Sauber F1 Team has announced that Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson will be retained for the 2016 Formula 1 season following the extension of their contracts.
Nasr and Ericsson joined Sauber for the 2015 season as part of an all-new line-up at Hinwil, and have scored 21 points in the opening nine races of the year.
In a statement issued on Thursday morning, the team announced that both drivers would be remaining with the team for 2016, defusing one possible saga in F1’s silly season.
“We are pleased about the extension of the contracts with Marcus and Felipe,” team principal Monisha Kaltenborn said. “This early point in time shows that the drivers and the team are sure they are heading in the right direction.
“We have full confidence in the talents and skills of Marcus and Felipe. Both have shown solid performances, gained experience and learnt quickly. We enjoy having them in the team and they give it a positive boost.
“Despite their young ages, they work very professionally – on as well as off the track. Marcus and Felipe are already involved in a very dedicated way with the development of next year’s Sauber C35.”
Nasr set a new record for the best debut result for a Brazilian driver in F1 by finishing fifth at the Australian Grand Prix, and has followed that up with points finishes in China and Monaco.
The Brazilian had been linked with a move to Williams for 2016, but was pleased to confirm his plans for next year with Sauber.
“It is great to be driving another season for the Sauber F1 Team,” Nasr said. “The extension to the contract with the Sauber F1 Team is an important step in my career.
“During the first half of the season, in what is my rookie year, I was able to gain a lot of experience from a driving perspective as well as on the personal side. Finishing fifth at my first ever Formula One race in Melbourne in the Australian Grand Prix is so far my career highlight.
“Now I am looking forward to the second half of the season. My objective is to support the team as best I can, and also with regard to the development of the new car.”
After a tricky debut season with Caterham in 2014, Ericsson managed to score his first points in F1 with Sauber at the beginning of the year, and the Swede was quick to thank Sauber for its support.
“I’m very happy that the Sauber F1 Team has put its trust in my potential for another year,” Ericsson said. “Up to now I have some good memories of my first year with the long-standing Swiss team.
“I am getting to know everyone within the team more and more, and feel I am being appreciated as a valuable driver. I feel honoured to be part of the Sauber Motorsport family, and I will continue to do my very best to succeed.”
Despite not being one of the top teams, Sauber had an important role to play in the 2016 driver market. Had Nasr moved to Williams as tipped by the Italian press, or if the team had opted to drop Ericsson, the way would have been clear for Ferrari youngster Raffaele Marciello to make his F1 debut.
Should Williams now move for Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg as a replacement for Valtteri Bottas – thought to be Ferrari-bound – it is possible that Mercedes junior Pascal Wehrlein will step up as a replacement.
Perhaps most importantly though, by announcing its line-up early, Sauber will avoid a repeat of the contract scandal that blighted its start of the season in Australia.