The new partnership between Sauber and Alfa Romeo will see FIA Formula 2 champion Charles Leclerc step up to Formula 1 with the Swiss team for 2018.
Sauber’s new Alfa branded livery concept was also unveiled at the launch near Milan on Saturday, showing off a red and white colour scheme with clear Alfa Romeo signage on the engine cover and rear wing.
The 20-year-old Monégasque driver dominated the F2 championship with the Prema Racing team in his debut year, having won the GP3 Series the previous year with ART Grand Prix.
He has tested for Ferrari and Haas as well as Sauber. He will partner Marcus Ericsson in 2018.
“I am very happy to be entering Formula One in 2018,” said Leclerc.
“First and foremost, I would like to thank Ferrari for their support. I would also like to thank Sauber for their trust and confidence in me as a driver, and look forward to joining the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team for the upcoming season.
“The team welcomed me straight away. It is a great working environment, and I already feel confident and comfortable here.
“In 2018, my aim will be to gain more experience in Formula One, and to bring as much value to the team as possible in return.”
The 19-year old Monegasque driver has participated in four free practice sessions with Sauber, and will challenge current driver Ericsson at the team next year.
Marchionne had pushed for Giovinazzi in the second seat, having earmarked Sauber as something of a finishing school for prospective drivers in the Ferrari Driver Academy. However, thanks to Ericsson’s links to Sauber’s investors, the Swedish driver will embark upon his fifth season in Formula 1, his fourth with Sauber.
Ericsson has scored nine points in his time with Sauber – all coming in the 2015 season – as the team has faced chronic underinvestment over the past few years, leaving points scoring opportunities harder to come by.
“It is a great honour for me to be driving for this team in 2018,” Ericsson said, “and I am excited and proud to be part of this promising journey.
“This winter is going to be very busy, and it will be important to push the development of the car in order to have a good start to the season.
“I am optimistic that 2018 can be a big step, and a good chance for us to move up in the field.”
Sauber principal Frederic Vasseur, who set the partnership with Ferrari in motion having ended the team’s planned link-up with Honda, said: “We are all delighted about the cooperation with Alfa Romeo.
“With Marcus and Charles, we have a strong driver duo for the debut season of the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team.
“Marcus is an experienced Formula One driver, who knows the procedures and the team well, after having worked together for the past 3 years. He is a team player, and has a very positive attitude.
“Charles has proven his talent in several racing series, most recently winning the Formula 2 World Championship title. He had the chance to drive in four FP1 sessions and two tyre tests for us this season, and convinced the team with his professionalism and charisma.
“I look forward to going into 2018 with this driver pairing, and I am convinced that they will complement each other very well.”
Giovinazzi will become Sauber’s third driver next season, having served that purpose earlier in the season as cover for the injured Pascal Wehrlein – who injured his back in a crash at the Race of Champions.
In addition, Giovinazzi had participated in seven free practice sessions for the Haas team – also affiliated with Ferrari – but the 2016 GP2 vice-champion has been unable to secure a race seat for next year.
These manoeuvrings leaves Wehrlein out of a drive for next year, and the Mercedes junior driver’s time in Formula 1 appears to be on pause now that the remaining vacant seat at Williams looks increasingly out of his reach.
It is believed that a conclusion to the team’s pursuit of Robert Kubica is expected to be announced in due course, with Williams having tested the 32-year-old Pole at the post-season Abu Dhabi tyre test alongside current driver Lance Stroll.