Marchionne: Alfa Romeo F1 team could nurture young Italian drivers

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Ferrari president and Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne remains open to bringing the Alfa Romeo brand into Formula 1, believing it could help to nurture the next generation of Italian drivers.

Marchionne has previously raised the idea of Alfa Romeo returning to F1, with its name having not graced the grid since the 1980s.

Marchionne spoke about a possible return during his annual pre-Christmas media lunch, saying that Alfa Romeo could act as a B-team for Ferrari’s young drivers.

“Alfa Romeo could become a fine breeding ground for young Italian drivers,” Marchionne is quoted as saying by La Repubblica.

“The best one, [Antonio] Giovinazzi, is already with us, but there are others besides him, and they are struggling to find space.

“Alfa Romeo, more than our customer teams [Haas and Sauber], could offer them that space.”

Besides the recently-signed Giovinazzi, Ferrari also has Charles Leclerc, 19, and Antonio Fuoco, 20, on its books, who are both poised to race in GP2 next year for Prema.

However, Marchionne did stress that Alfa Romeo needed to focus on its road car operations before an entry into F1 could be seriously considered.

“There is room for an Alfa Romeo return, possibly as a collaboration with Ferrari,” he said.

“Not yet, though, because Alfa must first make money through sales of the Giulia and the Stelvio [cars].”

The last driver to come through the ranks with Ferrari support and reach F1 was Jules Bianchi, who raced for Manor in 2013 and 2014 before his death at the age of 25.

Recently-signed Williams racer Lance Stroll, 18, was previously part of the Ferrari Driver Academy before parting company with the Italian marque at the end of 2015.