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Surprise of 2017: Alfa Romeo returns to Formula 1

2017-12-21 07:36

Lance Branquinho

Image: AFP / Marco Bertorello

Cape Town - As Formula 1 was being formalised in the 1950s, Ferrari wasn’t the only Italian team with red cars. Nor were they the only Italian team, winning races.

Alfa Romeo’s F1 heritage is strong. It won two driver’s world championships and that racing heritage, from the 1950s, sustained a performance orientated marketing campaign with its road cars, long after Ferrari had become the dominant Italian F1 team.

And now, they’re back. 

In what must rank as one of the most surprising happenings in F1 for decades, Alfa Romeo is set to partner with long-time Swiss F1 team, Sauber.

Technical partnership

There’s talk of it being a ‘technical’ partnership, but with Alfa having virtually no racing programme to speak of, we assume all the technical bits will in fact be recycled Ferrari technology, as both brands fit within the great Fiat-Chrysler organogram. 

For a brand which has just launched an SUV, sells not too many cars, and doesn’t have a dedicated supercar in its current portfolio, the return to F1 is strange.

There’s no doubt that Alfa has a historic link to the sport, but they haven’t been involved with a serious world championship racing formula for years. 

                                                                  Image: AFP / Marco Bertorello

The return of a manufacturer with historical standing to F1 is to be celebrated, but there are fears that the Alfa Romeo F1 effort could follow a similar path to that of Jaguar, which failed spectacularly when it entered the sport back in 2000, failing to win any races, before its final GP in 2004.

Jaguar were mandated to enter F1 at the behest of Ford, who owned them, and it was a mess, one which ironically, birthed Red Bull Racing. 

With Alfa, there is the feeling that Fiat is making a huge mistake by entering one of its most vulnerable brands to compete with its most successful: Ferrari.

We’ll only know the wisdom of that decision, this time next year. Who knows, perhaps its an indication of a new Alfa supercar in development: 8C MK2 version Fangio, anyone?

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