Motor racing-Alfa Romeo will stay in motorsport, yet to decide on F1


FILE PHOTO-CEO of the Peugeot brand Jean-Philippe Imparato speaks during a presentation during the 88th International Motor Show at Palexpo in Geneva, Switzerland, March 6, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

MONZA, Italy (Reuters) - Alfa Romeo will stay in motorsport but has yet to decide on Formula One after the partnership with Sauber expires at the end of the year, chief executive Jean-Philippe Imparato said at the Italian Grand Prix.

The Frenchman told Reuters that the Stellantis brand, whose car offering will be 100% electric in 2027, was still considering options.

Swiss-based Sauber will become the Audi factory team from 2026, with the Volkswagen-owned brand taking an initial stake in January.

"I had forecast to speak in July to you all on the next step but for the moment I don’t have the solution," Imparato said in an interview after the new Alfa 33 Stradale limited edition supercar was shown off in the Monza pitlane.

"I feel that I must stay in motorsport and I will stay in motorsport. That is what I want.

"We will look for coherence. We don’t want to be stupid for Stellantis. We don’t want to be full (in) for Alfa Romeo. And we don’t want to exit from motorsport. I will not go to Rally Raid and I will not go on WRC (world rally) for obvious reasons for the story of Alfa Romeo.

"I will come back when I think we are pretty solid, we have a business plan that is not a one shot. Sustainable, solid, Italian. Not necessarily electrified, that’s not my point."

Imparato's comments appeared to rule out all-electric Formula E to avoid competing against other Stellantis brands DS and Maserati, and hinted at a possible future partnership with another F1 team.

U.S.-owned Haas, who have close ties to Alfa/Sauber's current F1 engine partner Ferrari, could be one such option possibly with a 're-badged' power unit.

Alfa are effectively title sponsors of Sauber, who run the team, under a deal driven by the late FIAT Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne.

Imparato said that partnership represented the best return on investment he had seen in his 33-year career in the auto industry.

"It was reasonable, it was sized at the height of Alfa Romeo and Sauber, it was not the dreaming contract. That was 2019," he said.

"In parallel you had the fantastic job done by the FIA and Formula One Management, who brought the top line in terms of awareness to that never seen (before)."

Formula One has surged in popularity, particularly in the United States, thanks largely to the Netflix docu-series 'Drive to Survive' and calendar expansion with Las Vegas this year's big novelty.

"The problem for me is that I (now) have to find the right balance between investment, return on investment and connection with the brand positioning. That’s what we are doing today," said Imparato.

The 333kph Stradale, of which only 33 examples will be made with all already sold, is offered with a choice of all-electric and internal combustion engine (ICE).

Imparato expected 70% of customers to choose the ICE version.

"For me there is absolutely no incompatibility between motorsport and electrification," he said.

"Motorsport is the school of excellence. We can be in this world and chase zero emission. We can be in this world and chase sustainable development."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)

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