F1: Alfa Romeo Back to Grand Prix Racing in 2018
Alfa Romeo is 1 of the most historically significant constructors in Grand Prix racing. And now after decades away Alfa is coming back to F1 for the Y 2018 championship season.
In an agreement announced on 29 November 2017, the Milano, Italy firm, a unit of Fiat Chrysler NV (NYSE:FCAU) is teaming up with Sauber, veterans of this Tier 1 motorsport, in what is being referred to as a “multi-year technical and commercial partnership.”
The tie-up is officially the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team when they begin contesting in the Y 2018 season, the race cars will be wearing full Alfa Romeo livery when they appear on the grids.
Sauber will tap into Alfa’s engineering and technical resources alongside any commercial development of the team, the initial power units will be supplied by Ferrari (NYSE:RACE), in their Y 2018 specifications.
Switzerland based, Sauber has been around for quite some time, but not on the same plane as the front-runners for a few years now, they carry expert experience with them as the 4th-oldest team in F1 today.
On the tie-up, Sergio Marchionne, CEO of FCAU, 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.”
Sauber’s experience is deep, they are a 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning team, and founder Peter Sauber began building racing cars in the 1970’s, but no team nor manufacturer has roots in this sport that run as deep as Alfa Romeo and Ferrari.
Alfa Romeo started racing cars just after the company began. The motorsport competition from which Enzo Ferrari emerged and flourished.
Alfa Romeo was a titan of early Grands Prix, winning the series’ very first World Championship in Y 1925 with the P2.
In another 1st a few decades later, the Alfa Team would earn the 1st drivers’ World Championship for Nino Farina in Y 1950, while the supercharged Straight-8 Alfa Romeo 158 would win all but 1 of the races in that season. The next year was very much the same, with the Alfa 159 winning 50% of the season’s points races outright, and propelling Juan Maneuel Fangio to the drivers’ championship that year.
The Cross & Serpent’s history in the sport is not only seen the early years, and for decades after leaving F1 as a constructor at the end of the Y 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-12’s to twin-turbo inline-4’s.
The Alfa Team returned as a constructor in Y 1979, though were typically mid-pack runners during the frame between then and their eventual exit from the sport altogether in T 1985.
Now, more than 30 years later, they have returned.
There are 2 ways to look at this, as the cynics and the optimists both have points.
- The Cynics’: It it just re-branded Ferrari power units, and Sauber is still going to be chiefly responsible for the success and development of the team. Alfa has not raced anything serious in decades and it’s more than likely a branding exercise and little else.
- The Optimists: It is the fact this tie-up is beneficial to the sport. Alfa carries with it a fiercely loyal fan-base, 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 (like Maserati and Ford) 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.
So, those of us who are F1 and Alfa fans (my 1st sporty car was and 1961 Alfa Spyder) are excited to see where this leads, and vintage and classic Alfa Romeo owner will see appreciations in there beautiful examples, as they are all jewel like in there original and meticulously restored livery.