After an absence of more than thirty years, Alfa Romeo is set to re-enter Formua 1 racing for the 2018 season.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles confirmed that its Alfa Romeo brand has entered into a multi-year technical and commercial agreement with Sauber, to field Alfa Romeo liveried vehicles developed by Sauber and featuring Ferrari powertrains.
The team will officially go by the name of Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team when it debuts at the first race of the 2018 season in Australia, at Albert Park in Melbourne.
No announcement has been made regarding drivers, but Ferrari junior drivers, Italian Antonio Giovanazzi and highly-rated Frenchman Charles Leclerc, are tipped to fill the positions.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said in a statement the arrangement covers "strategic, commercial and technological cooperation in all applicable areas of development, including access to engineering know-how and the expertise of Alfa Romeo technical staff. This partnership will provide additional opportunities for the two organizations in both Formula 1 and the automotive sector in general."
The latter suggests that Alfa Romeo may leverage some F1 technologies for use in its road cars, with one possible outcome resulting in a hybrid-powered sports car modelled on the Formula 1 powertrain.
The return of Alfa Romeo to Formula 1 comes as a significant boost following Honda’s troubled return to the sport in partnership with McLaren, and numerous other manufacturers walking away from the series to pursue the rival Formula E electric vehicle racing league.
Alfa Romeo will utilise the latest specification engines developed by Ferrari, and rely heavily on the expertise and knowledge of the Scuderia to improve Sauber's performance from a perennial back marker to a mid-field challenger, or beyond.
This year, Sauber was forced to use cheaper and outdated Ferrari engines as it struggled with finances and a management makeover.
Alfa Romeo has a long and storied history in Formula One, even though it never achieved the heights of Ferrari and hasn't participated at the top level of motorsport for more than 30 years.
The marque was a frontrunner in the pre-war era, when its team was run Enzo Ferrari before he established his eponymous outfit, and won the first two official world championships in 1950 and 1951 with Nino Farina and Juan Manuel Fangio respectively.
The Italian brand was a long-time engine supplier through the 1960's and 1970's and re-established a factory team in 1979, but has not competed in Formula 1 in an official capacity since 1985 (pictured, top of page).
Image: Lothar Spurzem, via Wikipedia.