Why Alfa Romeo should come back to Formula 1
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.