he Alfa Romeo brand could be set for a move back into Formula 1 after Fiat Chrysler chief executive Sergio Marchionne revealed the company has held internal discussions about bolstering the flagging brand's image by returning to motorsport.
The iconic Italian manufacturer competed as a full factory team in the early years of the sport, before returning as an engine supplier between 1961 until 1988, while it also competed as a constructor between 1979 and 1985, albeit with fairly minimal success.
Since then, Alfa Romeo enjoyed massive touring car success in the 1990s and was duly positioned as the FIAT company's 'sporting brand', even though it has not participated in high profile motorsport since.
However, following a significant downturn in market share in recent years, fresh investment has allowed Alfa Romeo to go on a new product offensive in the next two years and a re-launch in the key US market, which could well be tied into a move back to F1.
The comments came from Marchionne himself, who said the Alfa Romeo brand image remains strong in the face of dwindling profitability and he wants to capitalise on F1's gravitas – particularly the association with Ferrari – to better establish it as a truly global brand.
"It's incredible how the Alfa marque remains in people's hearts," Marchionne said in a news conference at the Italian team's Maranello headquarters.
"For that very reason we are thinking about bringing it back, as our competitor, to racing, to Formula One. It's important for Alfa to return."
Indeed, Ferrari has notably run Alfa Romeo branding on its car this year for the first time, while it was briefly rumoured it could return as alternative branding for a Ferrari-supplied Red Bull team had the deal gone ahead.
Any Alfa Romeo return would likely be a rebrand of a Ferrari engine, not least because it is supplying four teams in 2016, with Haas and Toro Rosso joining the stable with Sauber, though it is not clear what timescale is in mind.