The recent announcement that Alfa Romeo will become a partner of the Sauber F1 team, ostensibly as a sponsor, but with the longer term aim for a closer technological relationship, has strong similarities with the partnership between Aston Martin and Red Bull Racing which was announced in September and, like Alfa Romeo and Sauber, will begin in the 2018 F1 season.
It is interesting that in contrast to some of the other luxury automotive marques such as Jaguar and BMW these brands have chosen to go down the Formula 1 rather than Formula E route, thereby linking them more firmly with a hybrid, rather than electric, powertrain. Both automotive companies will become the title sponsor to an F1 team who do not have an existing tie up with an automotive manufacturer. Both may also be interested in developing power units aimed to comply with the regulations for 2021 onwards. This could mean that F1 would be blessed with no fewer than six power unit suppliers (Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault, Honda, Alfa Romeo and Aston Martin). This would be unprecedented in recent times where F1 has struggled to have sufficient suppliers to power all the teams. Of course, maybe by 2021 Mercedes and Renault have switched entirely to Formula E and Ferrari may have decided to transfer their emphasis to sportscar racing as they did in the late nineteen sixties and early seventies.
Whatever happens the entry of these two prestigious marques into F1 can only be a good thing. The question now is whether the concept of a ‘privateer’ F1 team such as Williams or Force India is a viable option going forward and whether we are now moving a phase of F1 where the car manufacturers dominate to an even greater extent than they have over the last few decades.