“Ser­gio Mar­chionne wants Alfa Romeo back in F1 and so do I! Who is Ser­gio Mar­chionne, though?”

F1 Racing (UK) - - CHEQUERED FLAG -

Well, he’s the CEO of Fiat Chrysler, who own Alfa Romeo, and, un­sur­pris­ingly, he’s a man who knows what he wants and tends to get it. Wit­ness the turn around in Fer­rari for­tunes fol­low­ing the changes he ef­fected when he took con­trol from Luca di Mon­teze­molo.

I doubt many of to­day’s fans are fully aware of Alfa Romeo’s dis­tin­guished mo­tor­sport his­tory, which be­gan in 1911, or of what a wor­thy ad­di­tion to to­day’s F1 they’d make. In the 1920s and ’30s, up to the 1934 ad­vent of the all­con­quer­ing Mercedes-benz and Auto Union teams, the P2 and P3 Alfa Romeos were main­stays of the grand prix scene, driven by su­per­stars such as An­to­nio As­cari (fa­ther of Al­berto), Achille Varzi, Ru­dolf Carac­ci­ola and the leg­endary Tazio Nu­volari. Enzo Fer­rari racked up some wins for Alfa Romeo, too, be­fore he founded Fer­rari as Alfa’s works team.

With the P2, Alfa won the 1925 con­struc­tors’ world cham­pi­onship, and the sub­se­quent su­per­charged straight-eight P3 was the class of the field. In one of them, at the fa­bled Nür­bur­gring in 1935, the great Tazio Nu­volari beat even the sup­pos­edly su­pe­rior Ger­man Mercedes-benz and Auto Unions at one of the great­est grands prix of all time.

But it wasn’t just in grand prix rac­ing that Alfa Romeo shone. They won the Le Mans 24 Hours for four years in a row, as well as the pres­ti­gious Targa Flo­rio, Mille Miglia and Spa 24 Hours. Then, pre- and post-wwii, came one of the great­est race cars ever: the su­per­charged straight-eight Alfa Romeo 158, which dom­i­nated pre-war Voi­turette events and won the 1950 and 1951 F1 driv­ers’ cham­pi­onships with Giuseppe Fa­rina and Juan Manuel Fan­gio at the wheel. I was lucky enough to at­tend the first ever F1 race in 1950 at Sil­ver­stone, and I’ll never forget the im­pe­ri­ous way the 158s com­manded the race to fin­ish first, sec­ond and third.

Alfa with­drew from F1 at the end of 1951 and made a lack­lus­tre return in the mid-1980s, but suc­cess­fully con­tin­ued in sportscars and tour­ing cars. So they can be proud of their com­pet­i­tive past. Why then does Ser­gio Mar­chionne want them to stick their neck out and re-en­ter the F1 fray with all the po­ten­tial grief and cost? Partly, I reckon, be­cause Alfa Romeo road-car sales aren’t ex­actly boom­ing and be­cause as­so­ci­a­tion with F1 would do the brand’s sporty im­age a power of good. But maybe also be­cause hav­ing Alfa in the F1 fold would give Mar­chionne’s al­ready pow­er­ful ne­go­ti­at­ing po­si­tion within the sport, thanks to his Fer­rari role, even more clout.

In which case, how could Alfa re-en­ter the sport? By buy­ing an ex­ist­ing team? By cre­at­ing an all new or­gan­i­sa­tion that goes it alone? Or by fol­low­ing the suc­cess­ful Haas team model of buy­ing per­mis­si­ble listed items from Fer­rari? Mar­chionne has al­ready rub­bished ru­mours of pur­chas­ing Sauber, and of the other two al­ter­na­tives the Haas route seems a no-brainer.

Which­ever way they choose to go, Fiat have the re­sources and ex­pe­ri­ence to cre­ate a new Alfa Romeo team in the short­est pos­si­ble time. I would love to see it hap­pen and for Alfa to build on their great past. They would be an ex­cit­ing new man­u­fac­turer with ev­ery chance of suc­cess, which I’m sure the fans would wel­come with en­thu­si­asm and which could cre­ate great po­ten­tial ben­e­fits for road-car sales.

I’m not so sure Bernie Ec­cle­stone would be over the moon though…

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