Now we know what you might be thinking: Alfa Romeo and Ferrari are both part of the same Fiat Chrysler Automobiles group, so why would Marchionne want two brands competing against each other in such a costly racing series? Because technically speaking, Ferrari is no longer part of FCA, that's why. They share mostly the same owners and are run by the same person (Marchionne), but the Prancing Horse marque recently split off from its former parent company and floated its own shares on the stock market. That makes it a separate entity, and also means that FCA no longer has a direct link to F1. But its chief executive clearly thinks the investment is worthwhile.
Marchionne has been known to state grandiose plans, but he's also been known to carry through on many of them. So the next question is, if the plan goes through, just how Alfa Romeo might participate in F1? Some automakers (like Mercedes) field their own teams, others (like Honda) compete as engine suppliers, and still others (like Infiniti) as branding partners. Alfa could go either route, but Marchionne told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport that "Alfa Romeo is able to make itself a chassis, and it is able to make engines."
Of course, that doesn't mean that it necessarily will. It could outsource a chassis from a constructor like Dallara, which is located near the same Varano circuit that Alfa uses regularly. It could also source an engine from its former sister company: Marchionne floated the possibility of starting a separate engine program in Maranello for Red Bull when it was hunting for a new engine partner, and could ostensibly do the same for Alfa Romeo. "In order to re-establish itself as a sport brand, Alfa Romeo can and must consider the possibility of return to race in Formula 1," said Marchionne. "How? Probably in a collaboration with Ferrari."
Alfa Romeo first competed in F1 in the early 1950s, winning the world championship two years running in 1950 with Giuseppe Farina (scion of Pininfarina) and 1951 with Juan Manuel Fangio. It then dropped out, only to resurface as a full constructor team between 1979 and 1985, with limited results. It also supplied engines to an array of teams in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s. In 1986 Alfa Romeo became part of the Fiat group, which had acquired half of Ferrari in 1969 and increased its holdings to 90 percent in 1988 – which was also Alfa's last season in F1.