RACING

Why Alfa Romeo isn’t interested in Formula 1’s long-term ‘lockdown’

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Since first joining a partnership with the Sauber team in 2018, Alfa Romeo has always been adamant that its continued relationship would be decided by annual reviews.

Although the value and interest around Alfa Romeo and F1 is greater than ever, and other manufacturers are knocking on the door (Audi even with Sauber), there is no evidence that the Italian brand will break with his plan.

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Alfa Romeo CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato says that while the partnership brings enormous value to the brand, he is always happy to maintain a degree of flexibility.

“I will decide 2023 with our colleagues in the coming weeks,” he told Motorsport.com. “The question for us is not to plan for five years today.

“We are, I think, on this 2023 project and, as you know, we have signed a very clear, transparent, long-term partnership with our colleagues with annual evaluations. I am therefore completely comfortable with all aspects of this evaluation.

“Each year we will take stock and we will decide for the following year. I’m not part of a long-term commitment to anything, to do five years maybe.

“So to be clear, any negotiation on the engine, any negotiation and anything related to the partnership is conducted by Fred Vasseur and Sauber, in the best interests of Sauber.

“Alfa Romeo’s best interest is to have a return on investment every year and progress in terms of performance every year. That’s it. The rest is completely, I would say, separate.

Jean Philippe Imparato, Brand CEO, Alfa Romeo

Photo by: Jean-Philippe Imparato

Imparato’s stance is at odds with other automakers who are married to F1 for the long term.

But the Frenchman isn’t used to doing things the conventional way either – as he represents the only F1 carmaker happy (actually delighted) to only have the naming rights of a team rather than to own the team itself or build an engine.

“I think I have the best return on investment on earth,” he smiles. “It may be surprising. But we invented with our colleagues from Sauber a new business model which is that there is a double governance between us.

F1’s carbon-neutral push

All automakers are facing difficult times in the move to electric cars, which is proving extremely costly.

And while F1 is committed to going carbon neutral, it’s pushing a future with the internal combustion engine – albeit powered by sustainable fuel.

However, Imparato doesn’t see a clash of philosophies between electric road cars and net zero engines in F1 – as he believes they can sit very happily alongside each other.

He believes F1 will have a lot to gain by paving the way to its carbon-neutral stance.

“Fuel and respect for the environment are at the heart of the transformation of Formula 1. I am convinced of that,” he said.

“Afterwards, I don’t know what the rhythm, the reasons, the event will be, but I know that they are on it, and that they are working on it.

“So whenever everyone works on something positive towards carbon neutrality, that’s good news for me.”

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He added: “Motorsport is always a frontrunner and you will see that motorsport will drive change, probably faster than everyone else, as always.

“We can argue, argue, shout, but at some point we are runners. At some point, the goal is clear for everyone to rush to be first, and that will be the case as well.

But while F1’s sustainable fuels avenue has sparked talk of the possibility of a slower switch to electric cars from current schedules, Imparato insists there is no going back. back for his business.

“I think the decisions are made,” he said. “The industry is moving to EVs in 2035, and when you set a bar like that, it means you stop investing now and you stop ICE in 2030 more or less. So it will be a race to who will be the first to be zero.

“There is no compromise, and there is, for me, no plan B. Because our children will not accept that we push back the limits of CO2 emissions. It is a question of ethics. »

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