are beneficial to Sauber are also there for McLaren. It brings a bit more pressure onto Jenson Button’s shoulders, with star driver Alonso racing across the pond in the Indy 500. The Honda-powered team are desperate for a result, and whilst there were a few hints of improvement in Catalunya, the team head to the principality without points in 2017.
Haas have also struggled to make the progress that they anticipated in 2017. Whilst the points finishes have been a bit more regular so far, they are nowhere near the top four teams, condemning them to scrap for the final two points positions against the likes of Williams, Toro Rosso and at least one of the Renaults.
Now that Sauber have set an early benchmark for themselves at a circuit in which they were expected to struggle, it will be interesting to see what the Swiss team can bring to the C36 in the form of upgrades, and clarifies that their strategists have been spot on so far and could do something special around Monte Carlo.