Sauber’s nightmare start to 2014 hits a new low

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Sauber F1 Team’s disastrous start to the 2014 Formula 1 season hit a new low today during qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix, as Esteban Gutierrez and Adrian Sutil were both knocked out in Q1.

The Swiss team has failed to score any points so far this season, and has rarely looked capable of doing so. Neither Gutierrez nor Sutil have been overly impressive, or looked to make the best of a bad situation, and today in Monaco they were unceremoniously dumped out during qualifying at the first time of asking.

Both drivers found themselves in the drop zone after Daniil Kvyat moved up into 16th place with his belated timed lap following a spin, yet they only needed to find one-tenth of a second. However, when Felipe Massa and Marcus Ericsson came together at Mirabeau with one minute left on the clock in Q1, it stopped the cars behind from improving their times thanks to the yellow flags.

As a result, both Gutierrez and Sutil finished one-tenth of a second behind Kvyat, and dropped out in Q1.

Although Sauber has been struggling so far this season, it has rarely looked so hapless as it did today. Barring a race of attrition, it is hard to see the Swiss team from finishing in the top ten any time soon.

In fact, Gutierrez and Sutil might have to keep an eye on the drivers behind them. Marussia’s Jules Bianchi finished six-tenths of a second down on Sutil in P19, but he told NBCSN after qualifying that he was confident he could stick with Saubers during the race tomorrow.

This result will only increase the pressure on both Gutierrez and Sutil, whose seats are already under threat for 2015. Sergey Sirotkin, Giedo van der Garde and Simona de Silvestro all have thrown their hat into the ring for a place with Sauber, and going on recent form, there’s a strong argument for completely replacing the driver line-up.

F1 2017 driver review: Sergio Perez

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Sergio Perez

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 11
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Spain)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 100
Championship Position: 7th

While failing to hit the podium as he did in both 2015 and 2016, Sergio Perez once again finished the year as Formula 1’s leading midfield team driver, but faced a greater fight from within Force India in the shape of Esteban Ocon.

Perez has long been knocking on the door of F1’s top teams should an opportunity come up, and 2017 saw him continue his solid if unspectacular form. The dominance of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari meant any finish higher than seventh was impressive, something he managed to do on five occasions.

But there were some missed opportunities along the way, most significantly in Baku. Force India had been quick all weekend, with Perez charging to sixth on the grid, and when drama struck at the front, he and teammate Ocon were eyeing a podium finish as a minimum.

Contact between the two forced Perez to retire and prompted Ocon to pit for repairs, leaving the team without the top-three finish it targeted heading into the season. With Lance Stroll taking P3 for Williams and Daniel Ricciardo winning the race, a maiden victory for Force India was not out of the realm of imagination.

Perez and Ocon came to blows on a number of occasions, with the final straw coming in Spa when they twice touched on-track, prompting Force India to introduce team orders. Perez finished the year 13 points clear of Ocon in the final standings, meeting his own pre-season target of 100 points, yet the Frenchman had arguably made the bigger impression at Force India through his first full season in F1.

Force India remains the top underdog in F1 with Perez spearheading its charge, but it is difficult to see either taking the final step to becoming true contenders at the front of the field anytime soon, as solid as their displays have been.

Season High: P4 in Spain after retirements for the ‘big three’.

Season Low: Losing a sure-fire podium, if not a win, in Baku after contact with Ocon.