Ferrari is working on promoting both of its junior drivers, Charles Leclerc and Antonio Giovinazzi, into Formula 1 with Sauber next year, effectively creating a Maranello B-team.
Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne spoke earlier this year about turning Sauber into a Ferrari B-team, after renewing its engine supply deal with the Swiss squad.
Autosport has learnt Marchionne and Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene flew to Sauber’s Hinwil headquarters last week to discuss the plans – and the possibility of a Leclerc – Giovinazzi line-up for 2018.
New Sauber team principal Fred Vasseur has openly talked of his desire to develop closer ties with Ferrari, and Marchionne has been clear about the need to secure racing opportunities for Leclerc and Giovinazzi.
“We need space because we have a couple of young drivers that are exceptional,” said Marchionne. “We need to find a place to lay the foundations for the Scuderia Ferrari of tomorrow.”
There has been no official confirmation from Ferrari about its specific ambitions for next year, but Sauber represents the only realistic chance to get Leclerc and Giovinazzi into race seats.
Customer team Haas, where Ferrari third driver Giovinazzi has been slotted in for Friday practice outings, has already confirmed it will stick with Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen next season.
Speaking after his Haas practice run in Singapore, Giovinazzi said he was still waiting to find out what Ferrari wanted to do with him next year.
Should Ferrari’s Sauber plan come to fruition, it would leave the futures of current Sauber drivers Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson in doubt.
Sauber Motorsport AG, competing as Sauber F1 Team, is a Swiss Formula One team. It was founded in 1993. Swiss investment firm Longbow Finance S.A. are the current majority owners of Sauber.
Having not won a Grand Prix as an independent team, the team was sold to BMW in 2005, and competed as BMW Sauber from 2006 to 2009, scoring only one victory.