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Leclerc already feeling at home with Sauber ahead of F1 debut

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Charles Leclerc says he is already feeling “confident and comfortable” at Alfa Romeo Sauber ahead of his step up to Formula 1 next season with the team.

Leclerc, 20, was announced as being part of Sauber’s line-up for 2018 at a launch event on Saturday in Milan, having won the Formula 2 and GP3 titles over the last two seasons.

The Ferrari junior has already completed a number of practice sessions and tests with Sauber, meaning that while he is relishing the chance to get going, there will be no awkward acclimatizing period as he knows the team already.

“I am very happy to be entering Formula 1 in 2018,” Leclerc said. “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 tire 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 1, and to bring as much value to the team as possible in return.”

MRTI: Keith Donegan earns Mazda Shootout Scholarship

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Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”

The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.

“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”

Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.

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