Alfa Romeo extends with Sauber for 2023
The singularity of Alfa Romeo in F1
Unlike Mercedes, Ferrari and Alpine, which are manufacturer teams producing their chassis and engines, unlike Red Bull, which benefits from a privileged partnership with Honda, unlike other teams such as McLaren and Aston Martin, which benefit from a customer partnership with Mercedes, Alfa Romeo has the singularity of being a manufacturer confined to the role of title sponsor, since the team officially called Alfa Romeo F1 Team is actually the Swiss team Sauber, and the V6 Turbo hybrid is not branded by the Milanese brand but by Ferrari.
Admittedly, a technical partnership exists, and we know for example that the Giulia GTAm was developed jointly with Sauber, but this remains much more limited. However, this business model particular seems to work, to be profitable, while satisfying despite everything a part of the alfists who are happy to see their favorite brand entered in competition after years of weaning. This is why the partnership with Sauber has been extended, but, in line with the strategy of CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato, for only one year, and not with a long-term perspective.
Jean-Philippe Imparato confirmed the Alfa Romeo-Sauber partnership for 2023 on the sidelines of the Hungarian Grand Prix, while explaining the process:
“Each year, we take stock in July to decide whether or not to continue this commitment. If one day we find that we no longer have interest or that we do not have a return on investment, we will reassess it (. ..) I want to progress. And with the right level of return on investment in terms of Alfa Romeo exposure. »
« Formula 1 is a fixed marketing expense. And if you want to justify to people in the company that you’re spending a huge amount of money on Formula 1, you have to have the right return on investment. That’s the key. So we said that on the competition side, we wanted to be up to it (…) And on the marketing side, we want to be on top in terms of return on investment. I must say that I benefit from the fantastic dynamics of Formula 1. The trend is positive and the return on investment is positive. »
But Alfa Romeo enjoys some flexibility with its commitment to F1, given the agreement with Sauber, unlike other manufacturers: « Some of our competitors are very tightly locked. Sauber is not locked. We are not locked. »« But we work together because we love motorsport. That’s all. It’s another economic model invented in this type of discipline which is probably different from what we did in the past. »
Indeed, Formula 1 is now a profitable business for all teams. The dramatic rise in popularity in the USA, the increase in racing and exposure for sponsors, the rise in broadcast rights, the inflation of grand prix contracts, all of this has made F1 a « bankable » business. « , even for those who are not at the very top of the rankings. You only have to see the lack of enthusiasm with which most teams react to the possible arrival of an Andretti team, which would impose a sharing on an additional part of the very juicy cake.
What’s more, Alfa Romeo is making progress this year. Even if the team has stalled for a few races, weighed down by reliability in particular, the good start to the season makes it consider a 6th place manufacturer which would guarantee it much more comfortable income than in previous years. Between the exposure, the fact that Alfa Romeo does not have to invest like others in complex infrastructure and the increasing return on investment that F1 offers, the model seems to satisfy all parties for the moment.
Let’s not forget, however, that this absence of a long-term allows for a more flexible withdrawal, so even Audi is strongly expected, as confirmed by insistent rumors, to buy Sauber by 2026 in view of its arrival as a full-fledged manufacturer. .
What future in motorsport for Alfa, apart from F1?
If Alfa Romeo’s presence in F1 were to be curtailed in the future, what could a brand’s future in competition be? which was built precisely on its commitment to motorsport? Giulia « silhouette » are present in ETCR, but the exposure of the series is still very confidential and this electric formula is a shame for Alfa Romeo when we know that the sedan does not even offer mild hybrid in its range at the moment. actual hour.
Peugeot has just arrived in Endurance, rallying is more the business of Citroën and is not in Alfa’s « sporting culture », Maserati and DS will occupy the niche of Formula E and the saloon championships have not plus the coast, like the DTM which has moved to GT. Unless the Biscione releases us a GTV eligible for the GT3 or GT4 (yes, we have the right to dream), then maybe stay a commitment to Indycar, which has been talked about for several years, even as the US market is part of the Biscione’s reinvestment strategy and the discipline is preparing for a hybrid revolution in 2024, in order to attract new engine manufacturers in addition to Honda and Chevrolet. In the end, the presence in F1 is a good option. To be continued…