Ferrari junior Charles Leclerc will contest four Formula 1 practice sessions with Sauber over the rest of 2017, it has been announced.
The Monegasque will pilot the Sauber C36 in FP1 sessions at the Malaysian, United States, Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.
The team has confirmed he will replace Marcus Ericsson for the first of his planned practice appearances in Sepang.
Due to strong performances in his rookie season in F1's feeder series F2, he has been widely seen as a favourite to join Sauber as a full-time driver in 2018, ever since the Swiss team cancelled its agreed Honda engine supply deal in favour of continuing with Ferrari power units.
Leclerc already has four F1 practice appearances to his name, having completed an FP1 programme with American outfit Haas last year.
The reigning GP3 champion, he currently leads the F2 standings by 59 points and could seal the title in the next round of the series at Jerez.
Leclerc is among two Ferrari proteges that the Italian manufacturer is keen on seeing in F1 next year, with GP2 runner-up Antonio Giovinazzi – who raced with Sauber as a stand-in in Australia and China and has completed three of his planned seven FP1 outings with Haas – also a candidate for a full-time drive in 2018.
Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne is understood to have recently discussed the possibility of placing both Leclerc and Giovinazzi at Sauber next year, which would have to be at the expense of their two current race drivers – the Mercedes-backed Pascal Wehrlein and the Swiss team's third-year driver Ericsson.