Sauber’s financial woes are now well known and there are signs the team will struggle to make it to the forthcoming Chinese Grand Prix, but now it is emerging that a saviour in the form of Ferrari, specifically Alfa Romeo, is in the pipeline.
The Swiss team attracted headlines when February wage payments to its 300 staff were delayed. Furthermore, team co-owner Monisha Kaltenborn was not present in Bahrain, fueling suggestions that she stayed behind in Hinwil to address Sauber’s financial crisis.
Now it appears that Ferrari, their long time engine partners, may step in to save the embattled outfit – the fourth oldest team on the grid – from closing down.
Recently Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler and Ferrari Chairman, has championed the idea of the group’s Alfa-Romeo brand returning to Formula 1 as a pseudo-junior team to Ferrari, in the mould of Toro Rosso and Red Bull.
In January, Marchionne said, “It would be difficult for Alfa Romeo to return without the support of another team. An association with Formula One, that would be ideal.”
“It’s incredible how the Alfa marque remains in people’s hearts. For that very reason we are thinking about bringing it back, as our competitor, to racing, to Formula One. It’s important for Alfa to return,” insisted Marchionne at the time.
Alfa-Romeo has a fine pedigree in Formula 1 with Nino Farina winning the inaugural F1 World Championship in 1951 and a year later Juan Manuel Fangio was world champion for the marque. The team competed in 110 grands prix, winning ten times.
The team supplied engines to F1 teams between 1961 and 1979 before returning as a fully fledged works team between 1979 and 1985. Their final race at the pinnacle of the sport was at the 1985 Australian Grand Prix.
Apart from legends Farina and Fangio, other drivers who raced for the team included the likes of Bruno Giacomelli, Mario Andretti, Andrea de Cesaris, Patrick Depailler, Eddie Cheever and Riccardo Patrese.
Ironically Enzo Ferrari founded Scuderia Ferrari team in 1929 to become the racing team of Alfa Romeo, building and racing cars for the Italian marque at the time.
Italian media reported that during the Red Bull versus Renault crisis last year, there were discussions regarding Red Bull or Toro Rosso using Alfa Romeo badged Ferrari engines, but Red Bull stuck with Renault power (now branded as TAG-Heuer) while Toro Rosso opted for year old Ferrari power units.
Marchionne’s passion for the Alfa Romeo legacy in F1 is obvious, “I was at the Ferrari museum and you can see the story with a great closeness to Alfa Romeo.”