Sep.16 (GMM) Sauber made a move to replace one of its current drivers with on-form Haas racer Nico Hulkenberg for 2024.
That is the claim of the well-connected and respected veteran journalist Roger Benoit, writing for the Swiss newspaper Blick.
The rumour is hot on the heels of Sauber, currently called Alfa Romeo but transitioning to Audi for 2026, announcing that Guanyu Zhou has been signed to spend another season with Valtteri Bottas.
But Benoit says there have been “heated discussions and arguments behind the scenes for weeks” at Sauber’s Hinwil headquarters.
“There were even voices that wanted to replace both drivers,” he claims. “The duo has become too harmonious, getting along so well, praising one another and always saying the same thing. And that’s poison.”
Benoit says Sauber reached out to Hulkenberg, but “unfortunately Haas boss Gunther Steiner redeemed his (2024) option” on the 36-year-old German.
On top of that, terminating Finn Bottas’ 2024 deal “would have been too expensive”, Benoit explained. And it was also decided to “give Guanyu Zhou a third chance”.
Sauber team representative Alessandro Alunni Bravi, however, said no one should be surprised about the news that a contract extension with the Chinese driver was extended.
“I think we are being consistent with what we said from the beginning of the season,” he said in Singapore.
“We are in a full transition period as a team, a full transformation process, and we want to have stability in our driver lineup,” he insisted.
Bravi does not deny that there may have been a few issues with Zhou’s sponsors prior to the new deal being agreed.
“Of course we needed to have all the conditions for Zhou to remain,” he said, “and I think we had an open and transparent discussion in the last few months.
“But our aim was always to keep working with him for another year. We think he can do another step and improvement, like he did from last year to this season, so we expect him to be more comfortable with the team and do another step in terms of speed and consistency.”