Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne insists that the threat of Ferrari leaving Formula 1 is serious, despite the return of the Alfa Romeo name to the sport.
Alfa Romeo will partner with Sauber from 2018 in a move that will see the latter working much more closely with Ferrari. The deal comes just a matter of weeks after Marchionne warned Ferrari could quit F1 if it is not happy with the sport’s future plans following the unveiling of its vision for power unit regulations from 2021 onwards.
With Ferrari essentially having more influence in those discussions courtesy of its close partnerships with Sauber and Haas, Marchionne says the latest deal does nothing to dilute the chance of him pulling the Prancing Horse out of the sport.
“The dialogue has started and will continue to evolve,” Marchionne said. “We have time until 2020 to find a solution which benefits Ferrari. The threat of Ferrari leaving Formula 1 is serious. The agreement with Sauber expires in 2020-2021, right when Ferrari could leave.
“We have to find a solution which is good for the sport, but we also have to be clear on the things we can’t back down on.”
Marchionne’s comments were all the more pointed as FIA president Jean Todt and F1 CEO Chase Carey were present at the Alfa Romeo Sauber event, where Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson were confirmed as the team’s drivers for next season.
Amid the political positioning, Sauber team principal Frederic Vasseur says the partnership is an exciting one for his team as it now gets to run one of the up and coming talents in motorsport.
“We are all delighted about the cooperation with Alfa Romeo,” Vasseur said. “With Marcus and Charles, we have a strong driver duo for the debut season of the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team.
“Marcus is an experienced Formula 1 driver, who knows the procedures and the team well, after having worked together for the past three years. He is a team player, and has a very positive attitude.
“Charles has proven his talent in several racing series, most recently winning the Formula 2 World Championship title. He had the chance to drive in four FP1 sessions and two tire tests for us this season, and convinced the team with his professionalism and charisma. I look forward to going into 2018 with this driver pairing, and I am convinced that they will complement each other very well.”