Sauber: The Biggest Winner of the Driver Market?

After a poor start of 2013 season, the Hinwil team seemed set to take average drivers for next year. However, the latest moves can change the game.
Thursday, November 14, 2013

Surprisingly, the driver market for 2014 season is turning upside down in the last few weeks. Sergio Perez put an end to the speculation and announced he will leave McLaren after just one season driving for the British team, and most reliable sources guarantee that Kevin Magnussen is on the verge to be named as Jenson Button’s new teammate.

As explained in my last article, I considered a better option for McLaren to keep Perez and put Magnussen at a smaller team, in order to gather experience and allow the young Danish, out of the spotlights, to make the normal mistakes that a rookie needs to make. However, Magnussen’s impressive performances on the tests and at the simulator – where he is believed to outpace Perez quite often – were enough to convince the bosses to give him a chance.

It’s still unknown whether McLaren will have good results with this move. Nonetheless, all the changes can benefit another team that seemed to be doomed to take two average drivers for 2014: Sauber.

Now officially a free agent, Perez saw his reputation suffer serious damage after his premature departure from his first top team. However, the Mexican can be a great asset for a midfielder squad. He is the same driver who almost took Sauber to the sky last year. Besides he can always receive the wealthy support from Mexican companies that still has connections with Sauber – especially if the Hermanos Rodriguez circuit hosts its race in 2014, which would increase the country’s interests to bond even tighter to F1.

Perez may not be the same kind of a phenomenon that Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton were in their first few years in F1 (and who can blame him?), but he has his value. He would be a much safer option for Sauber than Esteban Gutierrez, who is still inconsistent in his debut year.

But what about the other cockpit? The acclaimed deal with three companies from Russia meant that the young Sergey Sirotkin was set to keep a drive on the team, unless he doesn’t get his superlicence. Reports suggest that is also about to change though, as the deal appears to have never been sealed.

On another change that recently was made official, Felipe Massa will replace Pastor Maldonado at Williams, which leaves the Venezuelan with no drive by now. It’s not a secret that Maldonado’s sights are set to Lotus, but it’s also not a secret that the new investors of the Enstone team, Quantum Motorsports, would rather take Nico Hulkenberg.

Therefore, there is a realistic chance of Maldonado needing to use his back-up plan. He has been linked to Sauber in the last few months, as such move could be opportune for both parties – the petrodollars from PDVSA would be very welcomed in Hinwil.

After starting the 2013 season in such a poor form, struggling to reach the top ten, Sauber was on the expectation to be on a lose-lose situation – it would either sign a good driver who wouldn’t bring any money, or take someone with a large budget on the pocket, but without the necessary ability.

Now, the scenario is slightly different. There are two good drivers (champion and runner-up of 2010 GP2 season) available who can find at Sauber an opportunity of resurgence in F1 – and both are very promising moneywise. With them, Sauber may find the ideal path to carry on its solid path chasing the top teams next year.

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