Alfa Romeo, which is part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), is to link up with the Sauber F1 Team as title sponsor, in a multi-year technical and commercial partnership agreement. The cars will use Ferrari engines, but one might expect there to be new Alfa Romeo units after the new engine regulations are settled, as it is unlikely that Alfa Romeo will get the full benefit of credibility by using Ferrari equipment. There is also probably an option at some point for the Italian firm to acquire the team, although running a racing team in Switzerland is expensive and not well-placed for hiring staff. The move serves several purposes for the moment with FCA and Ferrari boss (the two are separate entities) Sergio Marchionne needing to make the Alfa Romeo brand sexier.
“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.” he said. “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.”
Alfa Romeo has been a sponsor of Ferrari this year. As a branding exercise, it will be interesting to see how effective the Sauber deal is, but there is no doubt that Ferrari will be helping a lot in terms of technical input in order to get Sauber to agree to run its two young drivers Charles Leclerc and Antonio Giovinazzi. It is now unlikely that Marcus Ericsson will be kept on, but we will have to wiat for confirmation of this from the team itself. Pascal Wehrlein is also going to be out of a job.
The move effectively turns Sauber into a Ferrari B team, which may be useful in political terms as the teams jostle for power with Liberty Media.