Two more pieces of the 2018 jigsaw fell into place this morning when Sauber announced that Marcus Ericsson will be joined by F2 champion Charles Leclerc next season, with Antonio Giovinazzi as reserve driver.
The announcement was made at a press conference at the Museo Storico Alfa Romeo near Milan, attended by Sergio Marchionne, president of the Fiat Chrysler group whose Alfa Romeo division will be a technical partner of the Swiss outfit, FIA president Jean Todt and FOM boss Chase Carey.
While Leclerc's appointment comes as no surprise, the youngster being a product of the Ferrari Driver Academy, there will be raised eyebrows at the decision to retain Ericsson who enjoyed the dubious distinction of being the only regular F1 driver to fail to score a point this year.
An idea of the proposed livery was given, albeit using the 2017 car. The 2018 contender will enjoy the latest spec Ferrari power unit.
Ericsson, who has been driving for Sauber since 2015, will go into his fourth season for the team, and fifth season in Formula One, while Leclerc, who completed four FP1 sessions and two tyre tests for the Swiss team in 2017.
"We are all delighted about the cooperation with Alfa Romeo," said Frederic Vasseur, the Swiss outfit's team principal. With Marcus and Charles, we have a strong driver duo for the debut season of the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team.
"Marcus is an experienced Formula One driver, who knows the procedures and the team well, after having worked together for the past 3 years. He is a team player, and has a very positive attitude. Charles has proven his talent in several racing series, most recently winning the Formula 2 World Championship title. He had the chance to drive in four FP1 sessions and two tyre tests for us this season, and convinced the team with his professionalism and charisma. I look forward to going into 2018 with this driver pairing, and I am convinced that they will complement each other very well."
"First of all, I would like to congratulate the team on the new partnership with Alfa Romeo," said Ericsson. "It is a great honour for me to be driving for this team in 2018, and I am excited and proud to be part of this promising journey. I am confident that I can add to the knowledge and experience of the team. This winter is going to be very busy, and it will be important to push the development of the car in order to have a good start to the season. I am optimistic, that 2018 can be a big step and a good chance for us to move up in the field."
"I am very happy to be entering Formula One in 2018," added Leclerc. "First and foremost, I would like to thank Ferrari for their support. I would also like to thank Sauber for their trust and confidence in me as a driver, and look forward to joining the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team for the upcoming season.
"It was a great experience to drive a few FP1 sessions and tyre tests for the Sauber F1 Team in 2017, during which the team welcomed me straight away. It is a great working environment, and I already feel confident and comfortable here. In 2018, my aim will be to gain more experience in Formula One, and to bring as much value to the team as possible in return."
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