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 Scuderia 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 added.
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. Unlike this season’s deal, based on year-old units, it will be a new specification engine.
As a result of the breakdown with Honda, Matushita will not test for Sauber again as this arrangement was a legacy from former Sauber boss Monisha Kaltenborn’s tenure. Monisha Kaltenborn also engineered the deal to use Honda engines and Vasseur looks to be rolling back the Honda influence as the Scuderia Ferrari partnership continues. Italian-Canadian executive and Ferrari president 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 at the end of the Hungaroring race in Budapest.
All eyes are now on reigning GP3 champion and current 2017 FIA Formula 2 Championship leader Charles Leclerc, who topped the first day of testing in Hungary for Scuderia Ferrari and looks increasingly set for a Formula One seat ahead of the 2018 season. However, as Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen and his teammate Sebastian Vettel are increasingly looking locked-in for the next F1 championship, Charles Leclerc could be placed at Sauber. Italian Antonio Giovinazzi is the other driver Ferrari is keen to develop, as he did two races with Sauber at the start of the 2017 season and is the Maranello team’s official reserve driver this season.