Lance Stroll, Racing Point, Hungaroring, 2019

Why do people keep getting Alfa Romeo and Racing Point’s new names wrong?

Dieter's Inbox

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Look up the official list of chassis entered in the 2019 F1 world championship and you won’t find a Sauber or a Force India. But even in the latter stages of the season, not everyone has processed the change to Alfa Romeo and Sauber.

Kimi Raikkonen, in his inimitable style, gave perhaps the best example of this earlier in the season. Tracking a Racing Point around Monaco, he complained: “I have that Force India or whatever the fuck it’s called [ahead].”

There was some wonderful irony at play there, for the two most mis-identified teams on the current grid are undoubtedly Racing Point, formerly Force India (and previously Spyker, Midland and Jordan); and Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo, formerly Sauber.

Nor is Raikkonen the only person to have been confused by the transition. When Red Bull were preparing to show Pierre Gasly the door, Christian Horner complained he “shouldn’t be racing Saubers” – meaning, of course, Alfa Romeos like Raikkonen’s.

I do not recall similar confusion after Minardi was renamed Toro Rosso. Or, for that matter, when Jaguar morphed into Red Bull Racing. After Daimler acquired Brawn at the end of 2009 the team was immediately known as Mercedes. I don’t recall the W01s being mistakes for Brawns.

Why, then, the confusion between Racing Point and Force India; and between Alfa Romeo and Sauber? Of course this is primarily a question of optics.

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Racing Point inherited Force India’s BWT sponsorship complete with pink livery. This year’s Alfa Romeo sports the same white and red colours as did last year’s Sauber. Indeed, Alfa Romeo/Sauber’s operating company remains PP Sauber Engineering – and is owned by the same consortium that acquired the team in 2016 – with Alfa Romeo having no management input into the team’s operations.

Contrast that with the examples above. When Brawn became Mercedes, there was no confusing the white and yellow car that had won the 2008 championship and the Silver Arrows. Ditto, Jaguar’s British Racing Green was as far a cry from Red Bull. And Toro Rosso were more likely to be confused with the latter, their sister team, than the black Minardis they replaced.

Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo, Fiorano, 2019
Sauber’s Alfa Romeo’s pre-season livery was more distinctive
Would Kimi still think ‘Force India’ were the Racing Point ahead of him in Monaco now line green and not the pink familiar from Force India’s last two campaigns? Ditto, if the Alfa Romeos were scarlet, and not mostly Sauber white, would confusion continue to prevail about those cars?

But livery confusion may be just one part of the reason why these new names haven’t stuck.

In the case of Alfa Romeo, it has increased an existing commercial relationship from last year’s livery deal – which entitled it to nominate a driver – to a three-year naming rights deal, with the team name officially changing to Alfa Romeo Racing from Sauber. This is distinctly different from, for example, the Brawn-Mercedes relationship, as the Three-Pointed Star had bought that team outright.

Hence, with the same operating company and virtually identical livery to last year, it is not difficult to fathom why Sauber continues to be known by its original moniker.

Racing Point’s situation is different. Here the ownership of the team has changed. When Lawrence Stroll’s consortium took over, they originally suggested that Racing Point was simply an off-the-shelf ‘holding name’ to be used until a more formal name could be registered.

But, after considering various options, Racing Point remained its title. There were suggestions the team might resurrect a famous name from F1’s past, such as Lola or Brabham, but neither came to pass – likely for licencing reasons.

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Sergio Perez, Racing Point, Albert Park, 2019
Force India’s Racing Point’s unobstrusive logo
The bigger question is, though: What is the name ‘Racing Point’ actually meant to convey? Sauber is derived from it’s founder’s family name, as was Minardi.

Had Racing Point adopted the same approach they might have been called ‘Team Stroll’. Would that look strange in light of the fact Lawrence’s son Lance is one of their drivers? It hasn’t stopped Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal having long stints at their respective parents’ IndyCar teams.

There are no doubts about the origins of Red Bull or Toro Rosso – the latter being simply Italian for ‘Red Bull’. ‘Racing Point’ is a more nebulous term compared to that, or indeed its previous identity.

Even Racing Point’s logo seems – excuse the pun – a bit pointless, being ‘Racing’ followed by a dot signifying a point. It’s almost as if it’s been designed to be overlooked. The team may prefer not to be regarded as Force India any more given that brands connections to Vijay Mallya, but it’s not as if they’ve given us a compelling new identity to latch on to.

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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40 comments on “Why do people keep getting Alfa Romeo and Racing Point’s new names wrong?”

  1. Correction, 2009, not 2008:
    When Brawn became Mercedes, there was no confusing the white and yellow car that had won the “2009” championship and the Silver Arrows.

    1. Actually, the Arrows was Orange :P

      1. was Brawn not white and lime green? or am i going mad/colour blind?

        1. @graham228221 it was definitely yellow. Either that or I’m going mad/colour blind.

          1. @graham228221 I said yellow. The missus said green.

          2. I googled “Brawn GP colors [sic]”:

            “Jenson Button performed its shakedown – the car featuring white, fluorescent chartreuse yellow and black colours.”

          3. Further Googling (I really should go to bed and forget about this)

            “The web color chartreuse is the color precisely halfway between green and yellow, so it is 50% green and 50% yellow. It is one of the tertiary colors of the HSV color wheel, also known as the RGB color wheel. Another name for this color is chartreuse green.”

            If it’s 50/50 green and yellow, and green is 50/50 yellow and blue, then I make it 75% yellow.

          4. @gongtong and i googled chartreuse: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chartreuse_(color)

            It is “is a color between yellow and green” so… we’re both right? Although it is now me and your better half against you, so you’re kinda outvoted soz :p

          5. @graham228221 I’d have been completely happy with accepting that we were both right, however now that she’s involved I’m refusing to back down. I’m sticking with it being more yellow then green, because your green half has to contain some yellow too.

          6. I have the official Brawn Jenson T Shirt.

            The colour is definitely yellow on this.

  2. Look up the official list of chassis entered in the 2019 F1 world championship and you won’t find a Sauber or a Force India. But even in the latter stages of the season, not everyone has processed the change to Alfa Romeo and Sauber.

    LOL

    Indeed seems that people are still making mistakes with the names :-D

    1. On the first line of the article no less, priceless. haha

  3. Because Racing Point is a stupid name.

    1. Yeah, and Force India is brilliant.

      1. C’mon at least Force India had a clear purpose. Not a great name, but at least it made some sense.

  4. I think it’s also to do with the fact that certain teams established a name for themselves running under that name.

    Sauber have their obvious heritage, and even taking Force India, they built up a name as “the plucky team that could (on a shoestring)”.

    While Brawn did impressively well in their only year, it was just a year, and not long enough to let the name bed in.

    1. @phylyp I’m with you. Plus Brawn wasn’t replaced by some “Team Stroll”, they were bought by one of hte biggest names in the business. So it was difficult to make a mistake. Everyone knows Mercedes.

      Sure Alfa is famous too, but they are just a name, it’s not an Alfa engine or an Alfa chassis… and, as you say, they replaced Sauber, which had been one of the longest running teams in the sport.

      Because, Racing Point being a bland name isn’t a good argument. Force India was ridiculous when they arrived, and we called them that from day 1.

  5. I think as stated in the article, it has a lot to do with the liveries of both teams being almost unchanged from their counterparts last year. I think if the Alfa and the RP both had completely different liveries designs or colour schemes this year, it would make them much more easily distinguishable.

  6. The issue is a livery. Those teams have the same livery as their predecessors. You may change the name of a washing powder from X to Y, but in perceive of the customer it will stay X. A girl may marry a man and change her name, but people will call her maiden name in some period. Minardi transferred to Toro Rosso, they changed almost everything: name, drivers, the livery. When you saw Toro Roso you never thought: that’s ex-Minardi. Vettel won in Toro Rosso, not in a Minardi.

  7. Sauber are still Sauber. Alfa Romeo is their sponsor but once that deal ends, the team will be called Sauber again. It’s no different to when McLaren were called Vodafone McLaren Mercedes – I don’t consider Vodafone to have won a Championship!

    Racing Point is different because it’s a new company and that is their actual name now. The problem they have is that on top of picking an awful name, they haven’t even got any of their own branding as everything is in BWT colours.

    1. No way, man, Sauber is not a Sauber any more, their full name is Alfa Romeo Racing, there’s no Sauber word in their name at all. It’s like Jorday was not a Jorday when they renamed it into Spyker.
      Vodafone Mclaren, like Marlboro McLaren was a sponsor’s name in front of team name, it was a McLaren sponsored by this or that, but Alfa is an Alfa, not a Sauber sponsored by Alfa.

      1. “but Alfa is an Alfa, not a Sauber sponsored by Alfa.”
        Yes it is. It is exactly that. The company, the people, the location are still the same (well with the fluctuation of people working there) as last year.
        Alfa just gave enough money to Sauber to change the name they registered for this current F1 season, thus it is only a sponsored name, from their main sponsor, Alfa.

      2. Yes it is certainly a sauber sponsored by Alfa. The previous guy was mostly joking about the Vodafone thing, but it’s more true than Sauber being gone. The team was less Sauber when it was BMW Sauber and the name was still included.

      3. You’re wrong. The team name may not be Sauber but the entry still is owned by Sauber AG, not Alfa Romeo and the people behind it are still the same.

        May be not completely like Vodafone McLaren, but more like Virgin Racing in 2010, who also bought naming rights from Manor Grand Prix without actually buying the team, which was sold to Marussia a year later and renamed to Marussia a year after that.

  8. It is because people only remember the winners. At least 70 out of 100 will say Neil Armstrong as the first Human to set his foot on Moon. Do anyone remember the second one. You need to Google. Samewise Sauber and Force India established their name with their true passion and commitment for their respective team
    They had their own Missions and Vision for their success.
    Hard earned success is always appreciated.
    Even a half built Manor is well appreciated than a fully Ferrari sponsored Haas.

  9. Personally, I think Racing Point is just fine, because Force India was no better…although not as bad as Toro Rosso, the worst name for F1 team ever! As for Alfa Romeo, I don’t really see this to be full factory effort…it definitely feels like it is just about the name only and Sauber still is the team, which operates from Hinwill. Their F2 outfit still is called Sauber Junior Team, after all, and there is no Alfa Romeo engine or anything. I would much rather see Alfa Romeo to forget about Formula 1 and put their efforts into WSC to challenge Toyota.

  10. IIRC, Will Buxton said earlier this season that the… point of the Racing Point name is to work well alongside the sponsor name. So this year it can be seen as Sport Pesa Racing •
    If they’ll have Samsonite next year – don’t really know why this brand but it’s now funny to imagine a suitcase with F1 wheels – it will be Samsonite Racing • and so on.
    In a way, the team name disappears giving more relevance to the sponsor.

  11. I like the name Racing Point. Isn’t it about raising a point, too? Double entendres make my heart happy.

  12. Sauber are not Alfa Romeo simple as that, besides the sponsorship there is nothing connecting them to Alfa.

  13. Just a small mistake in the article:
    “operating company remains PP Sauber Engineering”

    There is the “consortium” of companies, Sauber Group.
    Sauber Motorsport, which handles the construction and running of the cars at the F1 races
    Sauber Aerodynamics, which is maintaining, operating etc the windtunnel in Hinwil
    Sauber Engineering, which is an engineering service provider, or whatever its called. They provide engineering solutions, but do not operate the F1 team.

  14. Someone seems to have missed something..

    Even Racing Point’s logo seems – excuse the pun – a bit pointless, being ‘Racing’ followed by a dot signifying a point. It’s almost as if it’s been designed to be overlooked.

    That’s completely on purpose.
    They wanted to be known as: sportpesa racing.
    But as i recall changing the name again was troublesome.

  15. I’m a somewhat obsessive F1 nut but my mind still thinks of the pink cars as Force Indias. Verbally it ends up as something along the lines of “Force India… well, they’re called Racing Point now, but…” with an occasional mention of what a silly name Racing Point is. I think it’s a lot to do with the lack of meaning or identity in the name (something that bothered me back in 2018). It still comes off as a placeholder, not an actual name, and the ‘identity’ of the team, in my head, is still Force India.

    Sauber/Alfa Romeo is a bit like a dual identity… I don’t necessarily think of the team as one or the other, which is probably the closest to reality. Alfa is a strong, recognised brand so that’s found its way into my head much quicker than Racing Point… only, ‘Alfa Romeo’ is a manufacturer to me, and Sauber Romeo are a quasi-independent Ferrari customer team. They’re still so Saubery – still in Hinwil, still mediocre, still run by Frederic Vasseur, still under the wing of a big team. So my head’s struggling a little with truly applying the name ‘Alfa Romeo’ to the team.

    You can paint a duck pink and call it a pig, but if it still quacks, swims and looks like a duck… it’s a duck.

    1. Great comment, @neilosjames! Highway Saubery at its finest. At least FI isn’t Racing Pointless, even if their identity is.

  16. Sauber is one of the longest standing names/teams on the grid, and in fact, is still the main driving force behind the team. Alfa Romeo has paid them enough sponsor money to have the racing team named after them. Big financial positive for the team, (I get it, well done Vasseur!) but not enough for fans to bother using the name.

    Force India, as goofy as it sounds for non-indian people, was used because the team’s owner wanted to represent India in motorsports. That is a goal that most people can come to respect on some level, especially after becoming known as the team that can design slippery cars and can deliver on the tracks with higher speeds.

    Racing Point is a “Meh” name, as un-offensive and un-imaginative as possible, given to the team because it had to be given a name quickly, since Papa was in a rush to buy his Babby a new toy.
    Here is a thought: Papa and his Babby are both fashionistas. Perhaps Racing Point’s name could also change as the Stars and the Moons align and old silly names become “So last season.” Future name considerations:
    Point Nepotism
    Daddy-Got-Money-Like-Dat (Logo partnership with Katt Williams!)
    Money do Buy, Babby no Cry
    My Papa Will Sue Your Papa
    Pista Fashionista
    Jouet De BéBé

  17. For me the 2 cases are different:
    It took me a bit of time to say Alfa Romeo instead of Sauber, but not anymore. Maybe the livery is too similar, maybe Alfa is just a name at this stage. But for me the main stuff is that Sauber has been there for ages and it took me a bit of time to adjust.

    For Racing point, i’m still not adjusted, and need to think twice to get it right… That name is meaningless and awful, might be that my brain just don’t want to store it ;-)

  18. I have no problem with people calling the Alfas “Saubers”. They are Saubers, just as the late ’80s Mercedes sportscars were. I think both names are acceptable, as long as people are aware the team is officially entered as “Alfa Romeo”.

    Racing Point… it’s trickier. It reminds me of Arrows, which nobody ever called “Footwork”, or Leyton House, which always remained “March” to many. Of course the circumstances are different, but when you come up with an unexciting name, don’t be surprised if people prefer the old one. This sort of confusion isn’t unprecedented.

    I still say EJ should have licenced his monicker back to them. :)

  19. Yeah well I still call this site F1 Fanatic, so there! *stroppy child voice*

  20. Just wait for all the confusion next year when Torro Rosso gets rebranded as Alfa Tauri! First of all, stupid name. Second, having two Alfas on a ten team grid, one affiliated to Ferrari and the other to Red Bull, is just really sad and lame.

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