TJ13 has had a busy week, but unfortunately not in writing new material for the website, alas this Judge has other priorities in life these days…
Back on point – It wasn’t a huge surprise to hear of the news earlier in the week of Leclerc moving to Ferrari, TJ13 knew of the contract signing back in June, some days before the mainstream media cottoned onto the story.
What was more surprising was Kimi’s move to Sauber. Much like Ricciardo’s move to Renault, even this Judge didn’t see that one coming. There had been rumours over the last few weeks about outside investment coming into the team that’s not anything to do with Ferrari or Longbow Finance – a Swiss company but linked to a mysterious Swedish investor believed to be Tetra who are backing their driver Marcus Ericsson.
Earlier this week, we linked to an article who hinted that Kimi Raikkonen himself has plans to part of financial stake in Sauber along with some Finnish backers.
Couple Kimi’s personal investment (if true), along with the obvious increase of Ferrari backing – a current spec Power Unit and the Alfa Romeo branding being obvious manifestations of this, an increase in Philip Morris sponsorship with Ferrari with no obvious logo’s on the Red car a less obvious manifestation (funds to Sauber?) – then were does this leave Longbow and Ericsson?
The answer may be in a statement by former Fiat CEO Sergio, who said a year ago:
“We are looking for ways to bring the great Alfa Romeo brand back into Formula One racing.
“Alfa Romeo could become a breeding ground for young junior racers from Ferrari.”
At the end of November 2017, Marchionne realised his plan: Alfa Romeo became the new title sponsor of the Sauber racing team.
Marchionne placed Charles Leclerc in the car next to Marcus Ericsson, with the intention of bringing the promising Monegassen from Sauber into the Ferrari for 2019 should he perform as expected.
After Marchionne’s unfortunate passing in July 2018, the successor John Elkann has continued on with Marchionne’s plans for Sauber and Leclerc.
Leclerc’s manager: Nicolas Todt (son of Jean Todt, the FIA president and former Ferrari team boss), had managed to get a contract signed and for Elkann to disentangle Ferrari away from the agreement would’ve proved financially costly for Ferrari, but also disruptive to the young driver strategy put in place by Marchionne.
Now it seems very contradictory for Raikkonen to be at Sauber as a driver considering his age, assuming Ericsson the ‘pay driver’ is racing beside him for 2019?
Marcus Ericsson has had four seasons in Formula 1 now, and this year it’s fair to say he’s raised his game now Leclerc is his team mate. The car is greatly improved too which always helps.
The Swede says: “I want to prove that I deserve my place in Formula One. But in F1, you can never be sure before signing.
“Good performance is certainly the best way to recommend me”
— Marcus Ericsson (@Ericsson_Marcus) August 29, 2018
But the fact remains that he has only 6 points in 2018 compared to Leclerc’s (a rookie) 13 points.
Some say Longbow and their Swedish backing are unlikely to just leave the team in 2019, and if anything they see Sauber as a long term investment and most certainly a worthy one with Ferrari using the Swiss team as their young driver proving ground.
Longbow will either see Sauber as a long term investment, and welcome the increased involvement of Ferrari and potentially the Finnish investors led by Raikkonen. Or they will continue to support Ericsson and move away from the team taking the driver with them.
Regardless, it’s very likely we’ll see Marchionne’s plan continue and a young Ferrari driver to race next to an ex Ferrari world Champion (indeed their last!), in the form of Antonio Giovinazzi.
Giovinazzi’s manager is no less than Enrico Zanarini, former manager for Ferrari’s Eddie Irvine and Giancarlo Fisichella. Zanarini was instrumental in securing Fisichella’s seat at Ferrari replacing the ill fated reserve driver Luca Badoer after Felipe Massa’s accident in 2009.
Zanarini knows the landscape for sure. He worked for Alfa in Australia in 70’s and lives in Switzerland.
TJ13 understands that Frédéric Vasseur, Sauber’s boss has direct choice over the team’s driver selection and is rumoured to move ahead with Ferrari’s strategy in return for Alfa Romeo sponsorship, the Raikkonen deal and possible discount Ferrari PU’s.
Marchionne had already negotiated with Sauber that Giovinazzi drives there in 2019. Allegedly, Giovinazzi had also made an attractive offer to investors by Sauber with the prospect of being able to put a world champion in the car at the same time – Kimi Raikkonen.
The Finn is rumoured to become the global brand ambassador of Alfa Romeo, a Ferrari subsidiary. Raikkonen in the cockpit will obviously generate more media attention than Ericsson.
It seems that this has convinced the backers of Sauber to discard Ericsson.