Alfa Romeo will return to Formula 1 racing next year. The brand competed in the series for decades, both as a constructor and as an engine supplier, but it pulled out of the sport over 30 years ago in the midst of financial problems. The future finally looks brighter, and the Italian company is ready to make a comeback.
Switzerland’s Sauber F1 team will accompany Alfa Romeo as it returns to the starting grid. Sauber — which had successfully worked with Mercedes-Benz and BMW in the past — will closely cooperate with Alfa in all aspects of the sport except for powertrain development. The trans-Alpine partners will source their car’s power unit from Ferrari, which was Alfa’s sister company until it gained independence from Fiat. Sauber secured the rights to use Ferrari’s power unit last summer.
The cars will wear a distinctive white and red livery festooned with Alfa Romeo emblems. Former Ferrari junior pilot Charles Leclerc will drive the first car, while Marcus Ericsson secured the second one. They’ll both go up against such big names as four-time champion Lewis Hamilton, who races for Mercedes-AMG, and Ferrari pilot Sebastian Vettel.
“This agreement with the Sauber F1 Team is a significant step in the reshaping of the Alfa Romeo brand,” noted Alfa Romeo boss Sergio Marchionne in a statement. “We are confident that together we can bring the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team great success, and look forward to a long and successful partnership,” he added.
The tie-up almost didn’t happen. Sauber and Honda planned a technical partnership for next year’s season but they canceled the deal a few short months later “for strategic reasons,” according to a spokesperson for the Swiss brand. Honda pointed to “differences in the future directions of both parties” as the reason for the collapse.
Alfa’s return is good news for Formula 1 fans; competition betters the breed, as the saying goes. The celebration might be short-lived, though, as Ferrari and Mercedes-AMG have both threatened to quit the series after the 2020 season to protest new engine rules and budget caps tentatively scheduled to come into effect in 2021.
Update: Added information about Alfa’s F1 car and the team’s pilots.