De Silvestro lands Sauber role
Sauber have signed female IndyCar racer Simona de Silvestro as an "affiliated driver" with the aim of helping the Swiss join the Formula 1 grid in 2015.
De Silvestro has spent the last four years racing in the American IndyCar series, achieving her first podium finish in the category last year, after the 25-year-old originally moved to the USA in 2006 to compete in single-seater racing.
She has now joined what Sauber, who are based in Hinwil in Switzerland, have termed a "preparation programme" which will include track testing, simulator training, as well as mental and physical preparation.
Sauber say the target is to help de Silvestro gain the mandatory super licence which would give her the chance to join the F1 grid in 2015.
"After four years in IndyCar, Simona's ambition is to enter Formula One in 2015," Sauber Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn, said.
"We regard her as a very talented race driver, and we, therefore, decided to take her on board as an "affiliated driver" and support her on her way to the pinnacle of motorsport."
The driver herself thanked Kaltenborn, F1's first female team boss, and team founder Peter Sauber for the high-level support.
"This is a major step towards me achieving a life-long dream and I'm so happy to have the opportunity to take this step with such a great team," de Silvestro said.
"The Sauber F1 Team is a team with a legacy and the only Swiss team in Formula One, which I think makes this even more exciting. I can't thank Monisha Kaltenborn and Peter Sauber enough for their support and belief in my abilities and for giving me this chance. I'm thrilled to have this extremely unique platform on which to prepare myself to take on the challenge."
Last year Williams development driver Susie Wolff became the first woman to take part in an official F1 session in over 20 years when she drove at the Silverstone Young Driver Test while Italy's Giovanna Amati was the last female to compete in a grand prix weekend, failing to qualify for three events in 1992.
Sauber already have two bespoke test drivers on their books with former Caterham man Giedo van der Garde signed as their reserve driver and Russian teenager Sergey Sirotkin as a tester, with the Hinwil team also helping him prepare for his F1 debut.
Teams will have more chances to run their test drivers in 2014 with four, two-day in-season tests scheduled for post-grand prix weeks.
The Sky Sports F1 Online team will be providing live commentary of all three winter tests with live updates from trackside also on Sky Sports News. The next test, in Bahrain, begins on Wednesday February 19.