Insight: Marchionne gets his way as Sauber F1 partners with Alfa Romeo
The Alfa Romeo name will return to Formula 1 in 2018 for the first time in over 30 years with title sponsorship and as a technical partner of Saube...
The Alfa Romeo name will return to Formula 1 in 2018 for the first time in over 30 years with title sponsorship and as a technical partner of Sauber, as part of its alliance with Alfa's sister brand Ferrari.
Next year, the team will be known as the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team to highlight the new links with the Italian marque, described as a "technical and commercial partnership".
Sauber had announced an enhanced partnership with Ferrari for latest specification 2018 engines, earlier this year, having cancelled a contract with Honda to take on their supply of power units.
It is widely anticipated that Ferrari junior Charles Leclerc will be one of the race drivers.
Marcus Ericsson and Ferrari junior Antonio Giovinazzi are competing for the other seat.
The move is the culmination of a long held desire of Ferrari chairman and FIAT boss Sergio Marchionne's desire to bring Alfa Romeo back into Formula 1. It is positive for F1 in that it brings another strong car brand into the sport and underlines that Marchionne; it also carries some threats though, as it gives Marchionne options when negotiating with Liberty Media around Ferrari's ongoing participation in F1 beyond its current contract ending in 2020.
It increases Marchionne's sphere of influence in F1, with Ferrari, Haas F1 and now Sauber, he has influence over almost a third of the grid. Mercedes has a similar level of influence, as does Renault.
With significant support from Ferrari this move will move the bottom of the grid team forward up the grid, certainly to be able to compete around the level of the Haas F1 team. This year Sauber scored just five points, compared with 47 for Haas. It puts pressure on Toro Rosso and Honda, which will have to up its game to avoid competing for the wooden spoon in 2018.
"We are very pleased to welcome Alfa Romeo to the Sauber F1 Team," said Sauber chairman Pascal Picci.
"Alfa Romeo has a long history of success in Grand Prix racing, and we are very proud that this internationally renowned company has chosen to work with us for its return to the pinnacle of motorsport.
"Working closely with a car manufacturer is a great opportunity for the Sauber Group to further develop its technology and engineering projects. We are confident that together we can bring the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team great success, and look forward to a long and successful partnership."
Alfa Romeo is part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), which is the holding company which owns Ferrari, and will rebadge the team's supply of 2018-spec Ferrari power units having run a year-old specification this year.
Marchionne is adamant that the new partnership with Sauber would yield benefits for both parties.
"This agreement with the Sauber F1 Team is a significant step in the reshaping of the Alfa Romeo brand, which will return to Formula 1 after an absence of more than 30 years.
"The brand itself will also benefit from the sharing of technology and strategic know-how with a partner of the Sauber F1 Team’s undisputed experience. The Alfa Romeo engineers and technicians, who have already demonstrated their capabilities with the newly-launched models, Giulia and Stelvio, will have the opportunity to make that experience available to the Sauber F1 Team.
"At the same time, Alfa Romeo fans will once again have the opportunity to support an automaker that is determined to begin writing an exciting new chapter in its unique, legendary sporting history."
The Alfa Romeo name was last involved in Formula 1 in 1985, pulling out after its works team proved unsuccessful in the early '80s. Previously, Alfa Romeo had taken Giuseppe Farina and Juan Manuel Fangio to consecutive world championship titles in 1950 and 1951.
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