Alfa Romeo – The Italian Noble Sportiness since 1910
Five world titles, among which the First World Championship for Grand Prix vehicles in 1925, and the first two Formula 1 Championships in 1950 and 1951. Then, 11 Mille Miglia, ten Targa Florios, four editions of the 24 Hour Le Mans, and hundreds of trophies among Sports and Tourism categories: such is the legendary and unique racing history of Alfa Romeo – all under the sign of the Quadrifoglio.
A.L.F.A. was established in 1910 and immediately turned its attention to racing: the marque made its debut with its very first vehicles already, then developed the futuristic and refined project of the Alfa Grand Prix of 1914, whose career was stopped in its tracks only by the outbreak of the Great War. The first, great international victory came in 1923 at the Targa Florio, a race dominated by Ugo Sivocci with the RL: the bonnet of his car featured a four-leaf clover, which would then go from its role as a lucky-charm to symbol of all Alfa Romeo race cars and, from the ‘60s onwards, to identifying mark of the more sporty versions of the marque’s production vehicles.
In the meantime, the forerunner of the Formula One championship, the first World Championship for Grand Prix vehicles was announced and Nicola Romeo, who had by then taken control of the company and given it his own name, asked Vittorio Jano to design a vehicle capable of “making him look good”. The GP Tipo P2 was innovative, reliable, and extremely fast, and would conquer the first world title in 1925, undefeated, and bring on the laurel crown that was added into the Alfa Romeo crest thereafter. Antonio Ascari, Giuseppe Campari, and Gastone Brilli Peri were the spearheads of that triumph.
In the ‘20s and ‘30s, Alfa Romeo emerged as the unbeatable force among sports vehicles: the marque won 11 editions of the Mille Miglia as well as four 24 Hour Le Mans races, while the single-seaters Gran Premio Tipo B were the stars of immortal endeavours by Tazio Nuvolari, Achille Varzi, and Rudolf Caracciola.
1933 saw Alfa Romeo become state-owned, with its racing arm being managed by Scuderia Ferrari: all the while, Gran Prix victories kept rolling in with the Tipo C, capable of winning the American Vanderbilt Cup in 1936. It was then that the slim 1.5 litre “vetturetta” GP Tipo 158 had its debut; it was nicknamed “Alfetta” and appeared destined for a radiant future.
After the break imposed by the war period, the Alfetta had no rivals. 1950 saw the launch of the new Formula 1 World Championship and the Tipo 158 clinched 11 victories in 11 races with Giuseppe “Nino” Farina claiming the first ever drivers’ title, followed the next year by Juan Manuel Fangio on the Tipo 159. However, Alfa Romeo needed to focus its efforts on re-launching the production of road cars and decided to withdraw from racing, undefeated.
Strong of the success of the Giulietta and with the Giulia just unveiled to the press, Alfa Romeo’s official return to motorsport came with Autodelta in the 1960s: it resulted in a hegemony among touring cars with the GTA, while the career of the Tipo 33 started to take off: in ten years it collected an impressive number of victories among sportscars, culminating in two World Sportscars Championship crowns in 1975 and 1977. Those were the years of legendary drivers such as Andrea De Adamich, Teodoro Zeccoli, Arturo Merzario, and Nino Vaccarella. The successes of that era pushed Alfa Romeo to once again enter Formula 1, first by providing engines to the Brabham team, and then – from 1979 to 1985 – to field their own manufacturer team with drivers like Riccardo Patrese, Mario Andretti, Bruno Giacomelli and Eddie Cheever.
After the adventure in Formula One, Autodelta relinquished the task of running the marque’s motorsport activities to Alfa Corse, which went back to competing in many categories and returned to its dominant role in touring cars up until the 2000s, with the 155 and 156 models and drivers like Nicola Larini, Alessandro Nannini, Giorgio Francia, Fabrizio Giovanardi, and Gabriele Tarquini.
In 2018, the Alfa Romeo brand returned to Formula One in partnership with Sauber Motorsport, before entering the sport as Alfa Romeo Racing in 2019, with former world champion, Kimi Räikkönen, and Italian rising star, Antonio Giovinazzi, as drivers. It’s the latest chapter in a glorious history, one that still continues to excite motorsport fans all over the world – and that will continue further…