Leclerc puts GP3 Title Before F1 Drive in Abu Dhabi

The current leader of GP3 and Haas Racing protege Charles Leclerc has opted to invest all of his focus into fighting for the GP3 title and has pulled out of the Free Practice he was scheduled to complete with Haas for the F1 finale at Abu Dhabi next weekend.

The Ferrari Academy driver is currently leading the GP3 Championship by 27-points and heads to the final two rounds in Abu Dhabi with a strong chance of emerging as GP3 Champion. The move is one of commitment to his current team, ART Grand Prix and also detracts the possibility of losing the GP3 title because he was focused on a practice outing with Haas’ F1 team.

On Twitter, Leclerc announced:

It means that Esteban Gutierrez gets a full race weekend for his final outing with Haas, the Mexican has put in some good performances this season but has fallen short of the points. With Kevin Magnussen joining the team for 2017 and only four available seats left, it’s difficult to see Gutierrez on the grid for 2017, even then, it will be for the sake of a team’s finances.

Sauber are yet to confirm their drivers although it is believed that either Marcus Ericcson or Felipe Nasr will stay. Another name whirling around the garages of the blue-liveried team is Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein, the German driver would be a great catch for Sauber, who are admittedly having to look for teams with big sponsorship.

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Mercedes may offset any budgetary issues if Sauber sign Wehrlein and they, in turn will give their academy driver a greater chance to flourish. Gutierrez could find himself at Manor, the team currently at the back of the grid. The problem is, they need a driver with the capacity to score points if they are to progress in 2017 and if Gutierrez can’t manage this at Haas, there’s little chance of him doing so in a Manor.

Leclerc himself may be an option for both F1 teams with available seats if he does manage to win the GP3 title. As a Ferrari academy driver, a move to Sauber would make most sense, but budgetary demands could make Manor his greatest chance for 2017.