Let’s face it, there’s been nothing of significance for Sauber to celebrate in 2016. Yes, the team has been saved from liquidation from Swiss investors, and the blue-and-yellow colour scheme doesn’t bore us to death like the rest of the grey and black grid (we’re looking at you, McLaren), but it’s been 22 races since a point was scored by the team. Twenty-two. Twenty. Two.
Not since Felipe Nasr crossed the line in 9th place last season in Austin have they registered on the World Championship scale. There’s been times when they’ve been close, but the lack of finance has hit them hard. But, when the times are tough, the tough get going, as Billy Ocean once sang to us.
Enter Marcus Ericsson. The Swede has his own issues in that he’s seen only as a bankroller for Sauber’s staff, almost harking back to the playboys in fast cars of the 1990s. But Ericsson has rolled his sleeves up and knuckled down to the task at hand with plenty of spirit and a smile on his face, which can’t really be said of teammate Felipe Nasr, who sounds off about his car every other race like a disgruntled child.
Yet Ericsson declared the Mexico race as the best of his career, and he’s not wrong; it was a performance that required the right levels of grit, determination and control that can go unnoticed further down the field. Triggered by contact with the instantly retiring Manor of Pascal Wehrlien, and with the whole race ahead of him, Marcus made his tyres last and hauled his underdeveloped, underpowered and underfunded machine into striking distance of a single World Championship point. Others will say it was mediocre, but someone has to finish there – it might as well be a feat that the rest may call heroic.
Couple this with getting out of Q1 on Saturday, it was a defining weekend. Imagine if he had got that 10th place and single point – Sauber would rise above Manor for 10th place in the constructors, guaranteeing them a windfall of cash that they so desperately need. It was so near, yet so far, but Ericsson can hold his head up high, and take the Top Dog award with him instead.