Sauber had intentions to swap one of its seated drivers for Haas standout Nico Hulkenberg in the 2024 season.
The information is sourced from the esteemed and long-standing journalist Roger Benoit, who penned the story for the Swiss daily, Blick.
This revelation comes after Sauber, currently racing as Alfa Romeo but planning a shift to Audi by 2026, confirmed that Guanyu Zhou will continue his partnership with Valtteri Bottas for another season.
Benoit shares that “heated discussions and arguments behind the scenes for weeks” have been the order of the day at Sauber’s Hinwil base.
“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 divulges that Sauber approached Hulkenberg, but “unfortunately Haas boss Gunther Steiner redeemed his (2024) option” on the 36-year-old German.
On top of that, ending Finn Bottas’ 2024 deal “would have been too expensive”, Benoit explained. And it was also decided to “give Guanyu Zhou a third chance”.
Sauber spokesperson Alessandro Alunni Bravi responded, saying no one should be surprised about the recent commitment with the Chinese driver.
“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 didn’t negate the possibility of prior issues with Zhou’s sponsors before the new agreement was inked.
“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 take another step forward, just like he did from last year to this season, so we expect him to be more in sync with the team and further improve in terms of speed and consistency.”