With the revelation a few days ago that there are as many as 15 teams in the running to grab the vacant 13th grid slot for F1 2011, the latest speculation suggests there could in fact be room for two newcomers rather than just one, with the financially-struggling Sauber outfit rumoured to be evaluating the possibility of a merger.

According to Spanish publication El Mundo, the goal now for Peter Sauber - who reluctantly returned to the helm of his eponymously-named operation in the wake of BMW's withdrawal last year - is to 'find a strong and stable partner and again retreat into the background', and the newspaper goes on to suggest that ART Grand Prix could be just that partner.

Having dominated the feeder GP2 Series and F3 Euroseries in recent campaigns, ART - jointly spearheaded by Fr?d?ric Vasseur and Nicolas Todt, son of FIA President Jean Todt - has signalled its intention to apply for F1 entry in 2011, but the French concern is reportedly also considering merging with Sauber, whose funding issues this season have been well-documented.

Should such a synergy would then free up another place in the paddock, with sportscar stalwart Epsilon Euskadi believed to be the next in-line for promotion as things stand. The Spanish squad has in its favour a state-of-the-art factory, wind tunnel and proven record of success, and team principal Joan Villadelprat admitted that 'we have arguments that are difficult to refute'.

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