Four into one doesn’t go at Sauber, so who will get the seat?

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As the paddock continues to speculate about where both Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel will end up on the Formula 1 grid for the 2015 season, there has been some movement further down the field with Sauber confirming the signing of Marcus Ericsson from Caterham.

Ericsson has endured a difficult rookie year in Formula 1, but did manage to match Caterham’s best-ever result with 11th in Monaco before the team ultimately collapsed ahead of this weekend’s United States Grand Prix.

Despite being sidelined, the Swede made the trip over to Austin for the race, and his announcement came as something of a surprise on Thursday. Although he may not race again this year, he will have the start of a new and very exciting time with Sauber in 2015.

So this leaves the problem of a second seat for the Swiss team, with four drivers putting forward very strong cases for claiming it.

When we spoke to Adrian Sutil on Saturday in Austin, he did not have a great deal to say, merely reiterating that Ericsson’s confirmation has not changed his plans for next season. He is thought to have a contract with the team, and although Sauber could compensate him to make way for another driver, the situation is not 100% clear. After seven seasons in F1, he could well be facing the exit if the team opts for a driver with a bigger paycheck.

Esteban Gutierrez is much the same. The Mexican driver would obviously be a big pull for next season with the return of the Mexican Grand Prix, leaving Sauber with a bit of a marketing headache. His on-track results haven’t been all that impressive in either of his first two seasons in F1, although many may argue that he hasn’t really been given a chance by the troublesome cars that Sauber have produced. If he too has a firm deal for next year, Sauber may find themselves with a few payouts to make.

Giedo van der Garde has perhaps the strongest case for a seat, even though he has been in a reserve role all season long. His time with Caterham in 2013 was short but solid, and he too has a good deal of funding that could secure him a place on the grid with Sauber. As he hasn’t had his results record tarnished by the difficult C33, he may be in the running – and, according to the German press, is the man leading the way – for the second seat at Sauber next year.

The only other question is where Sergey Sirotkin fits into the equation. The Russian youngster was due to make his F1 debut this year, before Sauber ultimately opted for Sutil and Gutierrez. He has completed far more F1 running in 2014, and been quite impressive on occasion, but the question about his experience does linger. He would be the ‘wildcard’ option for Sauber if there ever was one.

With Sauber, Ericsson has a second chance after being short-changed at Caterham this year. He proved in GP2 that he is a very adept and talented racer, and whoever his teammate is, he looks set to flourish. Quite whether it is Sutil, Gutierrez, van der Garde or Sirotkin remains to be seen, but all four certainly have a good case going for them.

At the US GP on Sunday in Austin, in spite of the reduced field, Sauber failed to score any points once again after Sutil was crashed into on the first lap for the third year in a row. Gutierrez was the last classified finisher in 15th place.

NBC/NBCSN SCHEDULE FROM UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.