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Sauber confirms Leclerc for F1 practice outings starting in Malaysia

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Ferrari junior and runaway Formula 2 championship leader Charles Leclerc will appear for Sauber in four Formula 1 practice sessions later this year, starting next week in Malaysia.

Leclerc, 19, won last year’s GP3 title and is currently 59 points clear in the F2 standings with four races remaining.

The Monegasque driver has been linked with a drive at Sauber for 2018 given its technical partnership with Ferrari, with confirmation of his practice program pointing towards a future race seat.

“The Sauber F1 Team is pleased to confirm that Charles Leclerc will be in the cockpit of the Sauber C36-Ferrari during four free practice sessions ahead of the upcoming 2017 Formula One Grand Prix,” a statement from Sauber reads.

“Leclerc, the current leader in this year’s F2 series, will be participating in FP1 sessions during the race weekends in Malaysia, US, Mexico and Brazil.

“At the Malaysian Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc will be driving the Sauber C36-Ferrari for the first time in FP1 on Friday at the Sepang International Circuit. Regular driver Marcus Ericsson will take over the car from FP2 onwards.”

Sauber is expected to part company with Mercedes youngster Pascal Wehrlein at the end of the season, with Leclerc set to take his seat.

Ericsson’s future is also unclear after another tough and point-less season with Sauber, although his links to the team’s owners may keep him on for a fourth year at Hinwil.

Should Ericsson lose his seat, Leclerc’s fellow Ferrari junior Antonio Giovinazzi is the favorite to make the step up, having deputized for Wehrlein in Australia and China earlier this year.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.