Fresh from announcing the signing of Marcus Ericsson for the 2015 Formula 1 season, the Sauber team has confirmed it will field an all-new line-up by confirming Williams reserve driver Felipe Nasr will drive its second car.
The 22-year-old Brazilian has served as Williams’ reserve driver while also driving for the Carlin team in the GP2 Series championship, where he lies second overall with four wins to his credit. Nasr is a former British F3 champion and runner-up at the prestigious Macau Grand Prix.
His appointment comes with a major sponsorship injection by his backers, Banco do Brasil, who will have significant signage on the Sauber cars next year.
“We have been following Felipe’s career path for some time now, and he fully deserves his position in Formula One having had a very successful career in junior categories. We are happy that he will be driving for our team next year. This means that Brazil will have one more young and talented driver in the sport. Banco do Brasil has been an important partner for Felipe so far, and we are delighted that such a renowned company is contuing to support him during this important step. We look forward to this partnership,” Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn said.
“It is a very important step in my career to sign with the Sauber F1 Team for the 2015 Formula One World Championship,” Nasr added.
“This is an unforgettable moment that I owe to all of those who have supported me – my family, my friends, my sponsors, my teams and my country. Today the dream has come true. Sauber was responsible for the arrival in F1 of great names such as Felipe Massa, Kimi Räikkönen, Robert Kubica and Sebastian Vettel. I am proud now to also be part of this racing family. I had a wonderful year at Williams Martini, where I learned a lot and prepared myself to be a race driver in Formula One.”
Given Sauber’s financial troubles, it’s of little surprise that the team has gone with two well-backed drivers. Nasr’s backing was thought to have been in the region of $14 million, but evidently his backers have stumped up even more in order to outbid Sauber reserve driver Giedo van der Garde, who was thought to be a shoe-in for one of the seats.
Van der Garde – along with incumbent drivers Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutiérrez – will now be on the market and jostling for one of the few remaining seats left to finalise next year’s grid, assuming that neither Caterham nor Marussia are able to rescue themselves from administration.
Given van der Garde’s significant backing, he will be better placed than either Sutil or Gutiérrez, who both have suffered a loss in their market value despite the Sauber team’s terrible 2014 season.
Sutil enjoys neither the backing or the form to warrant being hired by another team, while the Mexican-backed Gutiérrez – who has a sole points’ finish at Suzuka last year to his credit – has failed to shine in Formula 1 and looks likely to be off the grid completely.
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