One of the more remarkable games of the elimination stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil was the quarter-final match between Costa Rica and the Netherlands. Costa Rica survived a tough Group C to advance to the Round of 16 while traditional football powerhouses England and Italy went home after three games. They then beat the stingy Greek national team in the Round of 16 on penalty kicks, to advance to play the Netherlands – who had been a heavy favorite throughout the tournament. Despite the Dutch squad dominating possession for all 90 minutes, plus both 15-minute halves of extra time – Costa Rica’s strategy of “parking the bus” and playing not necessarily to win, but just to survive to get to penalty kicks – almost resulted in one of the all-time upsets in World Cup history. They ultimately lost the shootout 4-3, with Dutch backup goalkeeper Tim Krul making two crucial saves on penalty shots that saved their World Cup bid.
What Costa Rica did that day is what Sauber F1 Team is forced to do in 2015, as it will take on at least one driver bringing nearly $20,000,000 USD in sponsorship to a team that has not had a title sponsor in five years, not finished on the podium in two seasons, and as of the day before the United States Grand Prix, does not have a point to their name in 2014 – all the while, their financial and engineering resources continue to fall further behind those of the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, Red Bull, and McLaren. Remember, this was, once upon a time, the factory Mercedes-Benz sports car racing team. This was the organization that brought the Silver Arrows back into Formula 1 in 1994, and the next year introduced new title sponsor Red Bull, and the year after that introduced new secondary sponsor Petronas, who now sponsor the Mercedes-Benz factory team that has dominated 2014. And the number of young talent that has either debuted or recieved a career-defining break with Sauber in their 22-year history in Formula 1 almost reads like a “who’s who” of contemporary F1 stars.
Shortly after qualifying ended in Austin, Caterham F1 Team driver Marcus Ericsson, forced to sit out the race as his soon-to-be ex-employers try and find a buyer for their team and their assets, was officially announced as one of a possible two new drivers for Sauber in the 2015 Formula One Season.
This is a move that is a positive development for the 24-year-old Swede’s career in a time where his F1 future seemed very uncertain. It’s a good sign for the nation of Sweden, which before Ericsson’s signing this year, hadn’t had a national representative on the F1 grid since Stefan Johansson last drove for the Footwork/Arrows team in 1991. And it’s a good sign that Sauber is able to secure at least one driver to a one-year contract for next season in a time where their future in the sport seems very murky.
Good all around, but not great – not even close. What Ericsson’s deal with Sauber amounts to is parking the bus in front of the goalkeeper and playing not to lose for 90 minutes and stoppage. For the more American audience, Sauber hit a single in signing Ericsson, when they needed an extra-base hit or even a home run. Continue reading “Transaction Analysis: Marcus Ericsson and Sauber”