No Italian has started an Formula 1 race since the 2011 Brazilian Grand Prix, which was the last appearance in the sport for both Jarno Trulli and Vitantonio Liuzzi.

Ferrari, which hasn't fielded an Italian driver since Giancarlo Fisichella stood in for an injured Felipe Massa in 2009, recently announced GP2 rookie star Antonio Giovinazzi in a third driver role for 2017.

But Marchionne reckoned that an Alfa Romeo F1 program could be the best way for other Italian hopefuls to break through into the highest level.

"Alfa Romeo in F1 could become a fine breeding ground for young Italian drivers," he told Italian media.

"The best one, Giovinazzi, is already with us, but there are others besides him, and they are struggling to find room.

"Alfa Romeo, more than our customer teams, could offer them that space."

Marchionne, who has long advocated the idea of a Ferrari-supported Alfa Romeo F1 team, however admitted the project would have to "wait a bit" until key road car projects had been cleared.

"The space for Alfa Romeo is there – it’s a project that in whatever form must find its place," he added.

"We have spoken also with [Mattia] Binotto and [Maurizio] Arrivabene to understand in what way Alfa Romeo can collaborate with Ferrari.

"The problem is that, at the moment, because of the launch of road cars that will come out soon, there already numerous commitments from a financial point of view.

"With the launch of the Giulia and the Stelvio [road cars] we have to wait for a bit, but I hope to be able to bring it back."

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Approach not like Red Bull's

While the Ferrari Driver Academy will have two drivers in Charles Leclerc and Antonio Fuoco stepping up to GP2 in 2017, Giovinazzi, who finished second in the series in 2016, has been signed into an F1 role straight away.

Marchionne, however, moved to dispel suggestions that the Italian's arrival would serve to put additional pressure on current race drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.

He insisted that Ferrari's policy was not analogous to that of Red Bull, which keeps a number of drivers on its books and which tweaked its main team's line-up midway through 2016 by swapping Daniil Kvyat and Max Verstappen.

"We are not trying to emulate the experience of [Red Bull advisor Helmut] Marko with Verstappen at Red Bull," Marchionne clarified. "This is a unique case and we can’t replicate it.

"We like Giovinazzi because he’s a great driver. The Scuderia must have a group of young drivers who must be ready to be involved. We don’t know if at the end of 2017 Kimi will continue to race.

"Sebastian, on the other hand, will have to find a better feeling with the car. He needs to have a good relationship with 2017 car. We owe him a lot and we want to give him a car that’s up to it."

Additional reporting by Roberto Chinchero

Gallery: Alfa Romeo could be "breeding ground" for Italian F1 juniors

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