Report: Stake F1 keen to axe Bottas-Zhou pairing to bring in Ocon and Hulkenberg ahead of Audi entry

The upcoming season marks a new chapter in Sauber’s F1 tenure, as their partnership with Alfa Romeo comes to an end.

Not only has the team been renamed for the next two seasons, much to fans’ amusement, Stake F1 team, but they also want to freshen up their personnel.

Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas. Credit: formula1.com
Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas. Credit: formula1.com

Currently, Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu are the team’s primary drivers.

However, this will change if rumours are to believed, as the team wants to keep an eye on the future with Audi set to enter the fray.

The pressure is being applied by Stake, who reportedly want a driver pairing that includes Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg.

While Zhou and Bottas may be given some sort of an ultimatum to ensure they see out the remainder of their contracts at the team, there are unlikely to be any guarantees.

Sponsors play a big role when it comes to a team’s driver line up, and with Audi also coming into the fray in 2026, Stake wants a fresh set of faces to spearhead the upcoming challenge.

Audi has been keen on joining F1 for a while now, but this interest was finally made formal last year, with the team linking up ahead of the 2026 technical regulation changes.

Audi has also been rumoured to being interested in certain candidates such as Carlos Sainz Jr, Sebastian Vettel and Nico Hulkenberg.

If Stake’s wish of recruiting Hulkenberg and Ocon is approved, would they even want to join Sauber?

Ocon is currently at Alpine and also has a year left on his deal. Meanwhile, Hulkenberg is also with low-laying Haas in a deal that will expire at the end of the season.

It would, therefore, make some sense for both these drivers to consider any offers that come their way, especially with Audi just a couple of years away from entering the sport.

In the meantime, though, Bottas and Zhou will hope to start the season well to ensure that they don’t have to be looking over their shoulders in the short-term.

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