Journal: Alfa Romeo Will Return To Formula 1 In 2018 In Partnership With Sauber

Alfa Romeo Will Return To Formula 1 In 2018 In Partnership With Sauber

Alex Sobran By Alex Sobran
November 29, 2017
15 comments

Alfa Romeo, arguably the most historically significant manufacturer in Grand Prix racing, is coming back to Formula 1 for the 2018 championship season.

In an agreement announced earlier this morning, the Milanese firm will be teaming up with Sauber, themselves longtime veterans of the sport, in what is being referred to as a “multi-year technical and commercial partnership.” They will officially be called the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team when they begin contesting next year, and the press release states that the cars will be wearing full Alfa regalia when they appear on the grids.

And while Sauber will certainly tap into Alfa’s engineering and technical resources alongside any commercial development of the team, the initial power units will be supplied by Ferrari, in their 2018 specifications. Sauber has been around for quite some time though, and while they’ve not been on the same pace as the front-runners for a few years now, they carry plenty of experience  with them as the fourth-oldest team in Formula 1 today.

On the pairing, Sergio Marchionne, CEO of FCA, said: “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. 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.”

Indeed, Sauber’s experience runs deep (they are a 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning team after all, and founder Peter Sauber began building racing cars way back in the 1970s), but no team nor manufacturer has roots in this sport that run as deep as Alfa Romeo’s.   

They were the people that started racing cars less than a year after the company came to exist at all. The fertile motorsport soil from which Enzo Ferrari flourished. Alfa Romeo was a titan of early Grands Prix, winning the series’ very first World Championship in 1925 with the P2. In another first a few decades later, the team would earn the first drivers’ World Championship for Nino Farina in 1950, while the supercharged straight-eight Alfa Romeo 158  (1.5 liters, 8 cylinders) would win all but one of the races in the season. The next year was very much the same, with the Alfa 159 winning half of the season’s points races outright, and propelling Juan Maneuel Fangio to the drivers’ championship that year. 

The cross and serpent’s history in the sport is not just relegated to the early years though, and for decades after leaving F1 as a constructor at the end of the 1951 season they were an engine supplier to a host of teams ranging from small outfits to the likes of Brabham, from naturally-aspirated flat-12s to twin-turbo inline-fours. The team returned as a constructor in 1979, though were typically mid-pack runners during the period between then and their eventual exit from the sport altogether in 1985.

Now, more than three decades later, they’ve returned.

There are two main ways to look at this, and I think the cynics and the optimists both have some valid points. Let’s start with the cynics’. “It’s just rebranded Ferrari power units, and Sauber is still going to be chiefly responsible for the success and development of the team. Alfa hasn’t raced anything serious in decades and it’s more than likely a branding exercise and little else.” Perhaps, but I think another rant about the tangle of sponsorships is going to be a bit stale, and in this case especially so, since any claims are unfounded at the moment.

The truth is we don’t know to what extent Alfa Romeo engineers will be working on the team’s cars, but what is definite is the fact this pairing is beneficial to the sport. Alfa carries with it a fiercely loyal fanbase for one, and that means a wave of new fans might start paying attention to F1 next year—paired with the ongoing revamp to make the premiere motorsport more accessible, we can see a very promising future that draws in more partnerships like this one, for it’s also true that this could very well build momentum for more OEMs to join the sport, depending on how well it works for Alfa Romeo in the years to come. Perhaps we will even see some filter-down of the tech in the next evolution of their road cars.

Clearly, we’re excited to see where this leads—how do you feel about the news?

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davy26Edward Levindavy26MDriverSergio Lavermicocca Recent comment authors
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davy26
davy26

Being pedantic, I’ve annoyed myself with a typo in my previous post – the car in ’83 was the 183T. But, whatever, Andrea was robbed!

davy26
davy26

As someone who worked for Alfa Romeo during the last F1 era, I sincerely hope the new initiative will not just be a ‘branding exercise.’ I always hoped for the best, especially with de Cesaris at the wheel, and he really should have won at Spa in 83 with the 185T. The big picture in this post is I think wrongly file named – that’s not a Brabham BT48, but an AR 179 surely?

Edward Levin
Edward Levin

Dump money into a second FCA-sponsored F1 team, but let Lancia wither. Marchionne is a fool.

Sergio Brasesco
Sergio Brasesco

Time will tell…I am happy to see Alfa Romeo back in the mix…just as I was to see an American HAAS F1 team take the field…only good thing for F1 in general.

Sergio Lavermicocca
Sergio Lavermicocca

No better medium to marketing Alfa Romeo globally. Plus the Alfa-Sauber team will head up Ferrari’s driver development programme which should see Charles Lerlerc shake up the rear of the field next year……..just not sure of the new ‘halo’ looking F1’s for 2018.

Bill Meyer
Bill Meyer

What’s not to like about the Alfa Romeo name coming back to Formula 1? Sure, it’s a “branding exercise” but so what?
I don’t recall much whining about the so-called Lotus F1 cars that popped up in pretend John Player Special livery a
few seasons ago. Those cars were about as much Lotus as my Jeep.

Rodrigo Quinchavil

You just gave me a good reason to put cable on my tv (not needed until now). Glad to see il biscione is back. Even if it’s no more than a sticker for the moment…

Douglas Anderson
Douglas Anderson

I must be in a small group of F1 fans. I always root for the “lesser” teams and how they progress in the season. I’m glad they are still there no matter the silly politics. They do provide a way forward for drivers, albeit those who bring a satchel full of euro’s with themselves. I also find it interesting that Sauber and others run supposed factory power , but consistently runs several seconds off the pace ??

billpack
billpack

I love FI racing but I have never understood why teams with factory ties are not using a factory power plants. McLaren with a Honda power plant and now Alfa with a Ferrari power plant. Has it always been this way?

Edward Levin
Edward Levin

At the beginning of modern (post-WWII) F1, most teams ran their own engines, but there have always been others who used engines from outside sources like the Coventry Climax, Repco V8, &c. In the late-’60s / early ’70s, other than Ferrari and Matra, nearly every team ran the Ford Cosworth DFV. What’s different in this era is that teams who build their own engines are also supplying ‘customer’ teams.

Andrew Reynolds

I am a tad confused as it puts Alfa up against Ferrari both owned by Chrysler. But hey.
Great for sauber. Brilliant for F1.
And it very well could wake up other car makers and maybe even the likes of cosworth. Now wouldn’t that be wicked.

RedGrey
RedGrey

Neither Alfa nor Ferrari are owned by Chrysler. Fiat owns Alfa, Ferrari as well as Chrysler.

Sergio Lavermicocca
Sergio Lavermicocca

Thanks to Chrysler for now keeping FIAT alive!

Dennis White
Dennis White

So two more red cars on the grid?

Despite the old adage about there being no bad advertising, if this is just a marketing exercise with the same old Sauber performance on the track, it’s going to be a waste of a lot of money and an embarrassment to us Alfisti.

Martin Philippo
Martin Philippo

Sorry lads, it will not be more than a sponsor sticker