When Red Bull created their Toro Rosso team as a young driver development program, it seemed like an interesting proposition but if I’m honest, there were times when I was having a difficult time seeing the trajectory of the team as they have risen and fallen in pace and performance over the years and a few drivers hung around for quite a while—Sebastien Bumei comes to mind.
Just when I was getting a little confused, the program then brought F1 Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen and once again, it seemed that the concept of a driver development team was clearly back in focus and working very well.
Having a spot for your young drivers is turning out to be a decent proposition and while Manufacturers have technical supply deals with other teams, it allows teams like Mercedes or Ferrari to find seats for their drivers. Ferrari’s Haas F1 deal is good but one wonders how much say Ferrari have in who takes which seat at Haas. Gene seems to be the kind of guy who likes to call his own shots.
The announcement that Fred Vasseur is now leading Sauber and the immediate reversal on engine supply service from Honda for 2018 is an immediate impact. While much of the paddock were praising former team boss Monisha Kaltenborn for running a great ship, keeping the lights on and the cars on the grid, I felt differently about the entire situation.
Monisha did a fine job of all those things I mentioned but what was missing is someone to grab the team by the neck, convince owners to pony up serious F1 dollars and get moving forward, not continuing to run the team in damage control mode. Shoot high or close the team.
Fred immediately secured a current-spec Ferrari engine supply for 2018 and this will make them much more competitive—think Haas F1. The bigger question is, did he negotiate something more than just engine supplies?
Ferrari’s CEO, Sergio Marchionne, seems to believe that Sauber would make a great Ferrari junior team saying:
“It is an excellent idea and something we are working on.
“We need space because we have a couple of young drivers that are exceptional.
“We need to find a place to lay the foundations for the Scuderia Ferrari of tomorrow.”
Ferrari isn’t just looking for an engine deal, they have two very impressive drivers to find rides for and they also are very keen to supply more customer teams—which is a bit interesting since they weren’t interested in supplying McLaren.
“Maurizio [Arrivabene] has worked hard in recent months,” added Marchionne.
“Going forward we will expand the number of customer teams.
“Both with [F1 owner] Liberty Media with the FIA, we have made a commitment to give support to the teams that are going to come. The more there are, the better for us.”
Could Sauber be a target for a complete Ferrari junior team? What would that look like? Outright ownership like Red Bull and Toro Rosso or a stronger technical, talent and sponsorship program with Longbow Financial, the current owners of Sauber?
Time will tell but they have Charles Leclerc to consider and one suspects that Pascal Wehrlein’s time at Sauber may be coming to an end. What about Marcus Ericsson? His backers have significant investment in the team. It will be interesting to see how 2018 shapes up for Sauber but having Ferrari cast its shadow over your operation could bring a much better result and steady paycheck in Hinwill.
Hat Tip: Autosport