x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Sauber to size up Mexican after Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Test driver is frontrunner to replace outgoing Perez while Kobayashi's place is also uncertain.

All teams ahead of Sauber in the championship have finalised their line-ups with Sergio Perez joining McLaren next season.
All teams ahead of Sauber in the championship have finalised their line-ups with Sergio Perez joining McLaren next season.

Sauber will run the Mexican Formula One prospect Esteban Gutierrez in a young driver test in Abu Dhabi next month, the Swiss team said yesterday.

The 21 year old is already the team's test and reserve driver and is tipped as a likely candidate to fill the shoes of compatriot Sergio Perez, who is joining McLaren as Lewis Hamilton's replacement next season.

Sauber have a number of important Mexican sponsors and the Monterrey-born Gutierrez is also backed by the country's telephone giant Telmex within the same Escuderia Telmex line-up as Perez.

The test will be Gutierrez's fourth for Sauber since 2009 and he will be joined in Abu Dhabi by the 21-year-old Dutchman Robin Frijns. The test runs from November 6 to 8, after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 4.

Sauber have taken four podium finishes this season, and the team have the most desirable remaining vacancy, and possibly two seats, in the sport now that teams above them have settled their line-ups.

The team's other current race driver is Japan's Kamui Kobayashi, whose future remains uncertain despite him finishing third at his home Grand Prix this month.

Meanwhile, Thailand's government sports authority says it has struck an in-principle deal to host a F1 race in Bangkokin 2014, with negotiations ongoing about the hosting fee, according to a report in The Nation newspaper.

Kanokphand Chulakasem, the governor of the Sports Authority of Thailand, was quoted as saying "Formula One has decided to include Thailand in its 2014 season calendar" with a race slated for November.

He said the government will fund 60 per cent of the cost, with the rest coming from sponsors including Red Bull - which is half Thai-owned - and the Singha brewing group.

The SAT governor said talks were proceeding between F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone and representatives of Red Bull.

"Once the negotiations are complete, we will bring this before the cabinet for discussion and approval," Kanokphand was quoted as saying. "We will sign a deal only after we get the nod from the government."

He said the hosting fee would not be more than that paid by Singapore in its just-completed contract, which he said was 1.2 billion baht (US$39.2 million) per year.

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