Sauber confirms Salo is Toyota-bound

Sauber has stolen Toyota's thunder by announcing that Mika Salo will join the Japanese marque's test programme at the end of the season, prior to its entry into Formula 1 in 2002

Sauber confirms Salo is Toyota-bound

Toyota will officially announce Salo's signing in Spa tomorrow (Thursday). He will team up with Allan McNish for a year of development, before racing for the team in its debut season.

The Finn was contracted to Sauber for 2001, but was able to leave because of a performance clause that stated he could be a free agent if the Swiss squad was not in the top six of the constructors' championship after the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The length of Salo's contract is not known, but is said to go beyond the end of 2002. He is expected to race for the team until the end of 2003, when he would be almost 37, and is then tipped to take on a management role within Toyota.

Sauber's press release said: "Peter Sauber accepts the decision of Mika Salo and is convinced that he will give his best for team Red Bull Sauber Petronas in the remaining races of this season." But the timing of its release, one day ahead of Toyota's press conference, appears designed to dilute the impact of Toyota's announcement and indicates that the parting has not been wholly platonic.

Sauber's 2001 driver line-up is expected to be all-new, with Pedro Diniz set to be released, despite bringing US$10 million (£6 million) in sponsorship.

Favourite for one seat is Brazilian Ricardo Zonta, who is replaced by Olivier Panis at BAR next season, but other candidates include Arrows' Jos Verstappen and Prost duo Jean Alesi and Nick Heidfeld.

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