E Team manager Beat Zehnder actually only had the attack in 8th place for scheduled for the Brazilian GP. “We're always good at that. But now it has just happened in Mexico. ”With a double strike, the second after the Austrian GP, Sauber pushed Toro Rosso from 8th place. If the Swiss racing team can hold that position, it would be worth $ 3.5 million. And a real boost for the self-confidence of a team that was clearly last in the field a year ago. This season, points went to Hinwil for the twelfth time.
The key to the Sauber success in the land of the Aztecs was the night from Friday to Saturday. The engineers completely reworked the mechanical coordination. “On Saturday the cars were transformed,” confirmed team principal Frédéric Vasseur. Charles Leclerc is particularly proud of this: “I had a clear opinion of what was wrong with the car. I told the engineers that, and they listened to me. ”
13 seconds of air for Leclerc
The future Ferrari driver is also constantly learning new things outside of the car. In the cockpit, the Monegasse regularly calls up top performances. This time too. First the promotion to Q3, then the 7th place. Only Nico Hulkenberg was faster from midfield. As in Austin, Renault had the best car for this route. Leclerc's 7th place was also the product of perfect teamwork. Marcus Ericsson had the job of taking care of the team captain. The Swede did his job brilliantly.
Ericsson drove fast enough that Sergio Perez couldn't overtake him. And he gave Leclerc 13 seconds of breathing space before his pit stop on lap 13. Ericsson himself remained on the track until lap 16. The resistance only broke in the 14th lap. Then Perez made it past the number 16 car. But the slowdown was crowned with success. The Mexican came back on track after his pit stop on lap 30 behind Leclerc. Perez overtook the Sauber three laps later, but then retired with braking problems.
However, it was important for Leclerc that the pack behind him had lost enough time in the slipstream of Ericsson. Especially Stoffel Vandoorne looked like a defensive opponent for a while. The McLaren are just as good at tire wear as the Sauber. Tire management was also a big topic at Sauber. Zehnder said: “Charles and Marcus could have driven faster, but we had toBring tires over the distance. In the end we gave them free rein. Charles's lap times immediately fell from 1.24 to 1.20 minutes. ”
Ericsson loses 9 seconds in the pit stop
Ericsson was unlucky. The Swede lost 9 seconds during the pit stop. The wheel nut was jammed at the front left. 'Fortunately, we noticed it in good time and the mechanic was able to start a second time,' says Zehnder. Without the incident, Ericsson would have finished eighth ahead of Vandoorne. He was also so satisfied: “That was one of my best Formula 1 races. I had to work hard to manage my tires. After the unfortunate pit stop, I was forced to make up positions. I managed that without making any mistakes. ”
In the end, Renault and Sauber's tactics turned out to be the right one. Better to drive into Q3 on the unpopular hypersoft tires than to forego positions and drive a long first stint with harder tires. Because of the overtaking problem, the position on the track was just too important. Leclerc never thought that he could go 13 laps with the Hypersoft rubbers. “I was afraid they would break in after three laps. When it went longer, I was really relieved. Tire management was much more difficult here than in Sochi. The cliff you fall over when the tire collapses is huge. You could lose five seconds from one lap to the next. ”