Alfa Romeo returns to Formula 1 with Sauber

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The Italian car manufacturer Alfa Romeo returns to Formula 1 with the Sauber F1 team after an absence of more than 30 years. A multi-year strategic, technical and commercial partnership was announced with the Sauber team. The Swiss-based team will be renamed Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 team next season. The announcement was made by the Ferrari Chairman Sergio Marchionne who heads Fiat Chyrsler Automobiles, the parent company of the Italian marquee team Alfa Romeo.

Alfa Romeo returns to Formula 1 with Sauber

History of Alfa Romeo in F1

The first two world champions of F1, Giuseppe “Nina” Farina (1950) and Juan Manuel Fangio (1951) won with the Alfa Romeo team. The state-owned Alfa Romeo car company then exited the sport in 1952 due to stiff competition from its sister Italian team Ferrari. The team returned to F1 as a works team from 1979 to 1985 and did not have a very successful run. The Alfa Romeo team was involved as an engine supplier in F1 during various periods from 1960 to 1987. The return of Alfa Romeo in partnership with the Sauber F1 team which will run 2018-spec Ferrari engines opens a brand new chapter for this well-known brand in F1.

History of Sauber in F1

Sauber is one of the pre-eminent privateer teams of F1 started by Peter Sauber in 1993. The team is based in Hinwil, Switzerland and made a name for itself by consistently punching above its weight. It is also known for grooming many talented young drivers who have gone on to make a name for themselves in F1. The likes of Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa, Robert Kubica, Sebastian Vettel and Sergio Perez are some of the drivers who started their careers at Sauber.

In the early years of the Sauber F1 team they were closely associated with Ferrari as an engine supplier and technical partner. In 2006, BMW bought a majority stake in the team and the team became a works team and was renamed BMW Sauber. The team scored its first and only race win at the Canadian Grand Prix in 2008 with Robert Kubica.  At the end of 2009, BMW decided to exit the sport. Peter Sauber then bought back the team to keep the team alive and the team continued in the sport with Ferrari engines.

The team scored a handful of podiums every season with young drivers like Sergio Perez at the wheel. In 2012, the aging Peter Sauber handed over part-ownership and the Team Principal role to Monisha Kaltenborn, the first female Team Principal of F1. After the 2012 season, the team was in steep decline as they struggled financially and many of the top personnel started leaving the team.

As investment and sponsorship money dried up, Kaltenborn had to resort to signing up pay drivers who would bring sponsorship money and help the team stay afloat. In 2015, this led to a hugely embarrassing incident as three drivers had been promised a race seat and signed by the team. Giedo van der Garde took the team to arbitration and court for signing him up and taking money for a race seat for 2015, but announcing two other drivers for the season. After losing the court case, Sauber settled out of court and the financial struggles continued from race to race.

In the middle of the 2016 season, Longbow Finance SA bought majority stake in the team and Pascal Picci became the Chairman of the team. The team continued to struggle and in mid-2017 Kaltenborn was ousted and the very experienced Frederic Vasseur took over as Team Principal. Vasseur terminated the agreement with Honda as engine suppliers for the 2018 season. Ferrari is to continue as the engine suppliers and will supply the team with the 2018 engines.

Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 team

With the advent of Alfa Romeo as the main sponsor, Sauber gets a much needed boost in investment and technical know-how. The team will function as a Ferrari junior team as it runs with an Alfa Romeo-inspired red and white livery and logo. Given the Sauber F1 team’s past history, this could be the turning point after the last few barren years. Ferrari’s Chairman Sergio Marchionne had this to say about the exciting new partnership: “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.

“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.”

Drivers of Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 team announced

The current Formula 2 champion and Ferrari junior driver Charles Leclerc was announced alongside current Swedish driver Marcus Ericsson for the 2018 season. Another Ferrari junior Antonio Giovinazzi will serve as the third driver. Leclerc is being groomed by Ferrari for a future drive with the Italian team. Leclerc and Giovinazzi’s announcement reinforces the strong partnership between Sauber and Ferrari under the Alfa Romeo name for years to come. An upturn in the results of Sauber who have finished dead last in the last two seasons will be expected.

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