The Sauber Team are widely tipped to announce their 2018 driver line-up plus Alfa Romeo-ties, during this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Charles Leclerc has been hotly tipped for his F1 debut with Sauber in 2018 since the Swiss outfit announced a reprisal of its Ferrari-affiliation during the Hungarian Grand Prix. The Monégasque, who claimed the inaugural FIA Formula 2 title at the last round in Jerez, has driven four FP1 sessions with Sauber ahead of an anticipated race deal for 2018.
It remains unclear, however, whether an impetus to forge closer ties with Ferrari following the engine deal will place the Scuderia’s reserve driver, Antonio Giovinazzi, in the seat alongside Leclerc. Of the incumbents, Pascal Wehrlein is considered unlikely to retain his place on the grid, whilst Marcus Ericsson remains in firmly in contention for a return in 2018.
The Swede – who is believed to have ties with Sauber’s owners, Longbow Finance – is reported by Autosport as the marginally preferred candidate, however, Giovinazzi may yet commandeer the seat if Ferrari chooses to not to sign-off on Ericsson’s return.
A return to F1 for Alfa Romeo?
Autosport also reports that the Hinwil-based team are set to announce an association with Alfa Romeo, which would be the Italian marque’s first appearance in the sport since its factory-backed effort was discontinued in 1985. Ferrari president, Sergio Marchionne has long spoken of an aspiration to reintroduce the iconic Alfa name to F1, with the possibility of rebranding the Sauber engines as Alfas being muted as a potential scenario.
Whilst a Sauber-Alfa tie-up is reportedly likely, given the fragility of the current relations between Ferrari and F1’s new administration, it will be interesting to see if the FIAT Group chooses to see out its plans to expand its investment in F1 across two marques.