Kaltenborn: Nasr and Ericsson made a “big difference”


Sauber’s ‘yesterday men’

Sauber-Ferrari currently lie fifth in the 2015 F1 constructors’ table and Monisha Kaltenborn believes much of this has been down to a change in their driver line up.

At the USA Grand Prix in Austin, Texas – the announcement was made that Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutuirrez were to be ditched and replaced by Brazilian driver Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericson from Sweden.

Speaking to Brazil’s Globo, Kalternborn states, “The drivers make a huge difference.”

Sauber currently have 21 points this year after 6 races, with Felipe Nasr having scored 16 and Ericson 5 points. During the whole of the 2014 campaign, the Swiss team failed to score a single point and were only ahead of Caterham in the constructors’ championship, the other team with ‘nil point’.

The striking blue and yellow liveried Sauber claimed the top spot, as the quickest car in one of the four days testing in Jerez. Back then, F1 observers believed they may have a superior car to their midfield competitors.

Monisha pays lip service to the efforts of Nasr and Ericsson’s predecessors admitting the 2014 F1 car made in Switzerland was “not good”.

Yet the Indian born part owner of the Sauber team is effusive with praise for her new charges, revealing, “They work very well with the team and learn quickly.”

Kaltenborn puts this down to the fact that Ericsson and Nasr “have a completely different attitude [compared to Sutil and Gutierrez], and this is something we all can feel.”

Yet given their early promise, Sauber’s current P5 altitude in the constructors’ championship will be as good as it gets.

A quick look at where Sauber scored have scored their points this year is pretty damning. In China Nasr was P8 and Ericson P10, scoring 5 points between them. Nasr picked up two points in Monaco, but the rest of Sauber’s scoring effort was in Australia – with a P5 for Nasr and a P8 for Ericsson.

The season opener in Melbourne, Australia is notorious for throwing up results which a not presentative. In 2014, the two McLaren drivers made their only trips to the podium for the year and this year in Melbourne – just 11 cars finished the race.

Whilst the power of love and appreciation may be motivation for moving mountains, the big improvement for Sauber this year has been the much improved Ferrari hybrid engine.

It would not be hard to envision Mclaren, Toro Rosso and Lotus climbing above the Swiss team as the season progresses, making it harder and harder for them to improve much further on their haul of points to date.

23 responses to “Kaltenborn: Nasr and Ericsson made a “big difference”

    • while the analysis was interesting, i wouldn’t take Monisha saying so as reason to say ‘told you so’, while statistical models may or may not have inherent problems in their analysis, team principals very certainly have inherent problems in theirs 🙂 It is obviously in Sauber’s interest to lay all the blame on past drivers to try to cover the poor car(s) they’ve built recently and instill a false sense of optimism in future sponsors/investors. I still think Sauber’s improvement is primarily engine related, and don’t expect their 2 drivers to be in the position to add many more points as the season continues as McLaren get up to speed, Lotus find a way to get Pastor to the end of the race, FI unveil their B car (who knows, it might happen at some point ;-)).
      Have to say I was hoping for more from Nasr after his first season in GP2, 3rd at the 3rd attempt was disappointing for me with only 1 feature win, but still hoping he can develop. Marcus is not all as bad as is made out, still, will hardly ever be a world beater now will he.
      Shame Frijns never managed to get a run with them.

      • “It is obviously in Sauber’s interest to lay all the blame on past drivers to try to cover the poor car(s) they’ve built recently”

        What I find interesting is that last year they were publicly blaming their car, and weren’t peeping a word about their drivers. Then then they ruthlessly and with nary a sorry dropped both drivers, even if both were bringing cash (especially Gutierrez). Given the cash Gutierrez was bringing (even Ferrari was caught salivating at the prospects of all that cash), can’t see any reason for dropping him other than atrocious performances, and Gutierrez never stopped disappointing Sauber for 2 years in a row. But they didn’t say a bad word about their drivers until now…

        We all know that Sauber didn’t improve the chassis at all for this year. Yet the engine wouldn’t explain all the troubles they had last year. So this year’s improvement can solidly be shared by improved PU and driver line-up. The current two drivers clearly can make the difference in a tight pack, whereas the previous two were hopeless.

        • i would say at least Sutil was a known quantity by which to judge their car, and also by which to judge Guti’s progress – btw I agree, not enough (or any) shown to merit a 3rd season for Guti – better drivers have had less oportunity. Whilst Sutil is/was nothing special, and tended to throw away the odd points scoring place, i think it can be inferred that the 2014 car was indeed a (slowly moving) truck. Can’t believe he or Guti wouldn’t have found the top 10 in Australia (only one ‘car’ to beat after all).

          The problem in 2014 was they were not anywhere near the tight pack. I certainly don’t think Ericsson will be the difference between scoring or not if they find themselves on a Sunday evenly matched with say Alonso, Grosjean, Button, Perez or Hulk, if anything, I would think more on the side of not scoring.

          I’m still keeping fingers crossed for Nasr, potential there all right, but Guti had potential as well.

          as an aside, if Sutil is indeed that bad, what does that say about how Williams really rate Suzie?

          • Good points.

            “Can’t believe he or Guti wouldn’t have found the top 10 in Australia (only one ‘car’ to beat after all).”

            If history (and stats) are any guide, they would have crashed well before that. Compared to both of them, Crashtor is sorta kinda consistent… 🙂

            “I certainly don’t think Ericsson will be the difference between scoring or not if they find themselves on a Sunday evenly matched with say Alonso, Grosjean, Button, Perez or Hulk”

            I found very curious the model’s prediction—buyer beware, I know—, namely that: stick an average driver into the 2014 Sauber, and they would have gotten more points than Lotus that year. So if Grosjean was in the Sauber instead of the Lotus, there is a chance Sauber would have had points and Lotus none that year. So Nasr and Ericsson seem to be doing something right…

            “if Sutil is indeed that bad, what does that say about how Williams really rate Suzie”

            Yeah, thought that too. On the other hand Sutil is an old dog with oodles of experience in current machinery, so if someone needs to jump in the car on short notice he would be a good candidate. Suzie on the other hand hasn’t proven all that much in DTM and other series, and doesn’t have as much experience with F1 machinery (or recent racing experience for the matter). Such a driver would need more time to get used to the machinery and perform on the spot. Just like Valsecchi a couple years back, Suzie won’t cut it for such instances…

      • “Shame Frijns never managed to get a run with them.”

        Yeah, him. Also Simona de Silvestro. Would have been fun to see her get a drive (here or there), but it looked as if she didn’t have the kind of cash Sauber needed…

  1. I was wondering how long it would take for Ms. Kaltenborn to start praising her current drivers. If she did not do this she runs the risk people asking questions whether her current drivers are maybe worse than some of the other drivers she had signed for 2015 (in the case of Nasr I can’t imagine anyone suggesting he’s worse than the other drivers she had signed bar Bianchi, then again with Ericsson I can imagine people will eventually start asking questions if he’s the right driver).

  2. What is so different about the attitude then? Ok I can imagine that not everyone who gets called gay will glass the other’s face but what about Gutierez?

    Or is she talking about the attitude to bring one’s wallet?

    • I suspect it’s about work ethics.

      Vettel’s work ethics are fabled: long nights, early mornings. Hamilton may be slanted in these corners for blinging around, but he’s very down to business when it gets to trying to understand the car and interacting with the engineers (cf Ross Brawn and the reasons he brought Lewis to Merc).

      On the other side of the spectrum Perez is a “slacker”. Reportedly he got booted out of McLaren partly for his… attitude. It seems none of his past teams has (good) things to say about him…

    • While I’ve not seen the Globo interview, Peter Sauber said something very similar about 6 weeks ago at the Chinese GP, when he was more specific of the team’s critique of Sutil and Gutierrez.

      Motorsport.com (probably GMM back then?) translated that interview, which was by the Swiss newspaper Blick of Peter Sauber. Peter said, “I would not say that the drivers last year were worse. But they were not terribly motivated. That has now changed.”

      In a small team like Sauber, such drive and motivation would be crucial.

      Landroni’s analysis article on the 2014 poor driving performances of Sutil and Gutierrez (he references it in a comment above) is likely a reflection of that attitude.

      Of course those two had the high challenge of dealing with a weak motor with a harsh / difficult torque delivery in a crap chassis. But in any case, in a small team like this, it’s critical for the drivers to pull more than their own weight (true for everyone in such circumstances), and to help drive the team forward.

      I believe that is essence of these comments.

      • I guess bringing in fresh blood always helps. I was thinking about Nasr having to deal with last years car, but it’s his first year so you expect a lot of motivation…

      • Would you be motivated at the prospect of driving a bathtub on wheels and a hamster in a wheel for a motor?

        I don’t mean to trash Landroni’s article but you have to take into account that the big fat zero points disproportionately distorts the ratings of the drivers. I’d love to see the results if you artificially assign a single point to both of them.

        • “you have to take into account that the big fat zero points disproportionately distorts the ratings of the drivers.”

          Indeed. The f1metrics methodology assigns points all the way down the field:
          “To allow the model to differentiate between drivers who scored no points, I scored fractional points for lower positions, going down by a factor of 10 for every 5 places, so 6th scores 1 point, 11th scores 0.1 points, 16th scores 0.01 points, etc. This makes a negligible difference for front-running drivers, but separates the performances of backmarkers.”

          Add to this that historically both Sutil and Gutierrez seem to crash more often than Maldonado (in races, at least). All in all, doesn’t sound like a good combination…

          • I’m not entirely convinced, but I’ll wait until next year, when Guti probably gets another drive before judging. I calculated the points with that information and Sutil got 0.74 while Guti got 0.84 (only assigned points if they finished). Also, checked their retirements and Sutil retired 3 times in accidents by himself or that he caused while Guti did the same once. That is, admittedly, one more than Maldonado but hardly a problem for Guti.

            Interestingly, if you only exclude the races where they crashed out by their own hand, Guti gets 0.99 and Sutil 0.772 points so Guti seems to have had more “good” races knocked out by no fault of his own.

        • “Would you be motivated at the prospect of driving a bathtub on wheels and a hamster in a wheel for a motor?”

          If that bathtub is in F1, and I want to be a F1 driver, then the answer is I’ll make that effing bathtub the fastest bathtub that F1 has ever seen, I’ll strive to embarrass non-bathtub cars often, and work to whip my team-mate every effing race weekend.

          Let’s flip your question around. If you’re managing a F1 team do you want to spend millions at this level of motorsport and get stuck for a full season with an unmotivated driver just going through the motions, under performing to the car’s capabilities week in and week out?

          Actually, if you’re managing anything, do you want to get stuck with an unmotivated team-member who is just going through the motions, under performing week in and week out?

          • I get your point but this is the nature of man. I know a person who works for NASA, he was working at the EUA and was about to become mission controller. That’s about as motivating a job as it gets, right? Well he was disenchanted with the endless meetings, the bureaucracy, the slow moving beast those agencies are. We, on the outside, could not fathom how the guy was ever be sick of such a job, and yet there he was.

  3. Ms Kaltenborn, what are you trying to say lady? Still doesn’t want to admit you messed up? It is not the drivers, it is the Ferrari engine that made the difference. Please grow up.

  4. It say it’s the huge improvements in the ferrari engine rather than the drivers, but what do i know.

    • Big improvements, sure. Huge, I’m not so sure.

      Remember that this year we also had a change in nose length, and the only two chassis from last year that didn’t need a wholesale rethink of their aerodynamic concept were… Merc and Ferrari. All other teams initially reported significant losses of downforce when redesigning their nose. Barcelona (and Monaco to a degree) has shown that Merc is still very much ahead of Ferrari, whereas Williams and Red Bull dropped behind the scarlet team. Some of it will be the PU, but some will be the Ferrari chassis who in relative terms has improved.

      Sauber indeed got a lion’s share of points from the Aussie attrition, but putting it all to Ferrari’s PU seems premature to me. The PU is better, but not yet on the level of the Merc PU…

  5. The bar has been set quite low. Almost anyone is better than the Gutierrez and Sutil combo.

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