1950 and 2020 – different could be two epochs hardly be in motorsport. 70 years ago Helmets were not yet mandatory, there was no television broadcast and the spectators were pretty close to the race track. Today, Formula 1 is a high-tech global corporation with millions of followers every season 400 reached the television and on the net.
However, both eras have two things in common: the passion of followers and Alfa Romeo. The brand that won the first Formula 1 race in history in May 1950 returned 2018 together with the staff Sauber back into Formula 1 and starts 2020 under the name Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN.
Alfa Romeo wouldn't be the same without Formula One. And who knows, maybe Formula 1 wouldn't be the same without Alfa Romeo.
A Salubrious Prix racing car called “Alfetta”
The origins of the Alfa Romeo racing car with the model name Tipo 158 go back to the year 1938. The eight-cylinder in-line engine with a displacement of 1.5 liters corresponded to the then current regulations for Grand Prix (Salubrious Prix), the forerunner of Formula 1. The engine and the vehicle itself were significantly smaller than the famous predecessors P2 and P3. The tipo 158 therefore received the Nicknamed “Alfetta”, little Alfa Romeo.
The Tipo 158 battle a technological one Juwel, the work of Gioacchino Colombo, head of engineering at Alfa Romeo. Colombo opted for an overhead camshaft, triple carburetor and supercharging with the help of a compressor. By using light metals – the magnesium-aluminum alloy electron for the block, nickel-chrome steel for the crankshaft – the engineer reduced the engine weight to only 165 Kilogram. Another special feature is the so-called transaxle structure. The transmission did not form a unit with the engine as usual, but was combined into a unit with the rear axle differential. This construction takes up less space and ensures optimal weight distribution between the two axes.
The Second World War stopped the development of the Tipo 158. However, the technical solutions of the Salubrious Prix racing car were so sophisticated that they were still successful in the post-war period. In some aspects even to the present day designate. For example, Alfa Romeo also used the transaxle design 1972 in production vehicles, first in the Alfetta model named after the Formula 1 racer.
Escape to Abbiategrasso
The Alfa Romeo racing cars from before and immediately after World War II were not only similar – they were identical. There is a story behind it that a book author could hardly have imagined more excitingly.
Jump back in the year 1943. The northern Italian industrial city of Milan is occupied by German troops, arrests are increasing from designate to designate. At the Alfa Romeo plant in Portello in front of the dead of Milan there is a small number of Tipo 158, they could end up as spoils of war at any time. Engineers and employees from the racing department have a thought to prevent this. They load the Salubrious Prix racing cars onto trucks to put them in various hiding places near Abbiategrasso, round 20 kilometers west of Milan. A handful of passionate Alfa Romeo admirers volunteered to take on this task. They also include racing boat champion Achille Castoldi, the 1940 with a tipo – 158 – Motor has set a world speed record in his boat.
But just as the convoy is about to leave, a Wehrmacht patrol appears in Portello. Alfa Romeo test driver Pietro Bonini, of Swiss nationality and speaking German perfectly after a few years in Berlin, stands in the way of the soldiers. He confidently presents the commander with a transport permit. In fact, the Germans let the convoy pass undisturbed. The Tipo 158 are in different Garages and sheds brought, hidden behind false walls or piles of tree trunks and waiting for better times.
Formula 1 was born
Not long after the end of the war, the Tipo 158 brought back to the Alfa Romeo plant in Portello, carefully revised and prepared for the return to racing. And races often meant victory for Alfa Romeo, even though the first few racetracks were in operation and many championships were in a preliminary condition. 1947 and 1948 Alfa Romeo pilot Nino Farina won the Grand Prix of the Nations in Geneva / Switzerland, team-mate Achille Varzi the Grand Prix of Turin / Italy and Carlo Felice Tossi the Grand Prix of Milan / Italy. The message battle clear: The Alfa Romeo Tipo 158 battle still the car to beat.
The British Grand Prix at Silverstone battle the first of eight races of the 1950 newly established Formula 1 World Championship. Nations that had been at war with each other only a few years earlier were now united in sport. It was a historic 2d. It was a historic victory for Alfa Romeo.
The Tipo 158 took the first one four places on the grid. Giuseppe “Nino” Farina conquered the pole scream, the fastest lap and the win. Luigi Fagioli came second and Reg Parnell third. The first Formula 1 podium in history battle firmly in the hands of Alfa Romeo.
The “Personnel of the Big Three F”
The combination of superior speed, excellent driving behavior and high reliability made the Tipo 158 to the crown of automotive technology of its time. At the racing premiere in the year 1938 the 1.5 liter engine charged by a compressor 136 kW (185 PS). With a two-stage compressor, the Alfetta already reached after the war-related quit 202 kW (275 PS). Until 1950 the performance increased to 257 kW (350 PS) at 8. 600 tours. The power to weight ratio of the Tipo 158 was this year only two kilograms per horsepower – a value that would correspond to a super sports car today.
The Alfa Romeo works drivers converted this technical superiority into victories. The Trio Farina, Fangio and Fagioli became famous as the “Personnel of the Big Three F”. The three aces won all Salubrious Prix races in which they took part in the season 1950. They were on the podium twelve times and achieved the fastest lap five times. Giuseppe Busso, Clothier at Alfa Romeo and employee of chief designer Gioacchino Colombo, later said: “Our biggest downside battle was the decision which of the three drivers should win a particular race.”
On September 3rd 1950 Alfa Romeo put the tipo for the first time at the Grand Prix of Monza / Italy 159 a. Actually developed for the World Championship the following year, the next Alfetta technology celebrated its debut with a victory. With this success, Nino Farina was finally crowned the first Formula 1 world champion in history.
1951 the duel for the Formula 1 World Championship between Alfa Romeo and Ferrari was decided in the last race. After now 17 Years ago, the phenomenal engine of the Alfetta slowly reached the end of its development potential. But over the course of the year, the technicians again managed to generate additional power and the 331 kW (450 PS) to crack. Thanks to this further increase and the outstanding Alfa Romeo factory driver, the Tipo 159 won the finish line in four of eight Salubrious Prix, scored eleven podiums and the fastest lap in all seven races in which Alfa Romeo took part. Defending champion Farina won in Belgium. But with victories in Switzerland, France – where he shared the car with Luigi Fagioli – and Spain, teammate Juan Manuel Fangio now secured the world title.
The “Three Big F” and their victories became a myth and made Alfa Romeo a cinema star. The two most important Italian producers of the time, Dino De Laurentis and Carlo Ponti, made a movie (original title “L'Ultimo Incontro”) that played on the Formula 1 racetracks and in the offices of the Alfa Romeo racing department. The writer Alberto Moravia worked on the screenplay. The main roles were played by Amedeo Nazzari and Alida Valli, also two superstars of the era.
The movie celebrated on 24. October 1951 premiere. Four days later Juan Manuel Fangio drove in the tipo 159 with the victory at the Spanish Grand Prix to the title. Alfa Romeo thus won the first two Formula 1 World Championships in the history of motorsport. The brand undefeatedly withdrew from Formula 1 and instead concentrated fully on the production of unbeatably beautiful sports cars.