Sauber has announced a multi-year Formula 1 partnership with Alfa Romeo from the 2018 season onwards after a 32-year absence from the constructors’ championship
Alfa Romeo will become Sauber’s title sponsor from next season in a commercial and technical partnership, which will change its name to Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team and bear the Alfa Romeo logo.
As expected, 2018 Ferrari power units will be used on the new F1 car.
“This agreement with the Sauber F1 Team is a significant step in the reshaping of the Alfa Romeo brand,” said Sergio Marchionne, CEO of FCA, which includes Abarth, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Fiat Professional, Jeep, Lancia, Ram, Maserati and Mopar in its group of brands.
“A storied marque that has helped make the history of this sport, Alfa Romeo will join other major automakers that participate in Formula 1. 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,” added Marchionne in Sauber’s statement.
Alfa Romeo Sauber has not announced a 2018 driver line-up as of yet. Charles Leclerc will take over Sauber testing duties today at Abu Dhabi.
Winners of the first World Championship, Alfa served as an engine supplier from 1961-79 and returned in 1979 as a manufacturer for another six years, finishing as high as sixth in 1983. Alfa’s last foray into F1 was in 1985, when Riccardo Patrese and Eddie Cheever failed to score a point in the 185T/B.
Mark Hughes’ verdict
Alfa Romeo’s F1 return, via sponsorship of the Sauber team, is great news for the sport. Just having that iconic logo and livery around makes a direct link to the glories of Tazio Nuvolari in the 1930s and Juan Manuel Fangio in the ‘50s. It was less successful in its last foray into F1 (1979-85), but remains an evocative name.
The reality is that since it was last in F1 it has become merely a brand within the Fiat empire rather than an independent entity. Given that it’s part of the same empire as Ferrari, it is not – in the current era of $400 million budgets for the top teams – realistically going to become a serious rival to Ferrari or Mercedes this time around.
That would require a lot more commitment than merely sponsoring an existing struggling team and putting Alfa Romeo badges on the Ferrari engines it will use.
It gives Ferrari the ability to use Sauber as a junior team in bringing on new drivers – one of its juniors Charles Leclerc is already there, the other Antonio Giovinazzi might be expected to join him soon. It also gives Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne extra clout in ongoing negotiations with Liberty Media about the terms of the two brands continuing in F1 after the current commercial agreement expires at the end of 2020.