2018 marks a fresh start for Sauber, with Italian automotive manufacturer Alfa Romeo joining the squad as title sponsor.
And there’s plenty to look forward to, with the partnership more than just money, a future buyout allegedly on the cards.
SOUNDBITE (Italian) SERGIO MARCHIONNE,
CEO, FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES:
“Alfa Romeo will contribute resources and know-how, both technical and engineering, as well as strategic and commercial to actively support the team."
Along with Alfa Romeo backing, the Swiss squad will enjoy further boosts – including the latest-spec Ferrari power units.
… and behind the wheel, Marcus Ericsson – and the sport’s hottest rookie prospect in Charles Leclerc; the Monegasque thrilled to be confirmed in early December last year.
SOUNDBITE: (French) CHARLES LECLERC,
F1 DRIVER, SAUBER:
"There's really a lot of work before arriving in Formula One and to get there is fantastic. It's a dream come true. Now there's more hard work to be done and I have to try to do my best work next year throughout the 2018 season."
Arguably the most exciting talent to debut in F1 since Max Verstappen in 2015, Leclerc has proved a star in the junior categories – the 20-year-old shown here challenging for the lead at Monza in European F3.
Leclerc finished fourth overall in F3 in 2015, before winning the GP3 and F2 titles. His seven wins in a single F2 campaign – two better than Lewis Hamilton and Nico Hülkenberg in the category’s forerunner, GP2.
Leclerc, though, is keeping expectations of his F1 debut with Sauber, low – given the team finished last in 2017, scoring five points across two events.
SOUNDBITE: (Italian) CHARLES LECLERC,
F1 DRIVER, SAUBER:
“Right now I will do my best with the car that we will receive but we do not know anything regarding this yet. We also don’t whether or not we will be at the same point that we were during the final test.”
But as with all rookie F1 drivers, if the Monegasque can consistently outqualify his teammate and outperform the car on occasion, he’s got a bright future ahead.