Alfa Romeo Could Link up with Sauber for Fabled F1 Return
Marchionne seems to want it, but will the move be feasible for the four-leaf clover brand?
Sauber is soon expected to reveal its 2018 driver lineup with Ferrari rising star Charles LeClerc likely making the jump to Formula 1 next season. His spot seems to be locked in with the Swiss team, leaving just one position to be filled, perhaps by Marcus Ericsson or the young Antonio Giovinazzi. Amidst this back-and-forth situation within the organization, Sauber is also looking to build its relationship with Ferrari beyond its current engine partnership. Rumors say that this could lead to a more integral role by the Maranello crew, and now, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne has indicated a possible Alfa Romeo return to Grand Prix racing with the Sauber team.
Although Sauber denied interest in becoming a Ferrari junior team of sorts earlier in the year, reports have claimed that it is looking for a closer alliance with the fabled Italian brand. This stretches as far as who to sign for next year as Sauber claims close ties to Ericsson, although the team will turn to Ferrari for approval before making a decision. According to a report from Motorsport.com, Marchionne could take an alternative route to the case by rebranding the team's engine supply as Alfa Romeo, further initiating the two parties with one another while reviving the Italian moniker in F1.
It's been known that Marchionne looks to once again introduce Alfa Romeo to the world of Grand Prix, and this could be the ticket. The veteran chief executive is quoted by Italian media saying, "Alfa Romeo in F1 could become a fine breeding ground for young Italian drivers. The best one, Giovinazzi, is already with us, but there are others besides him, and they are struggling to find room. Alfa Romeo, more than our customer teams, could offer them that space."
There's no indication of when the new program could launch, and a 2018 collab may be too close; however, it's not something to rule out for the future. It's all contingent on Marchionne's decision to support the move, and given his recent woes with Formula 1 owners Liberty Media, any immediate action could be put on hold. Regardless, this could provide Alfa Romeo the "in" to Formula 1, and many would love to see the four-leaf clover on the back of a GP car once more.
Additionally, it could help to build Sauber's branding tremendously, furthering its current status of a small-budget privateer.