Sergio Marchionne, the Fiat Chrysler CEO and Ferrari President, has again urged sister brand Alfa Romeo to return to Formula 1 as a fully-fledged constructor.
“In order to re-establish itself as a sport brand, Alfa Romeo can and must consider the possibility of return to race in Formula 1,” Marchionne told Gazzetta dello Sport in a recent interview.
“How? Probably in a collaboration with Ferrari.”
Aside from his efforts to globalise and publicly float Ferrari, another of Marchionne’s aims is to return the Alfa Romeo brand to a global force.
Alfa Romeo is one of a number of brands – among the likes of Abarth, Fiat, Lancia, Maserati, Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep – in the Fiat empire, but one of just a handful to have competed in Formula 1 as both a constructor and engine supplier.
It was the team from which Ferrari was born, dominating the Formula 1 World Championship landscape in the pos-War era to win the 1950 and 1951 titles with Giuseppe Farina and Juan Manuel Fangio respectively.
After its back-to-back titles, Alfa Romeo then immediately pulled out of the sport when its regulations moved to smaller-capacity engines.
Ferrari would go on to write Formula 1 history in the absence of its native rival. Alfa Romeo remained dormant in F1 circles until the 1970s when it returned as an engine supplier to the Brabham team with its flat twelve-cylinder engine. The adventure would last for four years until the end of 1979, yielding just two Grand Prix wins and the promise of countless more ruined by reliability issues.
The relationship between team and engine partner broke down in 1979, so Alfa Romeo elected to return as a constructor and managed to debut a purposebuilt car before the end of the season.
The project very much reflected Alfa Romeo’s car-building reputation at the time, and it staggered on until the end of 1985 with just five podium finishes and countless mechanically-induced retirements to show for its efforts.
That is, of course, rather in the past and Marchionne is certainly eager to increase the variety of manufacturers in Formula 1 beyond the current quartet in operation. He has been vocal in encouraging both Porsche and Aston Martin to get involved, although neither has as yet bitten the bullet.
A return by Alfa Romeo could come in two forms: it could either pay Ferrari to rebadge and then develop its engines, allying with an existing team. Such a platform sharing deal between Ferrari and Alfa Romeo is very much the norm and considerably more cost-effective. Commercially it is a smart move and would make sense given the public cares little about who owns what, and is rather more interested in the branding exercise.
The second logical option would be to buy out and completely rebrand an established team, as starting a team from scratch would be an impractical and extremely expensive exercise. Force India is certainly on the market and it could be a fairly straightforward transition for a team that has already gone through Jordan, Midland and Spyker aliases in its 25-year history.
Image via All Racing Cars and Ferrari Media Center
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