Sauber gets Alfa Romeo sponsorship

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.

125 thoughts on “Sauber gets Alfa Romeo sponsorship

  1. It will be interesting to see how this impacts on Haas – their position as “Ferrari II” must be undermined by the resources that will now be spent at Sauber.

    1. @Glyn – I expect Haas will be paying a lot more for their parts in future. Ferrari don’t like spending their own money on F1.

      1. Jonno – you must be confused, after all only recently a ‘highly respected’ F1 journalist reported that Ferrari was spending £100 million a year (giggle)

      1. well nice one! however to gain even more ”historical importance” he may opt to acquire and field the names like Gordini, ERA or Talbot, Maserati he has already

  2. This announcement kills the “Ferrari will leave if…” threats coming from Sergio Marchionne. Will there be 2 teams blocking the media next year? If so, I can’t see LM putting up with it.

    With Red Bull and Ferrari having 2 teams, is it possible Mercedes will look at picking up Force India or even Williams to level the playing field?

    1. The “FERRARI will leave if” threats are serious. and they have now been officailly joined by Mercedes in “will leave if” threat. everything Marchionne says must be taken seriously.

        1. could be, that’s because the only future for the ICE is its electrification, and LM and the valve cover plastic stickers producers doesn’t want that.

          1. Ferrari and Mercedes to race in World Championships at Bucks Green but fear that Lamborghini have more appropriate experience.

      1. “Everything Marchionne says must be taken seriously”

        I’m sorry, but I was drinking coffee when I read this and almost choked.

      2. To be honest, let them leave.
        The sport has survived the many, MANY manufacturers that left over the years.
        What we want, what everyone wants, is close racing, fair competition, a racing series based on meritocracy. If to achieve that Ferrari and Mercedes must leave, then let them leave.
        When others see that the model is working, there won’t be a short list of manufacturers and private teams lining up to get in.

    2. Mercedes’ future in F1 still isn’t certain beyond 2021 so buying up teams is unlikely. Ferrari is nailed to F1 and so can play these kinds of games.

    3. Absolutely this kills any chance Ferrari will leave F1 and would give the Fiat board massive leverage to fire him if he did anything so stupid. Rather than giving him leverage he has painted himself in a corner by tactitly admiting they are staying. His bluff was called by himself.

    4. No, it doesn’t kill that at all. It’s a new opportunity. Ferrari could leave, AR would ‘replace’. That’s clever.

  3. Brillant news! I think this is the best way for a manufacturer to get involved in F1, slowly. Understand the processes and requirements and then, later on, get more involved.

    Its a win-win situation for both parties. Sauber needed it! and Alfa Romeo needs it to have exposure in the US market.

    I can’t wait for the livery!!!

    Forza Alfa!!!

  4. Thanks Joe , can’t wait to see what the colour scheme will be , Italian racing red or the very old burgundy (ish) colour that Alfa started with ? or Ouadrifoglio green perhaps ? Martini tie up with Alfa Romeo Sauber now on the cards ?

    1. I hope they go with red and white with green accents for Alfa, so the Ferrari can go back to being proper red without all that awful white that’s built up over the years.

      1. Much as I admire Williams and wouldn’t want to deprive them of a sponsor, but Martini should be on an Italian vehicle.

  5. I thought that last paragraph was the most iinteresting point in the piece. Acquiring Sauber might be a cheap(ish) way for FCA to increase thier political footprint within Formula One, but as it is a team which has been frankly bumping around the bottom of the grids for a few years, the question I have is how much influence could they actually present?

    Will it be the case that increasingly the remaining garagistes are just going to be squeezed out by these mega corps to the point where F1 reduces to a corporate battle between Mercedes, FCA, Renault and VAG using various “brands” to create the impression of more competition than there is?

    I just can’t help thinking this is the wrong way for a sport which is supposedly trying to reduce costs to be going. No-one at FCA is going to allow an Alfa branded Sauber to beat a Ferrari… I think it runs the risk of reducing the sport to a sport to a corporately planned entertainment package

    1. ” …I think it runs the risk of reducing the sport to a sport to a corporately planned entertainment package”

      Runs the risk? It happened about ten years ago. Didn’t you notice?

        1. *blinks*

          You’ve been to F1 races?

          I’d agree that Brawn weren’t a corporate identity, more a bunch of smart-but-wealthy enthusiasts who jumped at a golden opportunity.

          Prior to Brawn, I think the last genuine non-corporate team who won the world championship would be Brabham in ’83. Sure, they were heavily funded by corporate bodies, but they were a race team, not one who always had one eye facing towards their corporate masters.

          I realise those days will never return, nevertheless if you wander around F1 today it’s more like a board meeting than a race meeting. The little plastic cars are there to keep the TV audience happy while the people running and funding ‘the show’ discuss how it can be evolved to better support their marketing / branding / global promotion goals.

          I dunno what it’s become, but it’s not motor racing.

  6. “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.”

    Exactly, just another pressure point to squeeze concessions from Liberty.

    But I truly don’t understand how coming in last, year after year, helps any brand in marketing their product. Can they improve in coming years? Of course, but with the obstacle of a Swiss base, it will be a long row to hoe.

  7. See? I published my Petition on the return of Alfa Romeo to F1 only three days ago on and that convinced Sergio to finally take his phone and tell his legal staff to finally do something.

    No, No, come on, no standing ovation, please, Thank you, Thank you, you’re welcome. I’d like to thank all the good reporters and analysts who provided the business insight for my initiative and I’ll sign photographs and posters in a few minutes. You’re a great crowd…

  8. So, are they going to be Alfa-Romeo Sauber-Ferraris? Or Sauber-Ferrari by Alfa-Romeo or perhaps a Waste of Time and Money by Alfa-Romeo? Do they seriously believe the blokes who designed the Giulia and the Stelvio will be able to design even a F1 wheel nut? What’s to be gained by running at the rear of the grid, using old engines from a team at the front of the grid? Joe. you said the new owner of Sauber had a lot of learning to do about F1. It seems Sergio does, too. Perhaps he should talk to Dietrich about the wisdom of owning two F1 teams….

      1. Now the Alfasud was a great car, despite most of it’s funding evapourating in the hot southern sun; its replacement, the 33, not so. (dont even mention the ARNA)
        The Alfasud was probably the best selling Alfa in the UK.

        My experience of dealing with Alfa in the UK was interesing, very pleasant but very Italian in its foilbes. Yet through those years, ARGB steadily built up records (of the Guinness book type) for endurance runnng and others usually on the Millbrook banked circle track.

        Of course all Alfas need to be driven in the sun, strange things happen electrically in the wet.

        1. One of my mates actually had an Arna. I remember thinking at the time that I’d rather have the Nissan Cherry Europe – at least that wasn’t trying to be something it wasn’t.

    1. As Joe said, “The cars will use Ferrari engines, but one might expect there to be new Alfa Romeo units after the new engine regulations are settled.” It has already been reported that Sauber will be using 2018 Ferrari engines next year as opposed to the 2016 ones they’ve had this year.

  9. @Jonno – good point about Mercs having a B Team but I am not sure they need it to be honest. Force India may be a good option, but given how they perform on such a small budget to the top 3 Mercs might wont to give them too much of a help or they my beat them 🙂

    I did comment previously that I was hoping Antonio Giovinazzi got a drive but didn’t look like it, so I hope it does go this way.

    Ericsson has probably had enough time to see if a mid-tear team wanted him, but no-one put their hand up.

    Pascal Wehrlein is a different story. The guy certainly has talent and Toto Wolf and big backer of his. But that seems to have dried up. Seems he is too hard to work with and with so much talent around now (Ocon) teams have their choices……… except Sauber!

    1. I don’t get any sense that Mercedes are bothered about a B-team. One of the main motivations is to have somewhere to place your young drivers, but manufacturing the best engine on the grid makes that relatively easy. Wehrlein is going to lose out in 2018, but we may not have seen the last of him in F1 – not only has he reaffirmed his talent this year, he’s put a lot of the doubts about his attitude to bed. I reckon he’ll be test & reserve for Mercedes next year, then back racing in 2019.

  10. Mr..Saward do you think Haas should have been more open to running one of the youngsters (Leclerc, Giovinazzi) next season? For all intent and purpose they slammed the door on Alfa Romeo considering them for any sponsorship/technical tie in.

    1. it depends on what Mr Haas wants. maybe he doesn’t want to be told what to do with his team by a bossy car company…

  11. great to hear that such a famous name will be back after so many years !

    btw joe , should you run into channel 4’s lead commentator please explain that the driver is called leclerc and not leclercq …it gets up my nose everytime I hear it !

  12. I can hardly imagine Ericsson leaving as his sponsorship is connected with the Sauber owners. If Ferrari insists on Giovinazzi and Ericsson has to go could there be a possibility that he could earn the Williams seat?

    1. There’s some chatter to suggest Longbow are on the lookout for a better, younger Swedish prospect and will take the short-term gain from Giovinazzi while they find one. Could come to nothing, though – they’ve invested a lot in Ericsson’s career to date.

    2. I can’t believe Ericsson is going into his 5th year….
      And so many talent prospects that were wasted in half a decade… such a shame.

  13. First of all it’s good for the sport that the weakest team will get strong financial and technical support.
    I hope in 2018 we will see dense struggle behind the leading teams.

    1. Well, it is isn’t a takeover and it isn;t anything more than a badging exercise so let’s see how long it lasts.

      1. “a badging exercise” – why so churlish, Joe?

        Reading the press release on the Sauber website, it sounds like a deep and meaningful longterm relationship to me (“multi-year”).

        Would Alfa Romeo enter without bold ambitions to become competitive? Looks like great news for F1! Well done to Sauber’s mystery owners.

          1. its not even a badging exercise. I would call Tag Heuer a badging exercise and Aston Martin and this Alfa deal are sponsorships.

            1. up to You. – Mr. Marchionne may say what suits to him best, whereas Mr. Saward says what he thinks about it.

            2. Saward, every time Plod. Marchionne has spin to put on things, which is what press releases are all about, People like Joe, Mark Hughes, Nigel Roebuck, James Allen etc are there to tell it how it is,

            3. Well, one is the head of a global entity with responsibilities to the shareholders and must represent them in a manner that benefits them financially and the other tells the truth because he can. Honestly, Plod, It’s like you’re not even trying.

      2. That’s the thing – it’s only title sponsorship at the end of the day. The real change will only come if Ferrari deem it a success and opt to take it further

  14. I think this is great news for F1. I sincerely hope it’s a successful relationship!
    I do feel sorry for Pascal though, maybe he didn’t show quite enough speed against Marcus in the end.
    With Aston Martin and Porsche in the wings as well, the future looks bright…!

    1. “With Aston Martin and Porsche in the wings as well, the future looks bright…!”

      Of course it does. Now that the last links with the racing generation have almost gone (hang on in there Frank) we’re into the era of a media-managed branding exercise, aka ‘Liberty F1’.

      1. Aston Martin? what Aston Martin? the ones that have just shown a small profit for the first time in a very long time? the ones that don’t make their own engines? the ones that haven’t got a single mechanical/performance engineer that can design engines?.

          1. It’s going to be fascinating to see how this all comes together. From where I’m sitting, it looks like there’s a confluence of rule changes, new and old players on the horizon that could really shake up the grid.

        1. don’t underestimate potential newcomers – if the new pu rules are right they WILL come. For instance Aston have sold all Valkyres that haven’t been even built yet, they can air the new one upcoming and sell it prior to building, – see, the money is in already – the BIG money. Why do You think Merc and Fer are not happy ? because these newcomers CAN eventually beat them, that’s why!

          1. “why do you think Mer and Fer are not happy? because these newcomers CAN eventually beat them, that’s why!”.
            If by newcomers you means the likes of Aston Martin, Cosworth and ILLmor, forget it and wake-up from your dreaming.
            Really worth a read, and a lot to learn about how things really function “Full Mario Illien discourse on the 2021 engine to the German magazine/site.

          2. Which BIG money? Aston Martin is owned by a private equity firm and a two Kuwaiti investment firms. Mercedes also has a small stake apparently. The private equity brigade are not in the business of taking risks. They will not enter enter Aston Martin in F1 as a team, but possibly through a sponsorship / badging agreement, particularly if the rumours of an IPO have any legs.

              1. 150 cars at $3m each is less that $500m revenue. Deduct the development and manufacturing cost etc… and you have pocket change. Not enough to finance an F1 engine development program, even assuming the owners would sanction it, which is extremely unlikely.

              2. Joe – just read the other piece mentioning a potential co-development of the next-gen PU with Aston, Cosworth, Redbull etc… That makes a lot of sense from an investment & risk sharing perspective. If it happens, it will be interesting to see how the IP rights are managed.

                In any case thanks for reporting on this – the only source I’ve seen so far who has explained it credibly.

  15. I don’t think this will effect Haas. They have a business agreement with Ferrari that seems to be getting along well. Bumps in the road? Sure, what business arrangement doesn’t have them? Judging by the comments I’m seeing here, it’s as though Ferrari can only have one direct assistance deal. I do not believe that’s the case, is it Joe? It will be good to see “Alfa Romeo” on the cam covers again.Who knows? Maybe in time, Autodelta will spring back to life?

      1. It would seem to me that Ferrari could do the same type of arrangement with both Haas and Sauber? I don’t think they are restricted to one constructor, are they, Joe?

        1. Haas have made it pretty clear they value their independence. Hooking up with Ferrari was a way of getting the team competitive quickly (and very successful it was, too) but they don’t want to be beholden to Ferrari. It’s not the American Way, as much as anything.

      2. Out of curiosity what is on the “cam covers” of the Red Bull Tag Heuer motors ? Are they actually identical to the factory cars motors ?

          1. PETER, As Joe said, “it has nothing to do with cam covers, its a sponsorship deal”. I am well and truly past the age of “cam cover plastic stickers and straight through silencers and all that stuff. but back to realty, even if what the great Ross Brawn with his new hat on wants (new for 2021 engine) materializes, people should forget about the possibility of Aston Martin, Cosworth and Illmor being in F1, let alone giving any sort of competition to the present four manufacturers if they are still around that is. PETER, try trace and read, you will have to translate, what Mario Illien had to say to the German magazine/site, (Mario Illien to F1 engine 2021, only possible with sponsors) that is his full story and not extracts from here and there that others (sites) picked up and pushed forward.

            1. SONNY, you’re the one who raised the topic…..Or do you dribble so much that your dribble confuses you???

  16. This gives credence to the expectation that Ferrari won’t quit. Rather, they are doubling down! This is like watching a game of high-stakes chess.

    I think people who assume this will affect Hass are misreading the situtation. The way I read it, Sauber will buy the same non-listed parts and use the same engine that Haas is using, which should cut their costs substantially.

    1. I mean cut Saubers cost. I don’t see how this negatively affects Haas, if Ferrari knocks out another set of listed parts for Sauber.

  17. Ericsson’s exit won’t be a bad thing. He’s had his innings and looked an average journeyman at best. Time for some new blood.

    I wouldn’t even mind if Ferrari adopted a Helmut Marko-like ruthlessness policy – show you are a potential champion or be moved out for the next likely lad.

    1. it will happen but during/after next season, it wasn’t enough time to break the deal for 2018, they were too busy with AR. So for now they get $ from both – 1,via ERI and 2, via AR deal, then buy out whoever as they please

    2. If I were them, I’d drop Ericsson (who doesn’t look up to the standard of what is a very strong grid at the moment), run Giovinazzi for now and get Joel Eriksson signed up for a 8-10 FP sessions in 2018. Eriksson looks a far, far better prospect than Ericsson ever has – he’s just run Lando Norris very close in Euro F3 driving for the 3rd best team.

  18. “Why should Renault and Mercedes not badge engines Nissan, Infiniti, Aston Martin, AMG or whatever? Why could Ferrari not do the same with Alfa Romeo, Dodge and Maserati? And come the day when others want to join in, we could have 12 solid teams with 12 different engine names…”

    Have you changed your mind on this, Joe?

  19. If Force India are changing their name and if they are keeping their sponsors any truth in the rumour they’re going to be called Team Faucet?

  20. Joe – just wanted to say thanks for your clear reporting of this story. The BBC version was completely misleading as to what the arrangement is.

        1. Hi Joe , Alfa may consider to build their own engine in 2021 but in the intervening 3 years it will obviously be a Ferrari PU with (maybe) Alfa branding. However I think Mr Marchionne may have missed a trick. In my view Alfa Romeo should have partnered Haas and thus get exposure to the US market which they (Alfa) have always coveted and Sauber should have got Maserati , which , as I am sure you know more than me , has as much legitimacy in F1 as Alfa and Ferrari. As you said it’s a sponsorship deal / branding exercise in the same way Aston Martin / Red Bull.

          1. Maserati doesn’t need any help selling cars. Alfa on the other hand need to make the numbers in order to justify their recent substantial investments in the 952 / Giulia platform.

  21. Hi Joe, any thoughts on why Sauber found sticking with Ferrari was better than being a works Honda team? Or what was Ferrari offering that Honda wasn’t?

  22. How I would love Alfa’s 184 / 185 Benetton livery return! They were, by far, my favourite F1 team during my younger days!

  23. Just read the FT interview with Bernie…some of his comments are horrific! I can’t believe Chase et al don’t distance themselves from him–or do something even stronger.

    Can he really be the (gerundical expletive deleted) troublemaker that the article implies?

  24. From a Sergio F1 politics point of view (and I guess that’s all that matters) I get this.

    From a Sauber point of view, they’ll take any hint of cash and branding they can get, I get that.

    For Alfa Romeo, this is brand suicide. On the road they’re pitching they’re Quadrifoglio against the best of AMG, BMW et al (never mind Renault…), and have got to the point they’re basically better cars, but the brand isn’t there. Every race they’ll be lucky to get a point, let alone a podium, whilst their direct competitor in the showroom will get 2nd on a bad day. I remember then in the DTM and BTCC with the 155 and then and now that is a brand asset, for the cost of their espresso budget for 2018 with Sauber.

    1. …which is why Alfa Romeo must be deadly serious about becoming competitive with Sauber.

      Joe’s suggestion that this is ‘only a badging exercise’ is simply wrong, for the reasons you explain above.

      1. Keep banging away at it, but right now it is badging exercise and nothing more. If it becomes something else in the future then that is another matter..

  25. As far as the driver line-up is concerned, they should try to get Alex Rossi – an American with Italian ancestry. He’d be a great Alfa Romeo-ambassador in the marque’s both key markets: the Italian, and the U.S.

  26. Joe, What does this mean for Sauber ownership? I guess its still owned by this mysterious Swede, whom im guessing quickly relented his wish to have a swede driving and accepted that Ericssonwont make the cut in return for sonsor money. Do you think Alfa are likely to buy the team outright in the future? Having two FCA controlled companies in F1 will certainly put them ahead of Merc and Renault, who, although provide engines and support to others, only completely own their own factory teams. If Red bull get rid of TR, that leaves FCA with two teams outright, plus engines provided to a third; the largest chunk of F1 involvement is it not?

    1. You have it wrong – there will not be any FCA controlled companies in F1, let alone two….

      An FCA brand (Alfa Romeo) has entered into a title sponsorship agreement with a team (Sauber). Their is no FCA equity position in Sauber as part of this deal (from what is known currently – although their may well be an option).

      Ferrari is NOT an FCA brand. They have common shareholders, but that’s it.

      Ferrari will be supplying the PU (and probably other chassis / drivetrain components) to the Alfa Romeo Sauber team.

    2. The so called mysterious Swede is Finn Rausing (Tetra Pak).
      It seems there are some differing opinions about this marketing arrangement, that Alfa Romeo has agreed with Sauber.
      Apart from the supplying of power units and a driver, Leclerc, to Sauber, I can not see much more coming in 2018.
      Sauber will stay a Swiss company, owned by a Swiss investment firm, which has main investors form Sweden.
      Which of course will mean, Ericsson stays put as driver

      1. You cannot see “much coming” to Sauber?

        How about sufficient funding from Alfa Romeo to secure the latest generation PU’s from Ferrari, and whatever technical assistance and development is wrapped up in that agreement….

        Seems quite positive to me, and will hopefully move the team up the grid by a few places.

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