It was contrasting fortunes for the two Sauber drivers as Marcus Ericsson finished in points while Charles Leclerc rued the wrong pit call in the 2018 Formula 1 German Grand Prix.
Even though Leclerc started inside the Top 10, he was soon pushed out when the recovering Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo came through. He then fought back to 10th when rain arrived.
The team immediately called him in to take a gamble like Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso. But it backfired as the rain never got heavy for them to make the strategy stick and they were forced to change back to the dry tyres.
This put Leclerc way down the order at the time when his teammate Ericsson chose to stay out and eventually he landed up inside the points position. Leclerc had a scary 360 spin as well on the main straight as he exited the final corner, but saved it well in the end.
But post-race, the Monegasque was not happy as he admitted that he didn’t want to pit for the intermediates tyres when the team made the call. He knew the conditions were not bad enough to run the slick tyres.
“A race to forget and I am very disappointed,” he said. “We miss-communicated with the team. I didn’t really want to stop for inters at that time and we did to which I don’t really understand why, but we will analyse and hopefully it won’t happen again.
“From that moment, the race was a struggle [for me]. I lost a lot of positions in that time, and it was a challenge to try and get the tyres to work. It is unfortunate to finish the race in this way,” he added after ending up 15th.
Ericsson though learnt from his 2015 British Grand Prix mistake when rain arrived at the later stage of the race and the Swede took the strategy calls which eventually hurt his points chances and he finished 11th then.
But on Sunday at Hockenheim, Ericsson made it certain to his team that he will stay out and fight it on track, for which he was rewarded with two points. “It was really tough conditions out there,” he started.
“Obviously, with the rain coming in the middle of the race – deciding if you are going to stay out or not [was tricky]. The team was asking a lot about the conditions but I had some memories from Silverstone, from a couple of years back .
“[In that race] I was pitting on every other lap in these [type of] conditions and I threw away some points, so I didn’t wanted to do that again. I just wanted to stay out and told the team we need to stay out and in the end, it was a really nice decision.”
In the same way, it worked out for the Force India drivers and also Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley as they decided not to pit as well. While Leclerc rued the team call, Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen defended their’s.
They all felt that it will rain heavier and their quick call will help them in the longer run. In fact, Gasly went out on full wets rather than the intermediates. “It was a hard day for decision making due to the late changes in the weather,” said Verstappen.
“I had a small slide at Turn 6 when it first started to rain so I decided to pit for intermediates. As soon as I came out of the pits and got to Turn 6 it was dry again. I knew it was not going to work.
“Sometimes these decisions work for you, sometimes not as we experienced today. The safety car meant it didn’t impact the result but it was worth trying at the time.” Gasly added: “We had to try something and it just didn’t work [in the race].
“We pitted to put the wet tyres when the track was still dry and then we switched back to the dry when it started to be much more wet, so [we were] quite unlucky with the strategy, but we didn’t have much to lose this weekend [anyways].”