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Nobuharu Matsushita will not return to Sauber as Charles Leclerc eyes up F1 seat

Nobuharu Matsushita said that his test with Sauber was “at another level” but the Honda development driver will not drive again for the Formula 1 team, as Ferrari will develop its Academy drivers with the Swiss outfit from 2018.

“I had been waiting for this moment since my childhood,” said the 23-year-old Japanese Formula 2 driver after the in-season test at the Hungaroring. Matushita has taken two F2 wins this season for ART Grand Prix.
“It reminded me a bit of Japanese Super Formula,” he said.

“Much faster than F2, but I didn’t feel it was scary. That said, I was running with high fuel for the long runs, so the heavier car would hold the track better around the corner. On a light fuel run I’m sure it would be quite a thrill.
“I completed 121 laps and drank 6 litres of water. I think it all came out as sweat, as I still felt dehydrated. It was a very hot day today and even hotter in the cockpit.
“I didn’t have any problems physically during the programme but, with the enormous G-forces on my body all day today, I suspect I might have a few aches in my muscles tomorrow,” continued Matushita.

Sauber focused on long runs in Hungary and Matsushita finished 4.8s off the pace in the second day of testing, with Ferrari’s 2016-spec engine providing diminishing returns as the season runs on.
With new chief Frederic Vasseur having called off the deal to run Honda engines from 2018, Ferrari will now supply the power units from 2018.

As a result, Matushita will not test for Sauber again as this arrangement was likely arranged under former Sauber boss Monisha Kaltenborn’s tenure. Kaltenborn also engineered the deal to use Honda engines and Vasseur looks to be rolling back the Honda influence as the Ferrari partnership takes its hold.

JA on F1 reported in July that Ferrari Chairman Sergio Marchionne saw Sauber’s ditching of the Honda deal as a “chance to have a junior team.
“We have a pair of exceptional drivers we need to run,” he told Italian media.

All eyes are on F2 dominator Charles Leclerc, who topped the first day of testing in Hungary for Ferrari and looks increasingly set for an F1 seat. However, as Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel are locked-in for 2018, Leclerc could find a drive at Sauber.

Brazilian Enzo Fittipaldi, grandson of F1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi, could be part of that aforementioned pair of drivers that Ferrari is keen to develop.
Marchionne’s comments also hint that Sauber could become to Ferrari what Toro Rosso is to Red Bull – a proving ground. Though Marcus Ericsson is strongly backed to continue at the Swiss outfit with some financial pull behind him, Mercedes-backed driver Pascal Wehrlein’s seat is uneasy and Leclerc looks to take the wheel for the Swiss outfit.


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