Sauber addresses Monaco clash in open letter to fans

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Sauber has written an open letter to its fans following the clash between drivers Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr during last weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.

Ericsson attempted a risky overtake at La Rascasse after Nasr ignored calls from the team to let his teammate past.

The two drivers collided, ultimately forcing both to retire from the race and leaving Sauber red-faced.

Team principal Monisha Kaltenborn blasted both her drivers, saying they shared blame, but the stewards deemed Ericsson to be responsible and handed him a three-place grid drop for the next race in Canada.

Sauber issued an open letter on its website on Thursday addressing the matter, in which both Ericsson and Nasr agreed such an incident must never happen again.

“So, there has been a lot of talk and speculation about what happened in Monaco this past weekend and we, as a team, understand your frustration… we really do!” the letter read.

“Seeing our two cars in pieces in Rascasse was disappointing, to say the least. And there has also been a lot of blame thrown around between the Felipe and Marcus camps of fans with just as many questions regarding whether the team order should have been given in the first place. We would like to address these concerns.

“What happened is unacceptable. The commentators of German broadcaster RTL put it like this: The crash was Marcus’ fault as he caused it with a risky manoeuvre. And it was Felipe’s responsibility as he should have listened to the team and shouldn’t have closed the door on his teammate.

“We all know football (or soccer, for our American friends). Right, F1 is not football but here’s an analogy which we hope will help to understand our point of view. Can we all agree that in football, what counts is the best possible result for the club… for the team? It doesn’t really matter who scores: as long as the team wins, everyone wins.

“Where does that leave us? Simple. We win together, we lose together.

“Many of you argue that team orders aren’t good for the sport and that we should just let our drivers race freely. We agree, but while this is true most of the time and it is what we do as much as possible, it is imperative to always look at the bigger picture and ask: ‘What is better for the team?’

“Some of you have said that you don’t understand why we even bothered to give a team order running in positions 15 and 16. Well, with every position gained, we are that much closer to points. And even without scoring any points, any higher position in a race can potentially mean keeping the position in the constructors’ championship (or, vice versa, a drop in positions).

“We are all racers. But the team’s overall interest will always be more important than that of any individual.

“Remember the days when team orders were given in secret codes and the fans didn’t have a clue about what was going on? We very much prefer today’s open communication.

“As emotions run high after this incident, it is important to remember that without the team, the drivers couldn’t prove their racing skills and without the drivers, the team wouldn’t be able to compete. Support ‘your’ driver by actually giving him support. Cheer for Felipe, Brazil. Cheer for Marcus, Sweden. But please do so with respect. We are all Formula 1 supporters after all.

“We have analyzed what happened; we have discussed it with Marcus and Felipe, and we all agree that this must never happen again. Everyone at the factory in Hinwil, as well as the drivers, now focus on the next race in Montreal. We’re all looking forward to racing soon again, as a team.

“We’d like to thank all of you who support our team and our drivers. We share your passion and we appreciate your commitment and engagement! And we thank each and every member of this team who is still giving it their very best on a daily basis during these trying times. Sacrificing for a shared dream is what keeps us going.

“Let us close off in team radio lingo: ‘Copy?'”

Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
Brett Farmer/LAT Images/IMSA

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.