The customary drivers’ parade will take place just before the beginning of the F1 British Grand Prix scheduled this weekend. The legendary Alfa Romeo GP Tipo 159 “Alfetta”, which is the evolution of the 158 that won the first grand prix in the history of F1 (Silverstone, 13 May 1950) driven by Nino Farina, will be leading the way. And on Sunday Kimi Räikkönen of the Alfa Romeo Racing Team will be driving it on the British circuit. The history of this single-seater is an exciting one. It belongs to the collection of FCA Heritage, the department dedicated to protecting and promoting the history of the Italian brands of FCA and is usually on show in the Alfa Romeo Museum in Arese – La Macchina del Tempo.
After World War II, racing struggled to get going again and numerous brands were already contending for the Grand Prixs: Alfa Romeo, with its Tipo 158 “Alfetta”, was one of these. The cars had been built back in 1938 and had literally survived the conflict, hidden in a farm, under a fake woodpile.
The engine was an innovative straight-eight design in light alloy, twin-cam valve and with Roots supercharger. The gearbox was in-unit with differential and mounted on the rear axle. The power output of the first version was 195 hp.
Alfa achieved true supremacy in 1947 and 1948, with a constant development of the cars. In 1949 Alfa Romeo had withdrawn from GP racing and was preparing for the 1950 season when the start of the first world Formula 1 Championship was planned. The power rose to 350 HP at 8500 rpm for a speed of 290 km/h. The first race was held at Silverstone: alongside Farina, Fangio and Fagioli (affectionately known as the team of the three “F”), the fourth car was given to Reg Parnell, who came in third, behind Fagioli and the winner Farina. 11 victories were achieved in 11 races and Nino Farina won the 1st F1 World Championship ahead of his team-mates Fangio and Fagioli.
In the 1951 season, Alfa Romeo decided to race with a development of the 158. The car underwent such a radical makeover that it was given the new name of GP Tipo 159. The power unit was propelled to 425 HP at 9300 rpm, with peaks of 450 HP and top speeds in excess of 300 km/h. The transmission and brakes had been appropriately improved. Before the last race Farina had won two races and Fangio three. Winning the Spanish GP, the Argentinian was crowned World Champion.
For the 1952 season, Alfa Romeo decided to withdraw unbeaten from GP racing.
1951 GP Tipo 159 “Alfetta” – Specs
Engine: straight-eight, dual block and fixed heads in light alloy, two valves per cylinder, gear-driven DOHC. One triple-choke carburettor, two two-stage superchargers. 1479 cc (58×70 mm). 425 hp at 9300 rpm.
Suspension: Front, independent, trailing arms, transverse leaf spring, hydraulic and friction dampers. Rear, independent, De Dion axle, trailing arms, transverse leaf spring, hydraulic and friction dampers
Weight: 710 Kg
Maximum speed: 305 kph
Cars produced: 4 (Tipo 158 modified)