Felipe Nasr's hopes of retaining his Sauber drive for the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship season have been dealt a potentially crucial blow after it emerged he has lost his Banco do Brasil sponsorship.
The Brazilian bank firm has provided notable backing to Nasr and the Sauber team since his F1 debut in 2015 but has announced it will be cutting back on expenditure for 2017.
The news is likely to be a massive blow to Nasr, whose remaining options to stay in F1 – Sauber and Manor – would require substantial backing to secure a race seat.
Despite this drop of funding, Nasr is hoping his ninth place finish at his home race will act as a key swing in his favour as it lifted Sauber above Manor in the F1 world constructors' championship and with it an estimated £30 million worth of additional prize money.
“I would expect that [the result] does help. If anything a racing driver can do is contribute to a team with points and I know how much valuable these points are,” Nasr said. “We know how much these points mean in terms of the championship the points and the restructuring the team will take for '17, so it's the best, the best I could have given them.
“There are still negotiations going on. I have a great relationship with the team. It's been two great years. We saw the two sides of the coin. Then first year I had in Formula One I was able to do so much, to achieve so much in a very first year.
“The second, we had such a difficult time, the car being uncompetitive, but it was nice that we were able to get those two points in Brazil. I'm sure that has given a boost to the team. These two points mean a lot for myself, for the team and hopefully we will know it soon.”
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It comes amidst talk that Pascal Wehrlein is in line to take his seat at Sauber next season, though the German driver was remaining coy when asked about the prospect of a move from Manor.
“Sauber is a great team as well and there is some history with Mercedes and Mercedes junior drivers,” Wehrlein said. “It is strange at the moment because we are fighting with Sauber and there are some rumours that I could next year be with Sauber.
“I am focused on this year and Sauber is a great team with a lot of potential. Let's see what happens in the future.”
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