|Kobayashi last raced in F1 for Sauber in 2012|
(GMM) Sauber's announcements on Saturday mean that the only race cockpit vacancies on the 2014 grid are now with Marussia (one seat) and Caterham (two).
We reported on Friday that former Sauber driver Kamui Kobayashi was spotted at Caterham's factory this week.
Michael Schmidt, the respected correspondent for Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, said the Japanese as well as rookie Marcus Ericsson are on pole position for the race seats.
"GP2 driver Ericsson has the double (million) figure backing of a Swedish global company," he said, adding that Kobayashi's many fans are pledging about $6 million towards his F1 return.
And Schmidt said Jaime Alguersuari and Paul di Resta have also been connected with Caterham for 2014.
The full house at Caterham could be bad news for Max Chilton, who was hoping to keep his Marussia seat.
Schmidt said 2013 Caterham refugees Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic could buy their way into that seat, while Chilton's backers might be looking to switch their sponsorship focus to football — despite the powerful influence at the insurance giant Aon of his father.
12/20/13 According to AutoWeek Kamui Kobayashi looks set to return to Formula One with Caterham after emerging as the most qualified candidate for a seat (Read that as he has the biggest checkbook, rumored to be $6 million). This could also mean that Honda will supply engines to Caterham when the Japanese engine manufacturer returns to the sport with the McLaren team.
With rookie Marcus Ericsson likely to be in the other car, the team has been keen to secure an experienced driver. Heikki Kovalainen has been in the frame for months and, until recently, was under contract to the team, but he does not have any sponsorship. The same applies to Paul di Resta, the only other experienced driver who competed in 2013 and is without a drive.
Tony Fernandes and his fellow shareholders are reluctant to keep pumping money into the back of the grid team, so the ideal candidate would bring sponsorship dollars.
Kobayashi's return would be well received by both F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone and Honda, owners of the race course at Suzuka, because it should be a major boost for the Japanese Grand Prix. The Japanese GP is scheduled for Oct. 5. A similar story appeared in AutoWeek