Why Alfa Romeo should come back to For­mula 1

F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

As Alfa be­gin a new-model salvo, Fer­rari pres­i­dent Ser­gio Mar­chionne in­sists they ‘must con­sider’ a re­turn to the sport

Alfa Romeo dom­i­nated the rst two years of the F1 world cham­pi­onship be­fore suc­cumb­ing to nan­cial chaos, and their evoca­tive badge has not adorned an F1 car since 1985. Now, though, Ser­gio Mar­chionne – boss of par­ent com­pany Fiat Chrysler Au­to­mo­biles and pres­i­dent of Fer­rari – has stated the case for a come­back.

“To re-es­tab­lish it­self as a sport brand,” Mar­chionne said in an in­ter­view with Gazzetta dello Sport, “Alfa Romeo can and must con­sider the pos­si­bil­ity of a re­turn to race in For­mula 1.”

It would be easy to dis­miss Mar­chionne’s rhetoric as mere cant, or to pick apart the nu­ances of words in trans­la­tion, and, in­deed, there re­mains the ques­tion of whether the com­pany could af­ford such an ex­pense.

The Alfa brand pre­dates Fer­rari, but has long been the prob­lem child of the Fiat em­pire. Poor build, ex­ces­sively quirky de­sign, hap­haz­ard er­gonomics and in­dif­fer­ent dealer ser­vice drove main­stream buy­ers away. In re­cent years, Fiat have sought to re­po­si­tion Alfa as a sport­ing brand to ri­val the likes of Mercedes, Audi and BMW, but per­cep­tions have yet to change.

Alfa’s new mod­els will be rear-wheel drive, ex­plic­itly tar­get­ing two of their three big Ger­man ri­vals, but prod­uct is only one el­e­ment of mar­ket­ing suc­cess, and re­cent sta­tis­tics show Mercedes and Audi sales ac­cel­er­at­ing away from BMW. Could the lack of a top-line mo­tor­sport link be harm­ing BMW’s brand per­cep­tion?

Money is a prob­lem – Fiat Chrysler Au­to­mo­biles is the most heav­ily lever­aged car maker in the busi­ness – but there are deals to be done. F1 Rac­ing un­der­stands Re­nault’s re­cent re-ac­qui­si­tion of Lotus was nudged over the nish­ing line by se­cur­ing favourable com­mer­cial terms from For­mula One Man­age­ment; like­wise, Red Bull mag­nate Di­et­rich Mates­chitz has voiced his frus­tra­tions with F1. He may be will­ing to sell Toro Rosso, a team al­ready based in Italy and us­ing Fer­rari en­gines, which would suit Alfa Romeo very nicely.

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