While Alfa Romeo may have only been on the grid in their current form since 2019, the team formerly known as Sauber have been a mainstay of Formula 1 since 1993.
Peter Sauber entered an F1 team carrying his name in 1993, with Karl Wendlinger and JJ Lehto his first drivers, and it was immediately clear they weren’t there to make up the numbers as Lehto finished P5 in the first race and P4 in the fourth.
While reliability proved to be an issue as the year went on, outright pace didn’t, with Wendlinger finishing inside the top six in four of the six races that he finished. As a result, the team ended the year in a respectable P7, ahead of six rivals.
Heinz-Harald Frentzen replaced Lehto for 1994 and finished P5 in his second race, but Wendlinger was even more impressive, taking P6 in the season opener and P4 in round three. However, disaster struck two weeks later in Monaco when he crashed and went into a coma.
He came out of it weeks later but was sidelined for the season. Andrea de Cesaris replaced him but didn’t do well, finishing only one race. He did finish that race in P6 though, while Frentzen scored points on three further occasions. As a result, the team matched its tally from the previous year.
Wendlinger returned the next season but wasn’t what he used to be and was thus dropped for Jean-Christophe Boullion after four rounds. The Frenchman was very much second fiddle to Frentzen who secured the team’s first podium in Belgium and scored points in eight of the 17 rounds, giving them what would be their highest tally of the decade.
The team, now sponsored by Red Bull, went backwards in 1996, scoring seven points less and finishing a place lower in the standings. New driver Johnny Herbert added to their podium tally though, taking P3 at the iconic Monaco Grand Prix to give them their best moment in the sport at that point.
He finished in the top three again in 1997 and scored 15 of their 16 points as Sauber took P7 in the standings for the third straight year, but the final two seasons of the decade were disappointing ones with them scoring 10 points in 1998 and five in 1999.
Their 21st century started in a similar fashion but things finally began to move in the right direction again in 2001.
Nick Heidfeld and Kimi Raikkonen formed an exciting young lineup and were given a car good enough for them to show off their talent. The German finished in P4, with his team-mate in P6, in the season opener and then stood on the podium at the third race.
Both finished inside the top six again multiple times before the end of the year, leading to Sauber scoring their highest points tally yet, 21, and finishing in their best championship position yet, P4.
Four seasons spent in the midfield followed before they made a big step forward in 2006, when German giant BMW bought them.
In their first year as BMW Sauber, they claimed two podiums courtesy of Heidfeld and exciting rookie Robert Kubica and scored 36 points in total. It was a solid start to the partnership, and season two was even better.
The team managed to score points in every single round, secured their best-ever result when Heidfeld took P2 at the Canadian Grand Prix, narrowly missing out on victory, and finished second to Ferrari in the championship following McLaren’s disqualification.
The next step was to finally win a race, and they did just that in 2008 courtesy of Kubica who did so in Canada; it was made all the sweeter by the fact that Heidfeld followed him home in P2.
Thanks to that and four further podiums, the team was in contention for both titles at the halfway point of the year. However, much to the annoyance of the drivers, the decision was then made to switch focus to developing the 2009 car, and both title challenges fizzled out as a result.
It proved to be a disastrous decision as the 2009 campaign was a poor one with the team going from P3 to P6 in the pecking order and scoring 99 points less. At the end of it, BMW sold the team back to Peter Sauber.
They remained back in the midfield in 2010, with the only real positive being the performances of new driver Kamui Kobayashi, who scored 32 of their 44 points.
It wasn’t until 2012 that they had a huge amount to celebrate again. That season, a year after joining, Sergio Perez finished P2 in Malaysia and Italy, and P3 in Canada, while Kobayashi did the same at his home race in Japan. That gave them a whopping 126 points and was their second-best ever year in that department.
They had an all-new pairing for 2013 with Perez joining McLaren and Kobayashi being dropped. Taking their places were Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez, and while the German did well, scoring 51 points after finishing in the top six in half of the final eight races, the Mexican was poor, scoring just six.
Given that, it was a big blow to the team when he decided to rejoin Force India for 2014. Adrian Sutil replaced him in what was a terrible year with him and Gutierrez both failing to score any points. It was the first time ever Sauber had ended a year on zero.
Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr drove what was a better car in 2015 and scored 36 points between them, but things went downhill again in 2016. In poor machinery, Ericsson couldn’t score any points and Nasr just two.
The Swede had another pointless year after that, with his employers only scoring five thanks to Pascal Wehrlein, who replaced Nasr.
For the 2018 season, the team was renamed Alfa Romeo Sauber to mark the start of a partnership between the two, and that partnership got off to a decent start, thanks largely to new driver Charles Leclerc who scored 39 of their 48 points.
After that, he swapped seats with Ferrari's Raikkonen who returned to where he started his career, and Antonio Giovinazzi replaced Ericsson, while the team’s name officially changed to Alfa Romeo.
That year, Raikkonen performed well while the Italian struggled, but the Finn’s efforts were enough for the team to retain P8 in the standings.
Raikkonen and Giovinazzi remained with the team for the first two seasons of the 2020s, which proved to be disappointing ones.
In both, Alfa Romeo were backmarkers of the grid, scoring just eight points in 2020 and 13 in 2021.
Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou form an all-new lineup for the 2022 campaign, and with widespread regulation changes providing a chance for the team to catch up to their rivals, it’s hoped the two will bring the good times back.
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