By Adam Tate, Associate Editor
There is a red dawn rising at Sauber’s Hinwil Headquarters as the team announced a new partnership with historic car maker Alfa Romeo this morning. The Alfa Romeo name will return to Formula 1 in 2018 as part of a commercial and technical partnership with the Swiss outfit and be known as Alfa Romeo Sauber from 2018 onward.
The multi-year deal is crucial for FCA Chairman Sergio Marchionne’s desire to put Alfa Romeo back on the world stage and is the first major step of creating a true B-team for Ferrari much in the way Toro Rosso functions for Red Bull. The deal makes Alfa Romeo the title sponsor of the team and includes technical cooperation between the F1 team and Alfa Romeo engineers in Italy. The biggest benefit for Sauber, who struggled with year old power units this season, will be the 2018 spec engines from Ferrari and a huge injection of cash from Fiat Chrysler Alfa.
Marchionne had this to say, “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.”
2017 Formula 2 champion and Ferrari protege Charles LeClerc is now assured one of the 2018 Sauber seats and fellow Ferrari junior Antonio Giovinazzi may be slotted in as well if the team’s owners Longbow Finance and their wealthy Swedish backers can be convinced to let young Swede Marcus Ericsson go. Mercedes junior Pascal Wehrlein is likely to be forced out of F1 at this point, unless he can convince Williams to change their minds on the viability of Robert Kubica.
The partnership also joins two of F1’s most historic names; Alfa Romeo competed in the championship either as a constructor or an engine supplier from the early 1950’s when they dominated the sport all the way to the late 1980’s. Sauber joined the championship in 1993 and is the the fourth oldest team on the grid. The pairing of the two essentially joins F1’s oldest and newest eras.
Longbow Finance Director and Sauber’s chairman Pascal Picci no doubt relieved his company’s investment in Sauber is about to pay off was also very enthusiastic about the budding partnership.
“We are very pleased to welcome Alfa Romeo to the Sauber F1 Team. 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.”
A new title sponsor, up to date power units and a healthy injection of cash should see the newly christened Alfa Romeo Sauber move up the grid in 2018. They scored a lowly five points this season, but with young drivers ready to prove themselves, the established midfield runners may be in trouble come next season.