Sergio Marchionne recently stated that Alfa Romeo ‘must’ return to Formula 1 competition if it wishes to re-establish itself as a true sporting brand. Alfa Romeo and Formula 1 fans alike would rejoice at the Italian automaker’s return to the sport that made it so famous to begin with, but is it really such a good idea?
Before we try to make a business case for Alfa’s Formula 1 return, we should consider if Marchionne’s proclamations have any merit. The Italian-Canadian CEO carefully worded his statements in regards to an Alfa F1 comeback, saying the automaker “must consider the possibility of return.” It seems a like a bit of a baseless statement made to stir up excitement around the Alfa brand, but we don’t doubt that Marchionne would truly love to see the company back in F1.
If Marchionne is serious about an Alfa Romeo F1 return, where will he get the cash to support such a pricey endeavor? Fiat Chrysler is said to be about 5 billion euros in debt and Marchionne’s plan to turn that debt into a hoard of cash has been described as “Fantasyland.” Alfa would need some serious commercial partners to fund a Formula 1 effort, or at least some assistance from Formula 1 Management.
Additionally, Fiat Chrysler’s attempts to re-position Alfa as a luxury brand have been a bit rocky. The launch of the Giulia sedan was delayed and other products, such as the much-needed Stelvio CUV and a full-size sedan, have also been pushed back. We understand an F1 team would help to move these products once they hit showrooms (or if), but we can’t help but not be confident in a brand’s ability to launch a successful F1 team when they are simultaneously having trouble bringing road cars to market.
Alfa Romeo wouldn’t be going it alone, of course. Marchionne said Alfa would likely enter a partnership with Ferrari if it were to return, though it would only utilize its technical know-how, with the FCA CEO saying Alfa “is able to make itself a chassis, and it is able to make engines.” This would be much cheaper than an all-new team starting up from scratch, but obviously more expensive than sourcing a chassis from a supplier, like Haas F1 did with Dallara, and buying an engine from a constructor.
We respect Marchionne for wanting to bring Alfa back into F1. Sure, he wants to do it to promote Alfa and bring the brand back to its glory days of racing, but he also wants to do it out of love for the sport. He told Italy’s Gazetto Dello Sport that “in the end (F1) must be saved,” and added that “the important thing is to make other car manufacturers enter grand prix racing.” We couldn’t agree more that F1 needs car manufacturer’s to compete in order hold its appeal with fans and an Alfa return would be welcomed by all.
We truly wish to see Alfa in F1 in coming years, but we’re not sure if FCA’s financial situation will enable it to do so. If it can’t get an expensive F1 endeavor off the ground we’d love to see Alfa Romeo enter touring car racing with its Giulia sedan. Sure it won’t provide same level of exposure an F1 team would, but iconic and successful Alfa touring cars like the 1993 155 V6 Ti DTM, 1966 Trans-Am GTA and ETCC 156 are proof that racing outside of F1 can still net an automaker motorsports pedigree.