An Alfa Romeo driver won the very first Formula 1 championship way back in 1950, when the Italian marque was a powerhouse in European racing. They may have incredible motor sport heritage, but these days the brand's F1 team is operated by the Sauber Group, and their current ambitions are more about mixing it in the midfield than fighting for titles. Here's your guide to the Hinwil based outfit, ahead of the new 2023 campaign...
Valtteri Bottas #77: 10 Grand Prix wins, 67 podiums, 1787 points, 200 Grands Prix starts Zhou Guanyu #24: 6 points, best finish of P8, 22 Grands Prix starts
Valtteri Bottas made his F1 debut with Williams in 2013 and joined Mercedes – where he won five consecutive constructors’ championships – in 2017. The Finnish driver was replaced by George Russell for 2022 and Bottas therefore joined Alfa Romeo, in turn replacing fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen who was retiring. The team employed the services of then-rookie Zhou Guanyu, who became the first full-time Chinese driver in F1 after finishing third in the 2021 Formula 2 Championship.
Alfa Romeo announced in September 2022 that they would retain Zhou for another season alongside Bottas, who was reported in 2021 to have signed a multi-year deal with the team.
After scoring points just six times in 2021, Alfa Romeo began 2022 – the new era of F1 – in much stronger fashion. Zhou scored on his debut with P10 while Bottas managed P6 in Bahrain, with the Finn going on to score five more times in the next six races. Zhou joined Bottas in the points once again in Canada as the team logged their second double points finish of 2022.
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But that would be their last double points haul as a double retirement, including a huge crash for Zhou, followed at Silverstone and more trouble hit for Bottas in Hungary, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Italy brought another point thanks to Zhou but it was clear that Alfa Romeo’s early-season form had faded; from rounds 11-22 they scored just four of their 55 points total for the season and ended up level in score with Aston Martin.
Sixth in the championship was their reward over Aston as Bottas boasted the best race finish out of the four drivers from the two teams.
You can’t mention Alfa Romeo without mentioning the likes of Giuseppe Farina, Juan Manuel Fangio, and Luigi Fagioli. The marque dominated the first two World Championship seasons of Formula 1 but withdrew at the end of the 1951 season, before supplying privateers with engines in the mid-1960s and early 1970s.
In 1976 Alfa supplied the Brabham team with engines, before the Italian marque returned as constructors in their own right from 1979-85 – leaving the sport when the Fiat Group purchased the company in 1986.
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Sauber, a Swiss privateer team that entered F1 in 1993, signed a multi-year partnership with Alfa Romeo in 2017, which saw the brand return to F1 as Alfa Romeo-Sauber in 2018.
Sauber continue to operate the Ferrari-powered team but Alfa Romeo took over the branding from 2019. From 2026 onwards, Sauber will become Audi’s official works team.
In their current form – the team operated by Sauber – sixth in the 2022 constructors’ championship is Alfa Romeo’s greatest achievement, although they scored two more points when they finished eighth overall in 2019.
But, as mentioned above, Alfa Romeo works drivers Farina and Fangio won the first two F1 drivers' championships back in the early 1950s.
Bottas and Zhou remain team mates at Alfa Romeo in 2023 but there has been a huge change in the team’s management as former boss Frederic Vasseur has departed to become Ferrari’s Team Principal after six years at the helm.
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Meanwhile McLaren’s former Team Principal Andreas Seidl has been appointed CEO of the Sauber Group as they look ahead to transitioning into Audi, and he will be assisted by Alessandro Alunni Bravi, former Sauber Group Managing Director, who has been given the new role of Team Representative.
Vasseur left the team in a healthy position as they clinched sixth in the 2022 championship – though Seidl and Bravi must ensure the team's form doesn't drop off in the second half of 2023 in the alarming way it did last year.