Last year the Alfa Romeo name returned to F1 in a technical partnership and sponsorship deal with Sauber. As well as resulting in a frankly awesome livery, the team’s performance ramped up too. By the end of 2018, Sauber had gone from the back of the grid to fighting to be best of the rest in the hands of Marcus Ericsson and rookie Charles Leclerc - a driver who proved to be so good that he earned a promotion to Ferrari for this year.
In fact, the Alfa Romeo-Sauber partnership has worked so well that for 2019, Alfa has decided to ramp up its involvement to the point where the team will now simply be known as ‘Alfa Romeo Racing’, with the ‘Sauber’ part being dropped altogether. Team principal Frederic Vasseur said:
“It is a pleasure to announce that we will enter the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship with the team name ‘Alfa Romeo Racing’. After initiating the collaboration with our title sponsor Alfa Romeo in 2018, our team made fantastic progress on the technical, commercial, and sporting side.
“This has given a boost of motivation to each team member, be that track-side or at the headquarter in Switzerland, as the hard work invested has become reflected in our results. We aim to continue developing every sector of our team while allowing our passion for racing, technology and design to drive us forward”.
As cool as it is to see an Alfa Romeo team back in the sport (even though it’s not quite a full works effort), it’s incredibly sad to see the Sauber name disappear from F1. Even when the team was owned by BMW from 2006-2009, the name was still BMW-Sauber. The change to Alfa Romeo means that for the first time since 1992, there won’t be a Sauber on the grid all season.
The plus side is that Alfa’s increased involvement could see the team continue to make moves up the grid. And it’s not like Alfa Romeo isn’t an historic name in itself - as well as being successful in pre-war racing, Alfa Romeo drivers won the first two F1 championships in 1950 and 1951 (there was also a slightly mediocre return in the 1970s and 1980s, but we won’t dwell on that).
Despite the name change, everything else about the team will be the same - Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi will still be the drivers, and it will still operate from the same base in Hinwil, Switzerland. The only difference is that it won’t be called Sauber.
A version of this article was originally posted on WTF1