Charles Leclerc, Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 2017

Leclerc secures Sauber drive alongside Ericsson for 2018

2018 F1 season

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Ferrari junior driver Charles Leclerc will make his Formula One debut with Sauber next season, the team has confirmed.

Sauber Alfa Romeo concept livery for 2018, 2017
Sauber unveils concept Alfa Romeo livery for 2018
The 20-year-old dominated this year’s Formula Two (formerly GP2) championship and clinched the title with three races to spare. The previous year he won the GP3 series.

Leclerc has driven for Sauber during practice sessions this year and has previously tested for Ferrari and also drove for Haas in four practice sessions last year.

“It was a great experience to drive a few FP1 sessions and tyre tests for the Sauber F1 Team in 2017,” said Leclerc. “The team welcomed me straight away.”

“It is a great working environment, and I already feel confident and comfortable here. In 2018, my aim will be to gain more experience in Formula One, and to bring as much value to the team as possible in return.”

Team principal Frederic Vassuer said Leclerc had “proven his talent in several racing series” and “convinced the team with his professionalism and charisma” in his practice runs for them.

The team announced Leclerc will drive for the team alongside Marcus Ericsson, who has driven for them for the last three years.

“It is a great honour for me to be driving for this team in 2018,” said Ericsson. “I am excited and proud to be part of this promising journey.”

“I am confident that I can add to the knowledge and experience of the team. This winter is going to be very busy, and it will be important to push the development of the car in order to have a good start to the season. I am optimistic, that 2018 can be a big step and a good chance for us to move up in the field.”

Leclerc’s arrival means Pascal Wehrlein has lost his place after one year at the team. Wehrlein scored the team’s only points finishes this year in Spain and Azerbaijan.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 90 comments on “Leclerc secures Sauber drive alongside Ericsson for 2018”

    1. This young man is a great promise for the future, I love seeing him drive, really excited to see what he can do.

      1. Will he be allowed to finish the race in front of Seb & Kimi ?

        1. @gunusugeh
          Hopefully he will replace Kimi sooner rather than later and then Ferrari will have a driver that actually can finish in front of Vettel for the first time.

          1. He can’t. Vettel’s contract arguably forbids such a thing..

      2. Leclerc is handful in wheel to wheel racing. The Bahrain overtakes come to mind even if the car was very fast compared to competition.

    2. Very happy Leclerc is driving next year! And their prototype car looks pretty nice too.
      Sad Giovinazzi isn’t alongside, but not surprised. Ericsson is backed by Sauber’s owners and brings money too. Wonder if Sauber might ‘encourage’ Ericsson to do events like Le Mans etc on race weekends to give Giovinazzi some race weekends…

      1. Giovinazzi hasn’t done anything to deserve a ride. All he does is crash.

        1. But he crashes fast

        2. You really should have followed last year’s GP2 championship.

        3. He crashed in one race out of two he’d done. And in the other he was brilliant. Very educated opinion you have judging a young driver by 1 race

          1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
            4th December 2017, 21:00

            I think he may be referring to every crash while he has been driving an F1 car. Which I think there have been 4 within hardly any time at all. He crashed twice in his 2nd weekend. Then I’m sure he also did in 2 of the practice sessions he appeared in later in the season. That doen’t seem very positive really.

            So out of the few times he has come in, he has indeed crashed pretty often and it doesn’t reflect on him that well IMO.

            1. @thegianthogweed It’s a known axiom in racing that you can teach a fast but erratic/crash prone driver to be more consistent, but you can never make a consistently slow driver to be fast. The latter is a lack of talent while the former is just a question of mind management which as we know can be taught.

              Give Giovinazzi a full season alongside slow Ericsson and he’ll blow him into the weeds. Because he’s just more talented and talent will always shine through given oppurtunity and time.

              And speaking of crashing in practice sessions: Michael Schumacher used to crash in practice sessions all the time. Just saying…

            2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
              4th December 2017, 22:49

              My main point is that he did crash very often when he has appeared on the grid.

              I don’t know why so many are convinced that drivers will instantly beat Ericsson in their first season. After that may be a different story. And I don’t actually rate Ericsson highly and I do think most will be better than him. But not rookies instantly. As someone said to me, the only time in recent years a rookie had beaten an experienced team mate was Bottas against Maldonado in 2013. I very much doubt Giovinazzi would beat Ericsson in his first year considering Ericsson in will be in his 5th year and 4th with Sauber. His experience in the sport and especially with Sauber will almost certainly make him better than Leclerc in his first season too.

      2. I hope Gio can muscle his way into Haas.

    3. Happy for Leclerc, he deserved the seat more than anyone else. On the other hand it’s sad to see Ericsson stay, he wasn’t good enough for GP2, and yet he keeps sticking around in F1 despite two pointless seasons where his teammate did score points. Should have been Wehrlein or Giovinazzi in that car.

      1. Wherlein is a Mercedes driver and they clearly doesnt belive in him enough to put him anywhere in F1, It has nothing to do with Marcus. Ferrari bought the other Sauber seat for their driver which they do believe in. Giovinazzy already tried out and didnt impress enough to advance from reserve driver this year.

        1. Sundar Srinivas Harish
          2nd December 2017, 13:35

          Actually, Merc tried getting him the Force India seat for this year (or should we start saying last year?), but they preferred Ocon.

        2. Mercedes would love to. The trouble is, Force India likes its current drivers (including Ocon, who is a fellow Mercedes development driver) and for sponsor reasons, Williams’ replacement for Massa must be at least 25 years old. Ferrari had a team who needed a seat filling and didn’t have someone who they saw as a better candidate. However, they could only get one seat, and even Antonio admits another year in GP2 would not exactly be harmful to his career (in the past Ferrari would have used F3.5 to do the “holding pattern”, but that’s not an option this year). Charles can’t do another year in GP2 as he won the title, so you could say both manufacturers were forced into their position by the circumstances.

          1. @alianora-la-canta ”for sponsor reasons, Williams’ replacement for Massa must be at least 25 years old.”
            – ‘Must is a wrong word there.’ Yes, Martini would prefer at least one of the drivers to be at least 25, but it isn’t a ‘must,’ which is something that has been stated by Paddy Lowe, so, therefore, Wehrlein isn’t out of the question for Williams, same with Kvyat. I hope Wehrlein gets the remaining seat for next season, but unfortunately, it looks very unlikely as Kubica seems to be the number #1 priority out of the potential candidates linked to the remaining seat.

            1. @jerejj, furthermore, others have pointed out that, even if Martini did insist on an older driver, Williams could cover that contingency with di Resta if he remained as their reserve driver (di Resta is over 25, and Williams are apparently within their right to use their reserve driver to fulfil any sponsorship requirements). That does seem to be confirmed by the fact that Kvyat’s name has also been mentioned in relation to Williams, and even that of Sirotkin as well, both of whom are less than 25 as well.

              It’s notable that, when you look at the list of candidates that Williams are considering, it sounds as if Wehrlein is a long way down the list – Kubica, di Resta, Kvyat and Sirotkin all potentially have better chances of winning the seat ahead of Wehrlein.

            2. @jerejj I’m not sure you’ve grasped why Martini is insisting on one of the two race drivers being over 25 – it’s because in some countries, Martini can’t do promotions with an under-25 driver. If reserve drivers had been allowable, then there would have been no need to bring back Massa for the 2017 season, for di Resta was the reserve driver back then too.

              Kyvat was briefly mentioned at the time he was removed from the Red Bull empire, because the other seats left at that point needed more money than he had. However, that rumour seems to have vanished. Sirotkin, last I heard, was auditioning for a reserve seat (if Kubica can’t race, then di Resta would have to be promoted, and someone would have to replace di Resta as the reserve…)

          2. @alianora-la-canta Wrong, I’ve grasped it, but still, though, it doesn’t change the fact that is isn’t a ‘must’ (I’ve heard Paddy saying/clarifying that, so I trust his word). Ultimately the team has the final word on a driver decision, not a sponsor. Furthermore, they already have a driver who’s at least 25 as a reserve, so even if it was a ‘must,’ that should be enough.

            1. @jerejj ‘that it isn’t’

            2. @jerejj Sadly, that interpretation of Paddy’ words are contradicted by Williams’ actions, and not supported by Paddy’s complete quote either. If it wasn’t a must, then it wouldn’t have been a must last year, when the team was obliged to recall Massa on exactly this basis. Paddy said in that piece that “There are some issues around advertising and Martini but if it came to it, I’m sure Martini would understand the importance — if that’s what we were to choose — to have the best lineup for racing rather than for advertising.”

              That does not sound like a team that really gets to pick someone younger than 25. That sounds like a team that would like the option of running someone below 25 but would have to get permission first. Since Martini’s requirement for an under-25 has a legal basis, it would logically be a breach of contract for that not to be met, which at minimum would result in a reduction of sponsorship funds (something Williams may not be in a position to countenance).

            3. @alianora-la-canta were Williams “obliged” to take Massa again or was there just not a seemingly better option available at the time at rather short notice?

          3. @alianora-la-canta ”when the team was obliged to recall Massa on exactly this basis.” – Wrong, they weren’t obligated to recall him on that basis. They recalled Massa because they wanted an experienced driver to partner an at the time rookie Stroll. The experience-aspect was purely behind recalling Massa back at the time. They could’ve given the seat vacated by Bottas to Di Resta as well had they wanted to but preferred Massa over both him and Wehrlein due to the experience-aspect.

            1. @jerejj di Resta was almost as experienced then as he is now – he’s only done one more race and a little testing since. If he is experienced enough to not recall Massa now (and he is), he was then.

      2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        2nd December 2017, 13:39

        Ericsson is party there for his money. But if you look at his performances over the past 2 years, he’s missed out on several points finishes that were unlucky. And his team mates in the last 2 years have only got points down to others misfortune. If you looked closely enough this year, Wehrlein and Ericsson on the whole have been very evenly matched and both have had up and down performances. Ericsson however does make more mistakes which overall makes Wehrlein better. But pace wise, the difference is tiny as the average qualifying difference shows. Ericsson was running in the points in Baku and will have got 10th if the team gave him the place back. They did say they would do this but couldn’t as Vandoorne was too close to Ericsson. Then he was running in 9th in Mexico when his engine blew up. Even last year, he finished 11th in Mexico and that was when just a Manor retired. If there had been the average amount of retirements we often have, he could well have got a point or two. So the fact Ericsson hasn’t managed points in the past 2 years does not reflect on his ability. He isn’t a bad driver and his money is a bonus. Out of him and Wehrlein, If Sauber had to go for one of them, I can understand why they would go for Ericsson, but I think they should have kept Wehrlein as he is likely to be better then a new driver.

        1. @thegianthogweed

          Then he was running in 9th in Mexico when his engine blew up.

          Ben, what is it with you and Mexico? What you say bears a passing resemblance with the truth, but if taken at face value, your statement is just plain wrong.

          According to the available lap charts, two aspects of what you say are true: Ericsson ran as high as 9th (or even 8th), and his engine blew up at some stage in the race.
          The thing is: Those two facts are entirely unrelated. There was no such thing as Ericsson running in the points when his engine failed. His engine failed on lap 55, and he was nowhere near the points at that stage. He was running in 13th place, 20 seconds down on 10th place (26 if you take the gap to Alonso, who finished 10th), losing 0.7-0.8 seconds per lap on average.

          So, where would Ericsson have finished the race if his engine hadn’t failed?
          Wrong answer: In the points
          Correct answer: In 13th or 14th place (he had been holding Gasly up for the last 10 laps), some 30-40 seconds outside the points.

          1. Turnleftatgreenlight
            2nd December 2017, 16:14

            The reason Ericsson was no longer in the points when he had to retire, was that he made his pitstop just 2-3 laps before the SC (or VSC can’t remember) was out and people who were behind him before the stops, had free pitstops. Not sure he would have ended in the points even with a “free” pitstop like the vast majority of the rest of the field, but he’d certainly been running a fair bit higher up in the order.

            So your analysis was also lacking I’m afraid.

            1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
              2nd December 2017, 16:42

              I certainly did miss something. I thought that is was when he was in the points that he retired. But now I look back at the race, he did have his issues when he was in 13th I think he will have managed 13th at the minimum without them as they likely will have been slowing him down over the last few laps. And If he had used the VSC to his advantage as others did in, being very close to the points or even in them may well have been possible. I may have been wrong here, But I still think too many people don’t respect Ericsson’s good performances even if they are not in the points. He is good enough to get points when he has a bit of luck and will certainly get some if the car gets better.

      3. Consider how extremly close Ericsson and Wehrlein was this year your conclussion doesnt make sence. If you claim Ericsson not good enough for F1 then Wehrlein isnt either.

        1. Well I would hope they would be close for Ericssons sake when you consider Wehrlein was in his second season in the sport, in a brand new team up against a guy who has been in the team for three years and essentially funds them.

          I could’ve told you Ericsson wasn’t good enough at the end of 2015, yet here we are going in the 2018 season and he still has a seat. I wonder if people will be so defensive towards Stroll if he ever enters his 5th year in the sport.

          1. well, it wasnt Wehrleins rookieseason and consider the fact that Ericsson+car weight 2-10 kilo more than Wehrlein+car which means 2-4 tenth a lap on an avarage track, then numbers and margins surely looks more in favour of Ericsson. Hopefully AR Sauber can build a car that fight for points every race and with Leclerc on the otherside of the garage we shall all see what Ericsson can deliver.

            1. you pulled those numbers out of your backside, no way 5kg is worth 3 tenths of a second on an ‘average track’

          2. @davef1 tbh…why not? Neither are Ide or anything :p

          3. @davef1

            The difference between Marcus and Lance “paying” for their seat is that in terms of results the car is holding Marcus back but Stroll is holding the car back.

    4. I saw the images of the event.
      – I had hoped for more red on the car like I had on my first Alfa;
      – And it shows how good a car looks without the fin.

      1. Looks like the C32 from 2013, the last more or less decent Sauber to date

    5. Man, Ericsson is going to get stomped flat next season…

      1. The same thing everyone has said every year then, nothing new for Marcus. LeClerc looks like the real deal but its always hard to tell after the junior series, Stoffel and Stroll didnt exactly shine this year as an example.

        1. @Gabriel you are so right.

        2. @rethla He lost to both his team-mates at Sauber. In GP2 he also lost. But keep trying to defend the indefensible pay-driver. People are trying to make a deal of him being “close” to Wehrlein. Fact is: he lost. Wehrein was better than him overall. As was Nasr. As was Sam Bird in GP2. Even Richelmi ran him close.

          ME is not slow. Stroll and Palmer aren’t Yuji Ides either. Point is there are much more deserving drivers than him for the seat. Only thing that keeps him in it is him being a protege of the team owners

          1. @montreal95
            As long as the likes of Kimi, Bottas, Kvyat, Palmer, Stroll, Massa, Vandoorne etc. gets to race i see no problem in defending Marcus raceseat. As i said in another post Marcus aint the weak link in his team but so are all the drivers i just mentioned.

        3. @rethla

          To be fair Stroll wasn’t expected to shine. Stoffel was beaten thoroughly only because he had Alonso as his teammate. If Stoffel was paired against Ericcson, he would have beaten him pretty convincingly.

      2. He should be used to it by now, since Wehrlein already did the same in 2017.

        1. Turnleftatgreenlight
          2nd December 2017, 16:23

          Eeeehhhhh… no. They were the closest pairing on the grid in terms of qualy. And as Ben stated above, on pace they’ve been similar in races, both with ups and downs. Pascal got Marcus’ point in Baku from the team, and the points in Barcelona WEH got from being very lucky with track position when SC/VSC came out, while ERI had mad his 2nd stop the lap before SC/VSC came out…

      3. If Leclerc doesn’t destroy Ericsson one of the 2 things will happen:
        1. People will begin to rate Ericsson highly.
        2. Ericsson will destroy a driver career for the third time in a row.

        1. @Miane

          Number 1 wont happen thats for sure.

    6. Marcus, you need to go man.

    7. I feel bad for Pascal.

    8. A perfect example of F1 not having enough teams. Another six cars on the grid would potentially give Giovinazzi, Wehrlein, Kvyat, Di Resta, Vergne, etc. a seat for next year

      1. Six more cars would mean we could have Giovinazzi, Wehrlein, whoever doesn’t get the Williams seat between Kubica and Kvyat, Kobayashi, Vergne. Man, F1 needs another team, or two.

      2. @strontium, if you did have another six cars on the grid, would it necessarily result in those drivers being given a seat? If the additional teams were not especially competitive and instead tended to be mostly found at the back of the field (somebody has to come at the back of the field), I suspect it is more likely that you would see most of those seats being filled by pay drivers instead.

        After all, back in the 1990’s there were times when the grid was almost overwhelmed with drivers and teams, but you had some fairly embarrassingly bad teams and drivers on the grid in an era where it sometimes felt like a case of quantity over quality at times (Forti, Pacific or the infamously awful Andrea Moda are some which come to mind, as well as drivers like Rosset and Deletraz who were picked on the strength of their wallets rather than their ability).

      3. I don’t get your comment, from that list you just need two more cars

      4. Miane