2014 was a diabolical one for Sauber, with the Swiss outfit only finishing ahead of Caterham with a big fat zero plaguing their points tally. Change, it seems, was needed.
A turbulent winter saw the ousting of Adrian Sutil, Esteban Gutierrez, and that god-awful grey paint scheme. Even so, the team arrived in Australia still with a 2014-shape cloud hanging over them, with former test-driver Giedo Van der Garde waving a 2015 contract in the face of an Australian judge, and new drivers Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr wondering what the hell they’d signed themselves up for.
However, Saturday saw Sauber’s immediate saviour emerge, and the star of the weekend announced, with Formula One rookie Nasr lighting up the timesheets in Q1 and Q2 delivering what would be a more than credible eleventh place on the grid for Sunday’s season opener.
Qualifying really did prove quite the matinee performance for Nasr, who raised eyebrows even further – to the brink of the hairline – on race day. A strong start saw him dance around the faulting Lotuses (Loti?) and a wayward Kimi Raikkonen ahead of the safety car. Sixth at the restart, the 2014-GP2 runner-up put all his junior formulae knowledge to the test, pouncing on fellow scholar of the sport Carlos Sainz Jr. on the run down to Turn One.
Racecraft impressing, Nasr unlocked another skill from his GP2 warchest as the race progressed, looking after his Pirelli’s adequately throughout whilst also holding off the efforts of Daniel Ricciardo and Raikkonen behind. The latter stages saw Nasr consolidate his position, pulling away from the truncated pack rearwards of the much improve Sauber/Ferrari combination and crossing the line as the last non-lapped runner, three places ahead of the overshadowed sister car of Marcus Ericsson. If last week’s amply named ‘Giedo Gate’ was the teams lowest point in recent memory, Nasr’s Sunday heroics were certainly it’s highest.
Well done Felipe, you’re our Top Dog!