Alfa Romeo has signed a “multi-year technical and commercial partnership agreement” with the Swiss Sauber Formula 1 team, which will rebrand to become Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team for 2018.
It's news that is sure to have F1 fans and followers of the marque clapping with glee, and comes just days after the conclusion of the 2017 season at Abu Dhabi.
Sauber has been a Formula 1 minnow for several seasons, running dated Ferrari engines in its cars, and in dire need of a cash injection.
When the revitalised squad lines up on the Albert Park grid in Melbourne next March, its cars will “sport the distinctive colours and logo of Alfa Romeo” and be powered by 2018-spec Ferrari engines.
The driver line-up will consist of current Sauber recruit Marcus Ericsson, and Ferrari Junior Driver Charles Leclerc - who won the FIA Formula 2 championship this year.
Alfa Romeo last competed in Formula 1 as a factory effort in 1985, before withdrawing as an engine supplier in 1988.
Its first two drivers’ world championships came in 1950 and 1951 at the hands of Nino Farina and Juan Manuel Fangio. Between 1961 and 1979 Alfa Romeo participated in F1 solely as an engine supplier, before returning as a constructor in 1979.
The famous 1978 Brabham BT46B 'Fan Car' was powered by an Alfa Romeo engine.
In the early pre-war era of Formula 1, the Italian brand was a dominant force, and rumours of a return have swirled in recent years. Alfa Romeo’s best ‘modern era’ result was a sixth place finish in the constructor’s championship in 1983.
Alfa Romeo engineers who worked on the Giulia and Stelvio road cars will work alongside the Sauber team next year, according to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (Alfa Romeo's parent) CEO, Sergio Marchionne.
“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,” he said.
“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.
“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."
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