Formula 1 Intra-Team Battles – Who will be Sauber´s and Toro Rosso´s Top Card?

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Formula 1 testing and preparations for the new campaign is done. A lot of people are excited about some of the battles inside the teams and between drivers who know each other. But there are teams that will have new lineups and that makes it more interesting. Alfa Romeo Sauber and Toro Rosso-Honda are two of those teams with a new pair of pilots (partially new in Toro Rosso´s case).

Sauber´s battle: Experience against the fired-up Rookie

Marcus Ericsson will drive for his fifth year in Formula One and will be facing his fifth teammate in that span. He faced Japanese Kamui Kobayashi, German André Lotterer in 2014 with Caterham. The Swede paired up with Brazilian Felipe Nasr in 2015 and 2016. Last year he had Antonio Giovinazzi for the first two races and Pascal Wehrlein for the rest of the year.

Neither Ericsson nor his teammates scored points in 2014, but he ended ahead of them. More importantly, ahead of Kobayashi, who drove fifteen races alongside the Swede. Ericsson scored nine points in 2015, a third of the points achieved by his teammate. In fact, Ericsson’s nine points for the entire season was lower than Nasr’s total after round one in Australia. In 2016, the Swedish driver could not reach points finishes for the whole year. While Nasr was ninth in the rainy 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Last season (2017), Ericsson participated in 18 races with German Pascal Wehrlein as his colleague inside the Swiss garage. Wehrlein scored points in two different events (8th in Spain and 10th in Azerbaijan). So far, Ericsson has not been able to defeat a teammate since 2014. And for his career, he has credit for only 21% of his team’s points.

Leclerc expects to hit the F1 ground running

Charles Leclerc, on the other hand, will be in his debut F1 season. The Monegasque comes from two championship-winning seasons in GP3 Series in 2016 and in FIA Formula 2 last year.

Leclerc’s GP3-winning campaign in 2016 was driving for ART Grand Prix and had three teammates: Nirei Fukuzumi, Alexander Albon, and Nyck De Vries. Leclerc beat them all. He beat Albon and De Vries by 111 and 69 points respectively. Whilst Fukuzumi finished behind 25 points and was runner-up.

In 2017, on his way to the Formula 2 crown, Leclerc drove for Prema Racing. His teammate was Italian Antonio Fuoco, and it was not even close, as Leclerc had 282 points by the end of the year and won seven races. Fuoco could not match his performance and finished eighth in the championship with 98 points and one victory, at Monza.

So it is an experienced driver in F1 against the upcoming rookie with high expectations. This fight promises to be somewhat tight. But one of these two drivers is coming in with a better background from previous categories. Ericsson has shown little dominance against teammates, while Leclerc has.

Toro Rosso’s lineup with a lot to prove and much to gain

Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly represent a partially new driver lineup for the upcoming F1 season. Hartley’s debut with the Faenza-based team was in Austin last year. Whilst his French colleague, Pierre Gasly, drove for the first time in F1 at the 2017 Malaysian Grand Prix.

Hartley participated in four events and finished two races. Gasly ran in five GPs and reached the chequered flag in every one of those, with his best result being a twelveth place.

Both drivers have little to no experience in Formula One, And that is exactly what makes this pairing interesting. Hartley and Gasly have a lot to prove in F1 racing and their main aim is to beat one another.

The two drivers enter this season with a good environment team-wise, prompted by Toro Rosso’s union with engine manufacturer Honda. The new fusion presented a strong case in pre-season testing in Barcelona with a lot of laps and a high level of reliability, even though they used different Power Units. But Honda has definitely stepped their game up.

With the current circumstances, the two drivers have the right mindset to come into the season thinking about racing and not about issues between the two teams working on the vehicle. In terms of recent racing success, Hartley and Gasly have enjoyed the taste of champagne consistently in different categories.

Hartley won two championships in the last three seasons in the World Endurance Championship with Porsche, whilst he had success in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the same squad. Particularly in 2017, when he won the famous race alongside Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber.

Gasly, on the other hand, was second in last year’s Japanese Super Formula Championship. He won the former GP2 Series in 2016 defeating his then-teammate Antonio Giovinazzi.

This battle will attract a lot of eyeballs. Especially because many F1 fans are waiting to see how the Honda Power Unit will perform after the three horrendous years with McLaren. Gasly seems to be pretty fast, while Hartley has a defined race craft because of his long tenure in racing and being older than his colleague (Hartley started racing karts in 1995 and Gasly was born in 1996).

In 2017, they shared the garage in three races: Mexico, Brazil, and Abu Dhabi. Hartley dominated two of the three qualifying events in which they competed, whilst Gasly won the race position scuffle 2 to 1.

STR-Honda has a good lineup in their hands and every piece has fallen in the right place for them in 2018. The F1 season will start next Sunday with the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne.

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