The GP 159 “Alfetta”: The Last Dominator

Triumphed in the 1951 F1 Championship

It picked up the legacy of the Tipo 158 "Alfetta", the most successful Alfa Romeo in Formula 1. It won its inaugural race in Monza in 1950 driven by Nino Farina and conquered the 1951 Championship driven by J.M. Fangio, beating Ferrari that was starting to make a name for itself. Alfa Romeo left F1 at the end of that season, as the undefeated winner.

Picking up the legacy of a winner is always difficult but replacing the one that for over ten years had dominated in Grands Prix all across Europe was even tougher. The Alfa Romeo GP Tipo 159, nicknamed the 158 "Alfetta" ("little Alfa") for its compactness, brilliantly rose to the challenge. It won its first race in the 1950 Italian Grand Prix in Monza, crowning Nino Farina as winner of the race and propelling him to become the first Formula 1 World Champion in history.

The car was a development of the 158. Front, straight-8 engine, 1.479 cm3 with light alloy head, two V-valves per cylinder and overhead cams controlled by a gear train. It was fed by a triple choke carburettor and supercharged by double two-stage compressors arranged in series. Forced lubrication with oil cooler and dry sump. It delivered 425 hp at 9,300 rpm, achieving a top speed in excess of 290 km/h.

The car has a rail chassis with steel crossmembers. Rear drive with four-speed gearbox on the rear axle, in one block with the differential. Independent front suspension, single transverse leaf spring and hydraulic shock absorbers, De Dion rear axle, which was the only conspicuous difference compared to the 158. 

Monza. September 3, 1950. The day of the 21st Grand Prix of Italy. Three were the contenders, all at the wheel of an unbeatable "Alfetta". They were Farina, Fangio and Fagioli, the three famous "F"s of Formula 1. The first two were driving the new 159, the car with which Fangio had grabbed the pole position. During the race he wasn't as lucky. Farina won, ahead of Fagioli and Fangio, followed by Sanesi and Taruffi also on Alfa Romeo.

Nino Farina, drove the new Alfetta 159 to win and went on to conquer the first F1 World Championship driver's title. The Argentinian exacted his revenge the following year. Fangio won the first race in Switzerland on the Bern circuit and Farina responded by winning in Belgium at Spa. In France, Fangio won again in team with Fagioli, who came second behind the up-and-coming Ferrari driven by Gonzales in Silverstone and by Ascari in Monza. The fight for the World Championship, contended by Fangio and Ascari, was eventually settled in Spain on the city track of Pedralbes, just outside Barcelona. Fangio won, securing both the race and the 1951 championship title.

Alfa Romeo decided to withdraw from the top division to focus efforts on mass production cars. Design of the Giulietta was underway and the introduction of an assembly line in the Portello plant was revolutionising manufacturing methods. The withdrawal of Alfa Romeo from Formula 1 left a void that forced organisers to sign up some Formula 2 cars to the 1952 Championship. Alfa dominated the years before and after the war and left the fledging F1 after winning the first two World Championships with two drivers who were famously different in terms of personality and driving style but who were both legendary. The GP 159 "Alfetta" will remain the last Alfa Romeo to win an F1 World Championship.

Keep up to date with all the news, events and insights from the Heritage universe.