Sergio Marchionne hopes Ferrari’s Formula 1 engine agreement with Sauber for the 2018 season will help to open up more opportunities for its junior drivers to find a place on the grid.

Sauber announced a new engine deal with Ferrari last week after scrapping a planned technical partnership with Honda following a change in management.

The news led to suggestions that Ferrari youngsters Antonio Giovinazzi and Charles Leclerc could be in contention for a Sauber seat next year, with CEO and chairman Marchionne seeming hopeful this would be the case.

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“It’s a very positive thing for us. It’s a way to create a kind-of junior team,” Marchionne told Italian media in Hungary last weekend.

“We have a pair of exceptional drivers we need to run, but we need space for them.

“it’s a great idea and we’re working on it.”

2016 GP2 vice-champion Giovinazzi joined Ferrari as its third driver at the end of last year before making his F1 debut with Sauber in Australia, deputising for the injured Pascal Wehrlein.

Leclerc is currently dominating this year’s Formula 2 season, winning five races to enjoy a 50-point advantage at the top of the standings after seven rounds.

The Monegasque racer enjoyed a run-out for Ferrari at this week’s in-season F1 test at the Hungaroring, topping the timesheets on Tuesday in the SF70H.

Sauber is yet to make any firm decision on its driver line-up for next year, but with Ferrari expanding its partnership with the team, Mercedes junior Pascal Wehrlein faces an uphill struggle to retain his place for 2018.

Team-mate Marcus Ericsson is understood to enjoy links to Sauber’s owners, but has failed to score a single point so far this season, making his position far from secure.

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Both Sauber drivers are gone at year's end. Marcus isn't getting it done and the money he brings will be less important with the new incentives brought by Ferrari. Engines and possibley technical support and cash, if th rumours in Budapest are correct. And Weirlein? He's a Mercedes  lad and they will need to park him with another team. Leclerc is an incredible talent and deserves his F1 shot soon.