The Alfa Romeo name returns to Formula 1 in 2018 for the first time in over 30 years as title sponsor of Sauber, in partnership with Alfa’s sister brand Ferrari. The competitive contents of this reunion marks the convergence of a legendary motor racing circle that began nearly 100 years ago, and will immediately shake up F1’s midfield order.
When the team arrives for the 2018 Australian Grand Prix, it will be known as Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 to highlight the new links with the Italian marque, described as a “technical and commercial partnership”. They will sport the distinctive colours and logo of Alfa Romeo, and boast full-spec 2018 Ferrari power units.
“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.”
Sauber had announced an enhanced partnership with Ferrari for its latest specification 2018 engines earlier this year, after cancelling its contract for Honda power units.
Long Time Dream
This marks the culmination of Ferrari chairman and FIAT boss Sergio Marchionne’s dream to return the legendary name of Alfa Romeo to Formula 1. It also bolsters F1’s new Liberty Media image by bringing another highly recognisable car brand into the sport.
“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 development comes as F1 owner Liberty Media considers changing many rules and commercial agreements for both the sport and the constructors. Having two corporate teams (Ferrari and Alfa Romeo) and another associate team (Haas) allows Marchionne more significant negotiating leverage with Liberty Media around Ferrari’s future participation in F1 beyond its current contract ending in 2020.
With Ferrari, Haas F1 and now Sauber, Marchionne influences almost a third of the grid. Four-time World Champion Mercedes has a similar level of impact, through Williams and Force India, as does Renault with its re-stabilised and ready-to-be-revitalised team, as well as Red Bull, and McLaren.
Significantly, with Alfa Romeo receiving and rebranding corporate partner Ferrari’s full-spec 2018 F1 engines, both companies can take advantage of having a larger testing sample to monitor engine developments while keeping the engines’ most secretive technical details private. The arrangement should offer more rapid engine development and a chance to trial new changes without risking constructors’ points-threatening failures that would derail parent-company Ferrari’s bid to retake both F1’s constructors’ and drivers’ championships in 2018.