The battle for Alfa Romeo‘s second seat is heating up, as Zhou Guanyu and Felipe Drugovich both reportedly vie for the spot alongside Valtteri Bottas for 2024.
Zhou currently occupies the seat of the Formula 1 team, set to taken over by Audi from 2026, but Drugovich is also eyeing up the seat along with other potential suitors.
F1‘s first Chinese driver is into his second season now and has performed quite well against a quick, experienced teammate in the form of Bottas.
The 24-year-old feels that his seat is safe and revealed that contract negotiations with Alfa Romeo are entering their final stages.
“It’s a little bit [more] delayed than I expected,” Zhou said to the media. “But I think it’s just due to me, together with Alfa Romeo, trying to figure out these final details.
“In terms of, let’s say, ‘Why don’t you sign?’ I still have no answer to that. But we’re definitely talking more into that and getting more close to being done.
“I’m happy to be together, spending more and more years together with this team. The future is bright for where the team is heading.”
However, Zhou is reported to lack financial backing to offer to Sauber as an incentive for the team.
Thus speculation has ensued that other drivers could displace him, either through out-bidding him or being perceived to possess more talent.
Drugovich looks to steal the spot
One such name is Felipe Drugovich, who won the 2022 Formula 2 championship by 101 points. He has been in a test program with Aston Martin, with whom he is the reserve driver.
The Brazilian is said to have rejected a chance to test in IndyCar with Ed Carpenter, as he views his future in F1.
The door for the Brazilian is currently closed at Aston Martin, as the team confirmed Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll for 2024.
Therefore he is reported to be shopping around for a seat, and is said to have good financial backing to offer as a way to get a foot through the proverbial door.
However, Joe Saward reports he is in-line for a switch to Formula E for 2024 so there is some ambiguity about where he is looking to move to.
Is Theo Pourchaire set to graduate to F1?
Theo Pourchaire has been associated with Sauber‘s driver development program since 2019 and has not disappointed.
The 20-year-old is poised to win Formula 2‘s 2023 edition as he leads the championship by 25 points with one round remaining.
He had a wealth of success whilst karting in France, and has managed to translate it to open-wheel formula racing as he won French F4, ADAC F4, finished 2nd in F3 and finished as the runner-up in 2022’s F2 campaign.
Should he deliver in the final round and win the championship of F2, then he will no longer be allowed to compete in the series and will need to look elsewhere if he intends to race for 2024.
Clearly demonstrating a wide scope of talent and with long-term support from Sauber, could he be set to step up?
“It’s true, it’s an honest answer, I don’t know,” Pourchaire said regarding his future. “I just want to say a big thanks to the Sauber Academy for helping me for four years from F3.
“This season, I’m racing thanks to them. So it’s great to be the reserve driver as well. It’s a huge responsibility. And for the future, I am talking with them often, but we will see.”
Sainz also in the mix
Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz has been linked to the team for 2026. The experienced Spaniard is a highly-capable driver and would be an impressive coup for new-comers Audi, who are reported to be looking to announce themselves with a marquee name.
In September, Sainz‘s father added fuel to the fire by revealing that his son and the German car brand have been discussing a potential switch.
Sauber CEO Andreas Seidl used to be his boss when Sainz drove for McLaren, in what proved to be a highly successful relationship, strengthening the possibility of a change from Ferrari to Audi.