FCA and Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne said that he would love to see Alfa Romeo returning to the Formula 1 Championship with its own team, provided that they are never, ever as good as Scuderia Ferrari. Instead of being a genuine F1 contender, he imagines Alfa as the junior varsity team designed to condition future talent for its big-league brother.
“Alfa Romeo in F1 could become a fine breeding ground for young Italian drivers,” Marchionne said after announcing GP2’s Antonio Giovinazzi as Ferrari’s new third driver at the company’s annual Christmas media event. “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.”
Ferrari recently finalized a deal with Giovinazzi, placing the Italian F1 rookie in the shadows of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. It’s the first time since 2009 that Ferrari has fielded an Italian driver.
Alfa Romeo’s return to Formula 1 is a bit of a Catch-22, however. Getting back into high-profile racing would no doubt help boost sales of the brand, but Alfa will first need to sell enough Giorgio platform vehicles to rationalize the expense. According to Motorsport, even a best-case scenario could place the timeline a couple of racing seasons away.
“The problem is that, at the moment, because of the launch of road cars that will come out soon, there already numerous commitments from a financial point of view,” Sergio told reporters. “With the launch of the Giulia and the Stelvio we have to wait for a bit, but I hope to be able to bring it back.”
That said, Alfa very nearly managed to get itself onto a starting grid this past year with Red Bull. However the proposal ended up in violation of FIA rules and was scrapped before anything was set in motion.
The Italian automaker has not participated in Formula 1 since its abysmal final season in 1985.
“The worst car I ever drove was the 1985 Alfa Romeo 185T,” Ricardo Patrese told Motorsport in 2000, “I didn’t get any championship points in it and quite apart from the fact that it was not reliable and competitive, it was also not very nice to drive, because the turbo lag was very uncomfortable.”
Embarrassments aside, the brand that helped bring Scuderia into existence might still deserve better than being a training ground for its best drivers. Ferrari has been supplying power units — some with Alfa Romeo badging — to rival teams for a while now. Alfa doesn’t need Ferrari and could technically exist as a standalone operation.
“Alfa Romeo are capable of making their own chassis, just as they are capable of making engines,” Sergio told Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper in an interview.
The first two Formula One world championships in history were both won by Alfa Romeo cars, piloted by Italian Giuseppe ‘Nino’ Farina and Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio. Enzo Ferrari himself started out racing and managing a team for Alfa before setting up Scuderia in 1939. Now Ferrari just includes a small Alfa logo on the livery of its F1 cars, in an claimed bond of passion, sportiness, and shared values that are supposed to somehow unite them as brothers.
“It’s incredible how the Alfa marque remains in people’s hearts,” the Ferrari president said during last year’s conference at the Italian team’s Maranello headquarters. “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.”