Alfa Romeo's new sponsorship arrangement with the Sauber F1 Team has been celebrated during the official presentation of the team for 2018 where this year's Sauber C36 was finished in what was termed as being a 'concept' look at the new livery, the event held at the Museo Storico Alfa Romeo, Arese, Milan, where the team's driver lineup for next year was also announced.
The Italian car manufacturer is finally returning to Formula 1, exactly three decades after the name was last represented at the pinnacle of global motorsport, its 1.5-litre turbocharged engines then used by the little Italian Osella team during the 1988 season. Three years before that Alfa Romeo had quit the sport as a constructor in its own right.
This return though so far is merely a branding exercise with Alfa Romeo sponsoring the backmarker Sauber team as it embarks on its twenty sixth season in Formula 1. The 1.6-litre turbocharged hybrid engines, supplied by Ferrari, will continue to be badged by the Maranello concern. The team will be known in 2018 as 'Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team'.
The new livery, which isn't finalised, has been applied to this year's Sauber-Ferrari C36 for the occasion of the launch and it comprises of a white finished body complimented by a red engine cover. There are large Alfa Romeo logos on either side of the engine cover along with smaller ones on the side vanes as well as on the nosecone. There are also twin thin blue stripes up the side of the nose that extend along the flanks to the rear in a nod to the Swiss team's traditional blue colours.
As usual for this cash-strapped team there are very few other sponsors to compliment the Alfa Romeo decals, although Sauber will clearly be hoping to use this arrangement as a boost in their hunt for find further funding.
The driver line up was also announced during the event and first up Ferrari junior driver Charles Leclerc will join the team. The highly promising 20-year-old Monégasque driver won the GP3 championship in 2016 and the FIA Formula 2 title this year. Leclerc completed four FP1 sessions and two tyre tests for the Sauber during the course of this season and Ferrari believe he is more than ready for a full time F1 drive and have been trying to find him a seat, Sauber's shift towards becoming a Ferrari 'B Team' is emphasised by his signing.
However, Ferrari wasn't able to insert two drivers into the team and instead, Antonio Giovinazzi, who they had been hoping to add to Sauber's cockpit roster will only join as a third driver and get to take part in six Free Practice 1 sessions next year.
Instead the second seat will stay in the hands of the incumbent, Marcus Ericsson, who will begin his fourth season with Sauber when F1 resumes early next year. The 27-year-old Swede has left no impression in F1 after five seasons (his first, in 2014, came during the final year of the ill fated Caterham team).
Ericsson's only point scoring finishes arrived during his first year with Sauber, in 2015, when he picked up an eighth, ninth and a trio of tenth place finishes. Over the last two years he hasn't troubled the top ten although he has been hindered by Sauber sinking to being the least competitive team in F1 and this year it was forced to use one year old Ferrari engines in a bid to save costs. He is however reported widely to be close to the Sauber team's Swedish owners, getting the nod for the drive via that connection.
FCA Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne and Chairman John Elkann represented the Italian carmaking group during the unveiling at the Museo Storico while Chase Carey, the Chief Executive Officer and Executive Chairman of the Formula One Group was also in attendance.
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal: “We are all delighted about the cooperation with Alfa Romeo. We created the foundation for our partnership at the Alfa Romeo Museum in Arese, Italy. With Marcus (Ericsson) and Charles (Leclerc), we have a strong driver duo for the debut season of the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team. Marcus is an experienced Formula One driver, who knows the procedures and the team well, after having worked together for the past 3 years. He is a team player, and has a very positive attitude. Charles has proven his talent in several racing series, most recently winning the Formula 2 World Championship title. He had the chance to drive in four FP1 sessions and two tyre tests for us this season, and convinced the team with his professionalism and charisma. I look forward to going into 2018 with this driver pairing, and I am convinced that they will complement each other very well.”
Marcus Ericsson: “First of all, I would like to congratulate the team on the new partnership with Alfa Romeo. It is a great honour for me to be driving for this team in 2018, and I am excited and proud to be part of this promising journey. I am confident that I can add to the knowledge and experience of the team. This winter is going to be very busy, and it will be important to push the development of the car in order to have a good start to the season. I am optimistic, that 2018 can be a big step and a good chance for us to move up in the field.”
Charles Leclerc: “I am very happy to be entering Formula One in 2018. First and foremost, I would like to thank Ferrari for their support. I would also like to thank Sauber for their trust and confidence in me as a driver, and look forward to joining the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team for the upcoming season. It was a great experience to drive a few FP1 sessions and tyre tests for the Sauber F1 Team in 2017, during which the team welcomed me straight away. It is a great working environment, and I already feel confident and comfortable here. In 2018, my aim will be to gain more experience in Formula One, and to bring as much value to the team as possible in return.”
29.11.2017 Almost exactly three decades since the Alfa Romeo name was last seen on the Formula 1 grid it's returning to the pinnacle of motorsport having today signed a multi-year technical and commercial partnership agreement with Sauber F1 Team