Now partnered with Alfa Romeo for the 2018 Formula One season, the Swiss Sauber F1 Team is already having its strongest showing in years among rival Constructors, with seven top-ten finishes and 16 points to its name, putting it just three points behind the Honda-powered Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 team.
But last weekend’s British Grand Prix certainly didn’t help things, as Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 suffered its first double-DNF of the 2018 season, and Sauber’s first double-retirement since the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix. Up until partway through the race, things were going quite well for the team; Charles Leclerc came in ninth during Qualifying, giving the rookie driver an advantageous starting position on the grid, and he gained several spots during the first laps. His teammate, Marcus Ericsson, may only have qualified in fifteenth, but he ran a clean, steady race throughout his first stint, leaving him plenty of opportunity to move up the grid later in the session.
Unfortunately, fate had other plans. Leclerc pitted for a fresh set of tires after 18 laps and went back out on track, only to immediately pull off and come to a stop in the gravel with a loose rear wheel. It’s still unclear whether the wheel was left under-tightened due to a mechanical failure or human error. Ericsson soldiered on alone, pitting for a tire change after 24 laps, but not ten laps later, the 27-year-old driver crashed out at Turn 1, almost recreating his experience at the 2016 British Grand Prix.
Now, Alfa Romeo Sauber could make changes to its F1 car’s cockpit, as the team’s data suggests that the driver accidentally entered the corner without deactivating the Drag Reduction System, leaving the rear wing wide open and reducing the amount of aerodynamic downforce at the back end of the car.
“I wasn’t sure after the incident if it was a failure or not but we’ve looked at the data and it seems like… I have the button behind my steering wheel and it’s quite bumpy on entry and you go on the curb, and I think I slipped and didn’t hit it,” Ericsson said after the race. “So I think on tracks like this we need to see if maybe we can have a bit of bigger button or something, see what we can do so it doesn’t happen again. Basically I turned in with the DRS open, and then you’re a passenger as the car just turns, that was the reason why it happened.”
Had it not been for both race retirements, and especially Leclerc’s, Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 would almost certainly be ahead of Scuderia Toro Rosso in the Constructors’ Championship standings. Unfortunately, the team missed out on a critical chance to score additional points, meaning they’ll have even more work to do when they land in Germany later this month.