Sauber is to take Mexican driver Esteban Gutierrez under its wing this season, with the GP3 driver and Formula BMW standout joining the Formula 1 squad to observe at some race weekends and being put on the same training program as race drivers Kamui Kobayashi and Pedro de la Rosa.
Gutierrez tested for BMW Sauber in last winter's young driver sessions as a reward for winning the 2008 Formula BMW Europe title. He will move from the Formula 3 Euro Series to the new GP3 championship with ART this year.
Team boss Peter Sauber said that with testing opportunities now restricted, this kind of relationship was a good alternative for Gutierrez.
"We view this linkup as a kind of sponsorship arrangement," Sauber explained. "Nowadays, you can only give young drivers a very limited amount of help in gaining a foothold in Formula 1. With the limited number of testing opportunities, it is important for the teams to have the race drivers in the cars during those sessions.
"However, the world of Formula 1 is so complex that you can learn a great deal just by watching and listening to what's going on. That's the opportunity we're giving Esteban. And we will also help him to get himself in F1-trim physically."
Gutierrez feels he can gain a lot from shadowing Sauber this year. "I felt very comfortable at the young driver test at Jerez in December and enjoyed every second, but I also saw that I still have a lot to learn before I'm ready to be a good Formula 1 driver," said the 18-year-old. "Experience behind the wheel is, of course, the most important thing, but I'm under no illusions.
"I'm happy that the BMW Sauber team has shown so much confidence in me by giving me the chance to look behind the scenes and learn about the sport. And, at the same time, I will be training hard with an instructor, which will definitely help me achieve my goals in the GP3 series."