Sauber in surprise signing of GP2's Felipe Nasr to partner Marcus Ericsson in 2015
Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez both dropped as Williams reserve Nasr brings Banco do Brasil to struggling Hinwil team; Giedo van der Garde had been favourite for a seat
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 18/11/14 3:52pm
Sauber have made their second surprise 2015 signing inside a week by announcing that GP2 race winner and Williams reserve driver Felipe Nasr will partner Marcus Ericsson in an all-new line-up at the team, meaning incumbents Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez will both lose their drives.
The cash-strapped Swiss outfit, one of the small teams which was at the centre of the ‘boycott’ speculation at last week’s U.S. GP, had long been expected to name their current reserve driver Giedo van der Garde in one of their two race seats for next season.
However, just days after announcing that Caterham’s Ericsson would transfer to the team over the winter, Sauber made their second unexpected signing on Wednesday night by confirming Brazilian 22-year-old Nasr as the Swede’s 2015 team-mate.
As part of the deal, which has been announced on the eve of this weekend's Brazilian GP, Nasr’s personal sponsor Banco do Brasil will also arrive at Hinwil, with the firm's logos to appear on the sidepods and the back of the rear wing on next year’s C34. The team's management have made no secret of their continued struggle to make ends meet, and both Ericsson and Nasr's impending arrivals undoubtedly feature a significant commercial element.
Sauber's existing paring of Sutil and Gutierrez are therefore both left searching for drives elsewhere to prolong their F1 careers, the Mexican’s presence at the team having ensured continued support from billionaire Carlos Slim’s Telmex communications firm over the last two years following countryman Sergio Perez's departure.
Although losing out to Britain's Jolyon Palmer in the battle for this year's GP2 Series title, Nasr has won his first four races in the junior category this year and made his F1 bow with four Friday Practice appearances for Williams.
“We have been following Felipe’s career path for some time now, and he fully deserves his position in Formula 1 having had a very successful career in junior categories,” Sauber team boss Monisha Kaltenborn said of the former British F3 and Formula BMW title winner.
“We are happy that he will be driving for our team next year. This means that Brazil will have one more young and talented driver in the sport. Banco do Brasil has been an important partner for Felipe so far, and we are delighted that such a renowned company is continuing to support him during this important step. We look forward to this partnership.”
Nasr will join countryman Felipe Massa - who also made his F1 race debut with Sauber - on next season's grid and the Brazilian is hoping to follow in the footsteps of the midfied team's glittering alumni
“It is a very important step in my career to sign with the Sauber F1 Team for the 2015 Formula One World Championship. This is an unforgettable moment that I owe to all of those who have supported me - my family, my friends, my sponsors, my teams and my country," he said.
"Today the dream has come true. Sauber was responsible for the arrival in F1 of great names such as Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen, Robert Kubica and Sebastian Vettel. I am proud now to also be part of this racing family. I had a wonderful year at Williams Martini, where I learned a lot and prepared myself to be a race driver in Formula One.”
How the 2015 grid is shaping up:
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg
Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat
Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa
Nico Hulkenberg and TBC
Max Verstappen and TBC
Pastor Maldonado and TBC
Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr
MARUSSIA (ENTERED AS MANOR F1 TEAM)