There are rumours coming out Italy that Fiat Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne wants Haas F1 to take on Maserati sponsorship in 2018, along similar lines to the deal that was recently struck with Sauber for the team to be sponsored by Alfa Romeo. The word is that the engines would remain Ferraris and that it would simply be a case of title sponsorship – for the time-being. This would give Marchionne a level of control over Haas in the political battles ahead in F1, although Gene Haas does not need the money and so might simply tell Marchionne that he is not interested. The deal would no doubt save Haas a great deal of money but it is fairly clear that Marchionne would want to be able to place drivers with the team in the longer term. Haas insists that it is sticking with its current line-up of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen next year.
Maserati is a brand that has long associations with the sport, dating back to the 1920s. The last Maserati team in F1 was as long ago as 1957, shortly before the firm went into receivership. There were still engines supplied after the company restructured, including engines in the 1960s, used by Cooper. The Cooper-Maseratis managed to win two races: with John Surtees at the Mexican GP in 1966 and Pedro Rodriguez in South Africa in 1967. The engines faded out of F1 as the Cosworth became the dominant force in 1968 and the last Maseratis in F1 were in 1969. By then the company had been sold to Citroen. In 1975 it was put into liquidation, although it was again revived, this time by Alejandro de Tomaso. It was then sold to Fiat in 1993 and ended up under Ferrari control from 1997 onwards, although it would return to Fiat control from 2005 onwards.
Under Marchionne the firm has introduced the Levante SUV and sales have increased significantly. Moving the brand into F1 is designed to add a bit more glitz with the likely outcome being that the Alfa Romeo-Maserati division will be spun off, in order to reduce FCA’s debt and make it more attractive for a sale or a merger.