Sauber plans round of aero upgrades for Spanish GP

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It’s not been the easiest of starts for Sauber to the 2014 Formula One season. The Swiss team has struggled with reliability issues; Adrian Sutil has failed to finish the last three Grands Prix and arguably Esteban Gutierrez’s only moment of notoriety came under unfortunate circumstances when he got speared by Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus at Bahrain.

Caterham and Marussia are yet to score, which was expected, but Sauber and Lotus are both yet to get on the scoreboard this season.

So heading into the Spanish GP weekend, Sauber seeks a turnaround as they plan a weight reduction and substantial aerodynamic updates, per head of track engineering Giampaolo Dall’Ara, in a team pre-race release.

“At the Spanish Grand Prix both C33s will have essential revisions, following an extensive weight reduction and a significant aerodynamic update,” he said. “This update consists of a modified front wing and a new engine cover, new side-pod fins and deflectors, as well as a number of other aerodynamic changes. Besides that, we will also have a software improvement which will enable us to use the potential of the power unit in a better way. We expect a busy Friday at the track while tuning the set-up to the new package.”

Sutil has exactly one goal this weekend: Finish.

“We will be travelling to Barcelona with some car updates, which I hope will help us to improve our performance,” he said. “Obviously, I expect more than in the last races. After three retirements in a row, we need to finish this race.”

Gutierrez has something to defend this race, having set fastest lap here last year.

“For us it is an opportunity to improve our level of competitiveness. I have faith in my team, everyone is doing their best,” said the young Mexican. “We are positive and expect to make a step forward. Last year was very positive for me because I did the fastest lap in the race. I am fully prepared to go for the maximum and to get the most out of the car.”

Test and reserve driver Giedo van der Garde will also be busy around the weekend. The Dutchman is expected to run in FP1 on Friday, and he’ll have a full test day a week from Tuesday.

We’ll see if the changes bring Sauber closer to the front of the field.

Marvin Musquin’s Indy win may have come too late

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Marvin Musquin answered one question at Indianapolis last week, but the biggest one may well plague him for the next six weeks.

Musquin has won a battle, but can he win the war?

After standing on the podium in eight of the first 10 races, Musquin finally showed the field he was capable of winning in Indy when he grabbed the holeshot and led every lap on the way to Victory Lane. He was never seriously challenged and it was the Musquin that Supercross fans expected to see all season.

It was a long time coming. Musquin must have felt like victory was just around the corner after finishing second in the overall standings in Anaheim II’s Triple Crown race. He was third in the first Main that night and second in the last two Mains.

As it turned out, that single race defined his season until last week. Musquin stood on the podium all night, but he finished two spots behind Cooper Webb in the first Main and was one spot back in the second. It was only as time ran out that he was able to beat Webb by a single spot in the third Main. If Musquin had won either of the first two Mains, he would have had the overall victory – denying Webb his first career win in the process.

Webb’s Anaheim win revitalized the rider and gave him the confidence to rattle off four more wins in the next seven races.

Meanwhile, Musquin scored podium finishes in the next seven races, making him almost perfect. In another season, a record like that would have been enough to give him a comfortable points lead. In 2019, he sit 14 markers out of first, which is the points’ equivalent of the difference between first and 11th in one race. In other words, Webb cannot lose the points lead at Seattle unless he finishes outside the top 10 while his teammate wins.

Looking at the numbers another way the scenario is not quite as hopeless. Musquin needs to shave only 2.3 points off Webb’s lead each week to win the championship. Three points separate first and second. Five points differentiates first from third, which is where Webb finished in Indianapolis. Webb is vulnerable as his 10th-place finish at Glendale and an eighth at San Diego attest.

Those bobbles came early and Webb seems to have forgotten how to make a mistake.

A third-place is Webb’s worst finish in the last six weeks and since Anaheim II when Musquin started his impressive string of podium finishes, Webb has recorded an average finish of 2.2. That came with a worst finish of eighth on an extremely muddy and heavy track in San Diego. Musquin has a worst finish of only sixth, but his average of 2.8 still lags behind Webb.

Worse still, since Anaheim II Musquin has finished behind Webb in every race except for the outlier of San Diego.

It is no longer a question of keeping pressure on Webb. Musquin cannot expect his teammate to make a mistake; he has to find a way to pass him on the track. If Webb adds only two points to his lead at Seattle, Musquin’s fate would no longer be in his hands. He would need to gain 3.2 points per race. With that scenario, Webb could finish one spot behind Musquin every week and still win the championship.