By Adam Tate, Associate Editor
Sauber and Alfa Romeo celebrated their new partnership today from the Alfa Romeo museum where they announced their 2018 driver lineup and unveiled a teaser of the 2018 livery that will adorn the cars that will be known as Alfa Romeo Saubers.
Reigning F2 champion and Ferrari junior driver Charles Leclerc will make his much anticipated Formula One debut alongside Marcus Ericsson who returns for a fourth season with the team. Antonio Giovinazzi who contested the first two races for the Sauber earlier this year in place of the injured Pascal Wehrlein will take part in six FP1 sessions for the team in 2018 as they further evaluate the young Italian’s prospects.
After blitzing the field in GP3 then Formula Two, Leclerc is eager for his F1 debut as the most hyped rookie since Max Verstappen.
“I am very happy to be entering Formula One in 2018. 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.”
If Leclerc can live up to expectations there are many who see him as the likely man to replace Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari when the veteran Finn retires.
Team Principal, and former Renault man Frederic Vasseur clearly delighted with the deal his team has made with Sergio Marchionne and FCA had this to say.
“We are all delighted about the cooperation with Alfa Romeo. Today, we created the foundation for our partnership at the Alfa Romeo Museum in Arese, Italy. With Marcus and Charles, we have a strong driver duo for the debut season of the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team.”
With Vasseur at the helm, the Alfa Romeo deal complete and FCA set to inject team owners Longbow Finance with a huge investment, the Sauber of recent memory is hardly recognizable. Monisha Kaltenborn is gone and Peter Sauber is retired, but the deal does provide a glimmer of promise that the team can return to strong from in the near future, and we can all hope this go around fares far better than the BMW years for one of F1’s most beloved teams.