Alfa or Beta: What Does Alfa Romeo Switch Mean for Sauber?
It came with some sadness last week when Sauber announced that they would be switching their name to Alfa Romeo Racing ahead of the 2019 season, meaning that this of course will be the first season since 1992 that the iconic Sauber name will not be present in Formula 1. However, what does this name change really mean? Could this signify a proper shot at climbing the order and challenging the top three, or are they just merely a Ferrari B-team?
Alfa Romeo of course is a very iconic name in it’s own right in the sport, having won the very first two championships held in F1 with Nino Farina and Juan Manuel Fangio in 1950 and 1951 respectively. They competed up until 1985, when they decided to depart the sport in 1986. The iconic name only returned to the sport last year as a title sponsor for the Sauber team.
Sauber themselves have had some pretty amazing moments since their inception into the sport in 1993. Coming from a very successful background in World Sportscars, Sauber racked up 27 podiums in total, with the team’s only win coming with Robert Kubica. The team were arguably at their best during 2007 and 2008, even though the team was mostly funded and owned by BMW at the time, Kubica and his then teammate Nick Heidfeld were constantly scratching at the top drivers, even becoming championship contenders for a time in 2008. It’s thanks to Sauber that drivers like Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa, Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc all got their shot into F1, an iconic underdog team adored by fans alike.
It did come as a bit of a surprise to hear that the name was being changed to Alfa Romeo for 2019, I do wonder if this signifies something else is going on. We seen in 2018 that the team were much improved and thanks to Ferrari Junior Academy Leclerc joining the team and the overall partnership, Ferrari was supposedly helping the team along. I think for 2019 the team are going to be even stronger especially considering their line-up, Kimi Raikkonen moving from Ferrari to come back to the team he debuted with all the way back in 2001, making way for Leclerc in the process, as well as Italian hotshot Antonio Giovinazzi. An Italian driver in an Italian branded team, I’m sure that wasn’t a coincidence.
Are Ferrari hoping to push the team further to the top of the grid? You would probably think why they would do such a thing and risk their own chances by fielding another competitor to the top of the field but if you think about it, they aren’t the only team doing it. We know with Red Bull that they’re joining Honda in 2019, meaning both the senior team and their own junior team Toro Rosso will share both the same suppliers and as recently reported, the same rear end assembly. Possibly suggesting that both teams will make the same progress at the same time, and both are going to be wanting to close up on the front. Not to mention the new, presumably Mercedes powered Racing Point team, who now say that they have the resources to truly attack the sharp end of the grid. Is Ferrari doing this to cover off Red Bull and Mercedes’ attempts to possibly field two top running teams?
The middle of the grid is getting ever closer to the teams in front and considering the way that 2019 is shaping up, this year anything could truly happen. I believe that Ferrari are truly trying to push this team as far as they can to the top. It would also make sense to put Raikkonen, a driver who both loves to just race and is known for his brilliance in setting a car up into the team, knowing full well the positive impact it would have on staff and overall morale in the team, and it would also explain why a two year deal was signed, as opposed to his annual contracts at Ferrari.
I am quite upset at the fact that we have lost the Sauber name from the sport, but then again I am as equally excited to see what Alfa Romeo can bring to the table. We have been assured that it is only the name that has changed, and the team itself is still very much the same, the team itself even still being ran by parent company Sauber Motorsport AG. I’m happy Kimi will stay for another two years and I am looking forward to what they can do together, as well as seeing how Antonio Giovinazzi does. Despite crashes in China, he did well in his F1 debut when he replaced the injured Pascal Wehrlein for those two opening races in 2017 so its good to see him back again.
2019 is a season like no other, and it hasn’t even started yet. This re-branding is just a small stitch in a whole web of changes and definitely another one added to the list that I really anticipate for this season. Alfa Romeo, good to see your return. How do you think they’ll fare out this year?