Q&A with Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN Team Principal, Frédéric Vasseur
Fred, congratulations on the extension of the partnership between Sauber Motorsport and Alfa Romeo. What does it mean for the team?
Continuing with Alfa Romeo is a huge step for the team, but one that feels very natural. It is the extension of a successful partnership that has seen growing results over the years, not just on the track but also off it. Sauber and Alfa Romeo are increasingly intertwined, and this is bringing huge benefits to both brands: and what we have done so far is just the beginning – there is a lot more to come in the future.
It’s a new chapter in a long motorsport history for two brands with impressive racing heritage…
Absolutely. Alfa Romeo needs no introduction – it’s a marque that inspires just by its own name. It has a real motorsport heritage: it’s the brand that dominated the interwar period, the front runner in the first years of Formula One, and the success it had in all forms of motorsport since places it at the very top of this selected group of manufacturers that won everywhere. It’s a brand that inspires – we saw recently, at the Mille Miglia in Italy, just what Alfa Romeo means to motorsport fans all over the world. Sauber, as well, boasts an incredible history: we have been at the sharp end of motorsport for more than 50 years, we have won championships and races in sportscars, single seaters and have created a centre of motorsport excellence in Switzerland, an unlikely place for racing.
Stability on the Alfa Romeo front allows the team to build on the impressive steps you have made between 2020 and 2021…
As a team, we have made the biggest step forward across the grid this season, even though the results don’t show as well as the data yet. The gap to the front of the grid has shrunk significantly, especially in a world of marginal gains as Formula One is at the end of a regulations cycle. This is the improvement that underpins the extension of the relationship with Alfa Romeo: they see the team is evolving in the right direction and we’re both keen to reap the rewards of our development together.
How will the extension of this relationship affect the team’s vision for the future?
It will be crucially important. Alfa Romeo is not just a major partner to work with, but a brand that shows we mean business. Continuing to work together will allow us to have a stable environment, something that shows this is a real partnership that transcends sponsorship. We are both committed to shaping the team and the marque as we go on, to bring Alfa Romeo back to the top of the motorsport family; for the team, the image boost is immense as well.
Are you referring to the new regulation set, coming into play next year, which will give an opportunity to make big gains?
Indeed: already this year, with the introduction of the budget cap, we took the first step towards the “new” Formula One we will see next year. As always, when there is a big regulation change, there is an opportunity to make a big step forward: to do so in a regime of budget cap is a further chance for us. We are a very efficient team in the way we use resources, we have been operating just below the cap for years, so we won’t need to go through painful adjustments like some of our rivals. We feel we can be one of the surprise packages of the next era.
You mentioned the relationship with Alfa Romeo is mutually beneficial on and off the track. How is that?
As I said previously, Alfa Romeo is more than a sponsor: it’s a partner in the true meaning of the word. It’s a collaboration that goes beyond Formula One, to road cars, technology and more. The work Sauber Engineering did on the Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA and GTAm models is just the tip of the iceberg, a very successful programme that shows what we can achieve together. It’s an exciting time for the automotive sector, with a big focus on electrification and hybridisation, something Formula One has been at the forefront of for a few years, and we are looking forward to opportunities to leverage this expertise. We are already planning more projects together in which our motorsport technology expertise can bring true benefits to Alfa Romeo; of course, we are also planning a more capillary and extensive activation programme to fully leverage the partnership: it’s an exciting time to be at the heart of this project and we can’t wait to see it come to light.