“It's our goal to make the competition better” – Alfa Romeo positive upon return to Formula One

Michael Searles
F1 End of Season Testing in Abu Dhabi - Day One
Alfa Romeo have signed up one-time world champion Kimi Raikkonen (Source: Getty)

This season Alfa Romeo will complete a return to Formula One by taking over the Sauber name, having been involved as the team's title sponsor last year.

That marked the Italian marque’s first F1 involvement since 1985 after a long hiatus from motorsport's elite championship, but this latest move revives the works entry team that won inaugural F1 titles in 1950 and 1951 in a romantic reunion for the sport.

The partnership between Alfa and Sauber was always intended to expand onto a technical and racing front following their initial sponsorship-only deal last season and will see the official return of Alfa Romeo Racing to the grid.

The new arrangement was not confirmed until February, just weeks before the season's start, but will allow Alfa – part of the Fiat group that includes Ferrari – to become the face of the team, although for now Sauber Motorsport AG will continue to run the team behind the scenes, with the ownership and management unchanged.

Alfa has historically had a close relationship with motorsport and was an integral part of Grand Prix racing prior to World War II and the creation of Formula One.

They were a dominant force in the 1920s and early ‘30s and played a pivotal role in the creation of Ferrari, with its founder Enzo Ferrari originally racing in Alfa Romeos and then running a team composed of Alfa Romeo cars until creating his own company in 1939 once the racing had stopped.

Coincidentally, Alfa's return to the sport last season occurred at the same time that Sauber switched to use Ferrari engines. It brought with it an improvement in performance that lifted the team from bottom of the constructors' championship the previous season to eighth.

In a role reversal from their early racing days almost a century ago, Alfa Romeo will continue to use Ferrari engines this season. They will also employ former Ferrari driver and one-time world champion Kimi Raikkonen, along with Ferrari test driver Antonio Giovinazzi, ensuring the two companies' racing legacies remain tightly intertwined.

“I think the Alfa Romeo move is a positive one,” Formula One chief executive Chase Carey told Sky Sports. “Sauber has a great history in the sport but Alfa Romeo is a brand that certainly means something to everybody in the motorsport world.”

Carey believes it is a step in the right direction to improving the overall competitiveness of the championship, something that he is determined to do and is trying to achieve through new initiatives and tighter regulations.

“It's our goal to make the competition better,” he added. “We have too much disparity between the top three teams and the other seven. We'll always have favourites, that's how the world works, but we need the underdogs to be able to pull off a surprise and beat somebody.”

Alfa Romeo Racing are hopeful they could be one of those underdogs and roll back the years this season. The Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Group's chief executive, Mike Manley, is certainly hopeful.

“We're proud to collaborate with Sauber in bringing Alfa Romeo's tradition of technical excellence and Italian panache to the pinnacle of motorsport,” he said.

“Make no mistake: with Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi on one side of the pit wall and Alfa Romeo and Sauber expertise on the other, we are here to compete.”

It may be more than 30 years since Alfa Romeo were a constructor in Formula One but their name still carries significant racing pedigree.

While they are unlikely to set the championship alight this year, they can lay the groundwork for future success, and with their intrinsic connection to Ferrari, one thing is for sure: the whole motorsport world will be watching.