Many people believed Sergio Marchionne was bluffing when he suggested Scuderia Ferrari could pull out of Formula One. And he now has proved them right.
Alfa Romeo announced Wednesday that it has entered into a multi-year commercial partnership with Sauber F1 Team that starts in 2018. Under the arrangement, Ferrari will provide Sauber with 2018-spec power units, and the Swiss outfit’s cars will be adorned with Alfa’s logo.
The news comes just weeks after Marchionne, who serves as CEO of Ferrari and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, said the Scuderia could exit F1 after 2020.
“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,” Marchionne said in a statement. “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.”
The history in question extends back to F1’s inception, when Alfa Romeo was one of the top manufacturers in the series — as it highlighted in its Super Bowl ads. It even claimed a 1-2-3 finish in the 1950 British Grand Prix, F1’s first race at Silverstone Circuit.
Marchionne also isn’t wrong in suggesting Alfa Romeo’s attempts to once again position itself as a rival to the big three German automakers are off to a strong start. The performance-oriented Quadrifoglio variants of automaker’s two newest models — Stelvio and Giulia — both hold lap records at the Nurburgring.
Sauber previously had signed a contract to run Honda engines in 2018, though Frederic Vasseur terminated the deal in July after taking over as team principal.
Given Honda’s well-documented struggles since returning to F1, the new agreement with Ferrari puts the team in a stronger position for next season. What’s more, many have speculated the relationship could lead to Sauber giving a seat to Ferrari Driver Academy drivers Antonio Giovinazzi and/or Charles Leclerc — who won the 2017 Formula 2 championship in dramatic fashion Sunday.
Marchionne revealed in August that FCA was considering entering either Alfa Romeo or Maserati in Formula E. It’s not clear whether Wednesday’s announcement has changed that.
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