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Leclerc joins Ericsson at Sauber for 2018

Leclerc joins Ericsson at Sauber for 2018

The final piece of the puzzle fell into place during Abu Dhabi's post-season tests, when it confirmed a title partnership deal with Alfa Romeo - bringing the legendary Italian marquee back to F1 after a 33-year absence.

Ferrari was known to be keen on placing both its outstanding junior drivers, Charles Leclerc and Antonio Giovinazzi, at Sauber for 2018 as part of an expanded technical partnership with the team.

Giovinazzi made his F1 bow this year subbing for an unwell Pascal Wehrlein in the first two races of the season. Instead, the Italian will be Sauber's third driver, effectively meaning he is in a reserve role.

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Despite describing the launch as historic Marchionne admitted he would still spend the season cheering on Ferrari, but would be keeping a close eye on Alfa Romeo.

"Formula One is the natural reference point for a marque like this", he said.

Marchionne warned, however, that the deal could end in 2021 should Ferrari leave Formula One at that point because of a disagreement over the direction of the sport under new owners Liberty Media.

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Fiat Chrysler have invested billions of euros since 2014 to develop new Alfa Romeo models that would stand up against German premium rivals and shed a reputation for poor quality and service that has hit sales in the past decade. Ferrari celebrated the 70th anniversary of his first auto this year.

"I think obviously we're starting from quite far behind because we had a hard season, but I think we have the potential to take a good step forward".

During a press conference held at Alfa Romeo's museum on Saturday, Leclerc and Ericsson took the wraps off the squad's proposed 2018 livery, which was presented on one of the team's showcars.

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Kroger investors seem to be on board with the plan, with the company's stock surging 12.9% after the announcement . The Kroger Co . on 7/30/2017 reported its EPS as $0.41 with the analysts projecting the EPS of the stock as $0.41.

"For now I'm a Ferrari fan, but if Alfa Romeo Sauber do well that would of course be very welcome", Marchionne said.