RACING

How the Alfa Romeo deal fits into the planned Sauber/Audi F1 sale

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Alfa Romeo CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato says he has no problem with Sauber striking a deal with another manufacturer if it’s in the company’s best interest, amid rumors of an Audi takeover.

Sauber’s F1 team has raced as Alfa Romeo since 2019, having first teamed up with the Italian manufacturer in 2018.

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This is purely a title partnership with Sauber responsible for all sporting and technical matters and Alfa Romeo focusing on maximizing the marketing of a “working” F1 entry with no interest in controlling the team it -same.

The team’s improved form in 2022, combined with the commercial benefits Alfa Romeo will get for a relatively modest investment, means it should continue in the short term.

However, he will be incompatible with Sauber in the long run if the company is taken over by Audi, as seems increasingly likely.

There are already reports that Audi will invest in Sauber in stages, before a full takeover by 2026 – the start of the next round of engine regulations, for which Audi wants to build its own power unit.

Until then, the team could continue to use Ferrari engines and could therefore continue under the Alfa Romeo name for all or part of this period as well.

While one might assume Alfa Romeo would want to extend its favorable deal with Sauber for as long as possible, Imparato told The Race he has no problem if circumstances change.

In fact, Imparato is helping Sauber do what he thinks is best in the long run – partly because Alfa Romeo has no interest in trying to “lock in” its own plans because it wants to remain flexible.

“It’s about relationship,” Imparato said.

“The day when Sauber considers that its long-term strategic interest is to pass [on]they have to do it for their business.

“Sauber’s first obligation is to protect its business.

“At the moment, it’s a fantastic and common vision [for Sauber and Alfa Romeo]. If one day something else happens, it won’t be a problem.

“We are going to develop in another way, in another world, still based on motorsport, for Alfa Romeo.

“But we don’t lock anything down – we don’t need to protect anything.

“We are partners. And then we’ll see.

Austrian Grand Prix 2022 Sunday (2)

“By the way, I will never plan five or more years on motorsport. Ever.

“In this world, we will evaluate our partnership every year.

“The guy who plans five years ahead, in a motorsport investment, is bold – really.

“We won’t do that.”

Last year, Sauber and Alfa Romeo announced a multi-year extension to the deal with annual reviews that effectively require the deal to be renewed every 12 months.

Discussions on renewing the partnership for 2023 have taken place and confirmation that Sauber will continue to operate under the Alfa Romeo banner is expected this month.

“We haven’t completely closed the process,” Imparato said.

2022 Austrian Grand Prix Saturday

“So we will make the decision with [team principal] Frédéric Vasseur and the team and then we will publish the information.

A renewal would seem like a no-brainer given that Alfa Romeo and Sauber are easily enjoying their most competitive season together.

He finished eighth, eighth and ninth in the constructors’ championship in each of the three seasons up to Alfa Romeo, but is currently sixth in the 2022 standings with new signings Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu.

The team has also almost matched its points tally from 2019 already, with 11 races remaining in the season.

“We’re living a positive story and it’s gratifying to see,” Imparato said.

“But we want to see progress. We are better than last year for me and we are stable. This is what we need.

“Remember that last year we renewed the contract with our colleagues at Sauber and we say that we will have an annual evaluation.

“But we are in contact three, four times a week and every month.

2022 Austrian Grand Prix Sunday

“We see that there is a positive movement from the team, we are in a positive position as Alfa Romeo.

“For me, everything is fine at the moment.”

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