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Sauber hoping to confirm 2018 F1 line-up in Abu Dhabi

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Sauber hopes to be in a position to confirm its 2018 Formula 1 line-up at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in two weeks’ time as talks with Ferrari regarding its junior drivers continue.

Sauber announced in July it had struck a new, expanded partnership with Ferrari that will see it enjoy current-year power units from 2018, with the Italian marque also set to place at least one of its juniors at the team.

Formula 2 champion and Ferrari-backed junior Charles Leclerc is expected to take at least one of Sauber’s seats, having featured in practice for the team in Malaysia, the USA, Mexico and Brazil.

Fellow Ferrari junior Antonio Giovinazzi raced as a stand-in for the injured Pascal Wehrlein at Sauber in Australia and China, and is also in contention for a seat, although Marcus Ericsson may be retained due to his links to the teams owners.

Asked when an announcement could be expected, Sauber team boss Frederic Vasseur said he hoped to have the 2018 line-up finalized in the next two weeks in order to go public with the news in Abu Dhabi.

“We will do the announcement, I hope, in Abu Dhabi. For sure we’ll do it before Melbourne next year, and I won’t postpone it each week,” Vasseur said.

“But I think Charles is doing a good job. The situation in FP1 is not an easy one because the first target is to avoid crashing.

“He’s consistent and he always shows a strong pace, and he’s doing a good job.”

With a Leclerc/Ericsson or Leclerc/Giovinazzi line-up likely at Sauber next year, Mercedes youngster Wehrlein faces an uncertain F1 future, with Williams the only possible seat for him to take if he is to remain in the sport.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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