After months of speculation it became official, the legendary Alfa Romeo name returns to Formula One after more than 30 years out. Alfa Romeo who won the first two World Championships in 1950 and 1951 with Giuseppe Nino Farina and the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio last contested the Formula One championship in 1985 as a proper works team, after running logos on the Ferrari SF70H in 2017, they return as title sponsors for the Sauber Formula One team in 2018.
So how does this work? Well according to the Fiat and Ferrari head Sergio Marchionne, the agreement is a, “a multi-year technical and commercial partnership agreement.” What this implies is that, though Sauber will in essence be running re-badged Ferrari Formula One engines, they will also have a much closer working relationship with the Ferrari Formula One team and also be privy to a lot more information in terms of their latest engine developments. The link could also see Sauber incorporate various Alfa Romeo engineers onto its team while Alfa Romeo may stand to benefit from having direct access to the Sauber wind tunnel and other technical data that would benefit their road cars.
Crucially the link also means Ferrari will be able to place drivers from its junior program in the team while evaluating their potential much like what Torro Rosso does for the Red Bull Formula One team. Current Formula Two champion Charles Leclerc is widely expected to join the team next year, with another Ferrari junior, Antonio Giovinazzi also a contender for the second seat. Given the fact that Ferrari work closely with the Prema Power Team in the junior formulas, a Ferrari junior driver will potentially now have the chance of being supported from Formula 4 all the way to Formula 1 which can only be a boon to any driver looking to make it to the pinnacle of motorsport.
The biggest benefit however comes in the form of marketing for Alfa Romeo. Formula One teams are neither easy nor cheap to run, in one swift move, not only do Alfa Romeo provide the illusion that they are entering a Formula One team, they also get access to technology that can only benefit their road cars. Further with the current Formula One owners, Liberty Media Group being from America, this also opens the doors to tap what is increasingly becoming crucial market for Alfa Romeo. Their latest offerings such as the Giulia Quadrafoglio have proved to be massive hits in Europe and with the American market being as vast as it is, Fiat will no doubt be looking to leverage this as an opportunity to establish a foothold in a very lucrative market for them.
Despite what has been said so far, seeing the Alfa Romeo name return can only be a good thing for Formula One. The sport has more often than not been accused of ditching its traditional fan base in favor of more exotic venues in the Middle East and Asia that pay exorbitant fees to host races, something that their European counterparts are unwilling to do. The brand with their iconic Quadrifoglio badge is sure to bring back a sense of nostalgia to fans of the sport while also providing both owners and fans of the brand a reason to tune into the races.
Who knows if things go according to plan maybe in a few years we could also see Alfa Romeo (or Ferrari for that matter) enter Formula E giving the Fiat group a strong foothold in both camps, after all electric cars and electric motor racing seem to be the flavour of the month. For now though let’s just sit back and enjoy the fact that in 2018 we have the chance to see an iconic name return to Formula One with what we hope will be an eye-catching livery.