Unsurprisingly perhaps, Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr have differing opinions as to who caused the embarrassing coming-together that ultimately took both Sauber entries out of Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix.
As usual, the pair were far from the point-scoring position at the time of the incident, but provided one of the talking points of the race after colliding at Rascasse on lap 49 of 78.
Nasr, who had started from the pit-lane after failing to complete a lap in qualifying before his engine expired, was ahead of his Swedish team-mate at the time but, despite catching the traffic ahead of him, was lapping slower, prompting Ericsson to call for him to move over. The team relayed the order to Nasr, but the Brazilian resisted. Ericsson's team radio caught the Swede suggesting, tongue-in-cheek, that perhaps the radio had failed on the #12 machine, before deciding to matters into his own hands.
Passing at Rascasse is tough, but possible – as Jules Bianchi showed in 2014 and several drivers copied in the GP2 races this very weekend – but Ericsson's attempt was somewhat crude and, with Nasr either unsighted or unwilling to cede, it was almost inevitable that the two blue-and-yellow machines would come together.
Nasr was out on the spot, only able to limp his car back across the track and into the pit-lane, while Ericsson continued for three more laps before being forced to retire with problems potentially linked to the short flight he took across his team-mate's nose. Both drivers, as well as having to face the music at home, were also reported to the stewards, who decided that Ericsson was the guilty party, imposing a three-place grid penalty on the Swede for next month's Canadian Grand Prix.
“I was catching him at three or four seconds per lap, got stuck behind him and [asked] the team what to do,” Ericsson explained, “They told me they were going to tell him to swap positions and they said to me for seven or eight laps that they were telling him. When that didn't happen after seven or eight laps, I said to the team 'we are losing too much time here'.
“We had so much pace, at least two seconds a lap more pace in the car that we could not use, so I will have to try and make a move myself. I got the green light from my engineer to try and make a move and I thought [Rascasse] was a good place because I saw [Nasr] was struggling a lot in the last sector.
“I went for the move and thought, in the worst case, I would stay in position and have to drop back behind but obviously the end result was not the same as earlier with [Valtteri] Bottas.”
Nasr confirmed that he had received the instruction to move over from the team, but insisted that it was not the right thing to do, despite having struggled with a misfire mid-race.
“I was doing my own race,” he maintained, “First of all, it's Monaco [and] there were such tricky conditions for everyone. When it goes wet to dry, there's only one racing line for everyone, so it was really difficult to overtake out on track in all conditions.
“All I can say is that, today, I had to race with an old-spec engine, starting from the pit-lane, and my race was going really well. When the leaders came through to lap me, I just kept getting blue flags for three or so laps and I lost tyre temperature. Then I was having some engine problems too and trying to diagnose problems from inside the car. There was a misfire, and that doesn't help but, once I got it cleared and got my temperatures back, I caught [Romain] Grosjean and was right behind him when Ericsson tried to overtake and we crashed at La Rascasse.
“The team could see the data, they could see the problems I was having on the engine side [but], once the problems and blue flags were clear, the pace was there and I was clearly catching the cars ahead. There was no reason to swap positions at that place. I got the message, but I didn't feel it was the right time to do it.”
The Brazilian also raised the spectre of previously ignored orders given to the other side of the garage, suggesting that there may have been a degree of retribution to his reluctance.
“Let's put it this way: there was two occasions last year that Marcus was told to swap positions last year, and he didn't do it. For me, today, there was racing going on again. It's not like we were fighting for points and we were clearly on different strategy to let him go. For me, it was all about the cars I was catching ahead. If you look at the race, I was catching them one or two seconds a lap...
“Since I've been at Sauber, there have been a few very rare occasions [where team orders were needed]. If you are on different strategies, for sure you don't want to block the team's possibilities but, today, I didn't see any reason for that.
“We need to have confidence within the team that when an order is made like this, it will be done. Twice already, Marcus didn't do it [and] these are things that, as a racing driver, you remember well. The team's confidence, or lack of, is on him not obeying orders. Here, it wasn't the right way to do it either.”
The two drivers even held different opinions on whether they had discussed the incident, but admitted that a tete-a-tete
was likely before Canada.
“Of course, yes. 100 per cent,” Ericsson confirmed, “I think, for the whole team, it is very disappointing and I apologise from my side to the whole team for what happened. Of course we need to sit down and make sure we clear the air so we can make sure we move forward in Montreal and go there and fight together as a team.”
The Swede said he had yet to be admonished by team boss Monisha Kaltenborn, who was making a rare appearance at a race between attempts to raise further funding to secure the team's future.
“Nothing really [was said], but we just don't want to see it happening again, in general,” Nasr noted, before offering some advice to his principal, “She has to make sure that the team members are confident enough that orders will be obeyed when they're done. It's happened twice now, so I think they need to speak with him in a way that reminds him we are a team and we should be team members. Back then, nothing happened...”