New-look Sauber sign rookie Leclerc

Arese, Italy: Formula Two champion Charles Leclerc will move up to Formula One (F1) with Alfa Romeo-backed Sauber next season while Swede Marcus Ericcson will stay in the line-up despite failing to score a point in 2017.

The announcement was made by Fiat Chrysler (FCA) chief executive Sergio Marchionne here Saturday at a presentation of Alfa Romeo’s new partnership with the Swiss team at the Italian marquee’s museum near Milan. That deal, marking the return of the historic Alfa Romeo name to F1 after a more than 30-year absence, was announced earlier in the week.

The line-up leaves Pascal Wehrlein, Ericsson’s German teammate, facing an uncertain future with former champions Williams the only remaining team with a vacancy but Poland’s Robert Kubica favourite to fill it.

Ferrari-backed Leclerc, 20 and from Monaco, had been expected to get the Sauber drive after a dominant season in the official feeder series. Ericsson’s future had been in doubt, with Ferrari-backed Italian Antonio Giovinazzi also a candidate under the new partnership. Giovinazzi will be the reserve driver instead, taking part in Friday practice sessions.

Marchionne, who is also chairman of Sauber’s engine suppliers Ferrari, has made the title sponsorship of Sauber part of his reshaping of the FCA-owned Alfa Romeo brand. He added that the partnership would also strengthen his hand in talks with Formula One about the sport’s future and warned that the deal could end in 2021 if Ferrari decided to walk away as they have threatened.



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