Sauber name disappears, team re-branded as Alfa Romeo Racing

The Sauber name will disappear from the Formula One entry list in 2019, with the Swiss team being renamed to Alfa Romeo Racing.

After being given the Alfa Romeo name as a title sponsor – along with a new livery – for the 2018 season, the team have taken the steps to rename their entry as Alfa Romeo Racing for 2019.

Whilst there is no change to the management structure that has evolved over the past couple of seasons, it means that the Sauber name will disappear from the sport, having been ever-present since 1993.

The move means Sauber increase their partnership with the Fiat Group, who also own Ferrari, who are technical partners with Sauber. Alfa Romeo have gradually increased their presence on the technical side, which has aided the team’s sharp rise through the field in 2018.

Team principal Frédéric Vasseur promised that development in “every sector” of the team would continue as they bid to continue their rise through the field:

“It is a pleasure to announce that we will enter the 2019 Formula One 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.”

Sauber through the years

Having achieved success through sports cars and endurance racing (Le Mans winners in 1989 and 1990), founder Peter Sauber took his team to Formula One for the 1993 season, continuing their long association with Mercedes.

They scored points with on their debut at the attritional South African Grand Prix with JJ Lehto, but became midfield runners straight away, frequently challenging for points.

A switch to Ford engines for 1995 was one ingredient of a successful season which brought their first podium finish. Young hotshot Heinz-Harald Frentzen took third place at that year’s Italian Grand Prix.

Another podium finish was achieved in 1996 before they made their first switch to Ferrari power in 1997, a partnership which would become a key part of their Formula One history. The Ferrari units were re-badged as Petronas engines (effectively year-old Ferrari engines).

Their performances hit peaks and troughs as they remained a mainstay in the midfield battle, with their best season in the ‘Petronas period’ (1997-2005) coming in 2001. Armed with two fast junior drivers in Nick Heidfeld and Kimi Raikkonen, they finished fourth in the constructors’ championship, beating the bigger-budget teams of British American Racing and Jaguar, previous champions Benetton, and recent championship contenders Jordan.

A new era with BMW – who were increasing their involvement in Formula One – began in 2006, and a bigger budget yielded year-on-year improvements to the point where Robert Kubica was an outside contender for the 2008 drivers’ championship. The Pole took a memorable first-and-only for Sauber win at the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix, leading team-mate Nick Heidfeld to a sensational one-two finish.

They hoped for bigger things in a disappointing 2009 season and, coupled with the global financial recession at the time, they made the shock decision to pull out of Formula One altogether for 2010, selling the team back to Peter Sauber.

Reigniting their association with Ferrari, Sauber began to regain lost ground, and they hit the podium positions once more in a competitive 2012 season. With Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi, the team had one of their most successful years as an independent team, achieving four podiums and came close to a race win at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

However, from there the results slowly declined, and Sauber have struggled for consistent point-scoring streaks since, particularly from 2014 onward.

In 2016, they narrowly finished ahead of Manor in the constructors’ championship, but finished at the foot of the ten-car championship 2017 after Manor left the sport.

In July 2016, Longbow Finance bought the Sauber shares from Peter Sauber and Monisha Kaltenborn, gaining full control of the team. An initial deal with power unit suppliers Honda was agreed in 2017, but this was subsequently cancelled in favour of increasing their partnership with Ferrari, which has brought the Alfa Romeo name back to Formula One.

Under the closer partnership, Sauber’s results in 2018 picked up, with the team finishing eighth in the constructors’ championship, finishing ahead of Toro Rosso and Williams.

Having competed in Formula One in 1950 & 1951 – taking the drivers’ titles with Giuseppe Farina and Juan-Manuel Fangio – Alfa Romeo’s last stint as a fully-fledged constructor was from 1979 – 1985, where they achieved a best Grand Prix finish of 3rd place.

By: Luke Murphy

All images: Motorsport Images

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