Having finally been accepted as an official entrant for the 2010 F1 World Championship, Sauber is now earnestly seeking to firm up its driver line-up for the campaign ahead – with the suggestion that a blend of youth and experience may just be on the agenda.
A number of names have been linked with the ex-BMW outfit over the last week or two, with Nick Heidfeld, Giancarlo Fisichella, Pedro de la Rosa, Christian Klien, Kamui Kobayashi, Heikki Kovalainen, Jarno Trulli and Anthony Davidson those understood to be highest up on the list. Team founder Peter Sauber has admitted that he hopes to make a final decision soon.
“In the past weeks many drivers have asked about us, but we couldn't really negotiate when we didn't have an entry,” the 66-year-old explained in an interview with German news agency SID
. “Now, it's different.
“I wouldn't like to give any names, except to say that I assume we will have an experienced driver and a driver of the new generation. We have often had that mixture in the past, and it worked well.”
Fisichella, for his part, has sought to stress that even if he is successful in his stated aim of securing a race-driving role in 2010 [see separate story – click here
], he will still fulfil his duties as Ferrari test and reserve driver, despite the impressive test debut of reigning F3 Euroseries Champion Jules Bianchi at Jerez last week that earned the Frenchman a 'long-term', as-yet undesignated contract with the Scuderia
Fisichella has entered no fewer than 231 grands prix at the highest level since making his debut for Minardi back in 1996, and has raced for Sauber before, when he was paired alongside – and beat – Felipe Massa at Hinwil in 2004. Having gone on to substitute the Brazilian at Ferrari from Monza onwards this year with disappointing results, the veteran Roman revealed that he is keen to continue competing next season to sign off on more of a high – though some options he does rule out.
“I will definitely be Ferrari's third driver, regardless of whether I find a racing seat somewhere else,” the 36-year-old told German publication Auto Bild
, with Sauber's use of Ferrari power seeming to comfortably pave the way for a return. “My manager (Enrico Zanarini) is working on it. If it works, I'm happy; if not, it's no problem. I have done more than 230 races, and I don't want to start completely from scratch with a new team.”
Meanwhile, Sauber has made a point of thanking BMW for its ongoing assistance to his eponymously-named squad, even though the Bavarian manufacturer's official involvement in F1 is now over.
“The people in charge at BMW have assured us of their support,” he confirmed. “For example, we have a set of their contacts for sponsors who could also be relevant for us.”