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The history of Alfa Romeo in Formula One

The Alfa Romeo factory team returned to action in 1950 with cars for Juan-Manuel Fangio, Farina and Luigi Fagioli and the team scored a clean sweep of the Grands Prix that year with Farina becoming the first World Champion. In 1951 the new Alfa Romeo 159 appeared but the basic design - by then nearly 15 years old - was fading. Fangio won the World Championship but Enzo Ferrari's team became a stronger rival and at the end of the season the Alfa Romeo factory withdrew from Grand Prix racing again.

The company continued to compete in sportscars through the 1950s with much success, notably with the famous Disco Volante and in the early 1960s the company's chief engineer Orazio Satta gave the go-ahead for the design of a new flat-12 engine for sportscar racing. Once designed this was handed over to a new competition department called Autodelta, which had been set up by former Ferrari engineer Carlo Chiti and Alfa Romeo dealer Ludovico Chizzola in the village of Settimo Milanese, to the west of Milan.

Initially Autodelta raced modified production cars with success but in 1967 moved into sportscar racing with the Tipo 33. At first the cars were unreliable, both Jean Rolland and Leo Cella were killed in testing accidents and there was another setback in 1969 when Lucien Bianchi was killed testing at Le Mans, but in 1974 Autodelta began to score some good results with Arturo Merzario, Jacques Laffite, Derek Bell and Henri Pescarolo. Alfa Romeo won the title the following year and continued to be competitive until 1977 when it won a second title. The flat 12 Alfa Romeo engine had attracted the interest of F1 teams in 1975 and in 1976 Autodelta supplied Brabham with the engine. The cars were not very reliable but in 1978 Niki Lauda won the Swedish GP in the controversial Brabham "fan car". He won again at Monza that year. The deal continued into 1979 but by then Alfa had built its own 177 F1 car. This was raced by Bruno Giacomelli at the Belgian and French GPs. For the Italian GP Giacomelli had a new 179 with a new V12 engine and featured ground-effect aerodynamics developed by Frenchman Robert Choulet. Vittorio Brambilla took over the 177 for the final races of the year.

The 179 was revised for 1980 and sponsorship was found from Marlboro Italy. The team employed Giacomelli and Patrick Depailler> and the Italian scored the team's first points with fifth place in Argentina. There were no more points scored before Depailler was killed in a testing crash at Hockenheim in August but after that Giacomelli finished fifth in the German GP and went on to take pole position and lead the US Grand Prix for half the race before the car retired. Depailler was replaced by Brambilla and, for the last two races, by Marlboro Italy protege Andrea de Cesaris.

Giacomelli stayed on in 1981 to be joined by Mario Andretti with the 179 being run in "C" form. It was a disappointing year and in the midseason the team recruited French engineer Gerard Ducarouge after he was dropped by Ligier. Ducarouge's development work made the car quite competitive and Giacomelli scored the team's first podium with third at Las Vegas at the end of the year.

For the 1982 season Ducarouge designed a completely new 182 with Giacomelli and de Cesaris driving. The youngster was third at Monaco and sixth in Canada while Giacomelli managed just one fifth place in Germany.

At the end of the season Alfa President Ettore Massacesi decided that the design of the chassis should be taken away from Autodelta and given to Paolo Pavanello's Euroracing team in a new factory at Senago. Marlboro sponsorship continued and de Cesaris was retained. Giacomelli moved to Toleman and was replaced by Euroracing's Mauro Baldi. The 183T was an updated 182 fitted with Alfa Romeo V8 turbo engine and fitted with a flat bottom according to the new regulations. The team did well, scoring two second places in the hands of de Cesaris. Early in the season Ducarouge was fired, the scapegoat for an incident in which the team was found to be running an empty fire extinguisher. He was replaced as technical director by Luigi Marmiroli. Mario Tolentino became chief designer.

Marlboro departed at the end of the year and was replaced by Benetton with Riccardo Patrese and Eddie Cheever being hired to drive Tolentino's 184T. It was a disappointing year with Patrese scoring only one podium finish in Italy. Chiti was replaced as head of the the engine program by Giovanni Tonti. He left Autodelta to form Motori Moderni. At the end of the year Marmiroli left the team to join Lamborghini and British engineer John Gentry was hired to rework the car as a 185T. He quickly left to join Renault and so Tolentino became technical director and finished the car. The 185T was not a success and the 184Ts reappeared at mid-season. The team scored no points and at the end of the year Alfa Romeo withdrew from Grand Prix racing again.

Alfa continued to develop the engine with test driver Giorgio Francia doing many laps at the Alfa Romeo Balocco test track. The engine was briefly used by Ligier but the relationship was a disaster and when Alfa Romeo was taken over by FIAT it was decided that only Ferrari should represent the company in F1. The Alfa V8 engine, badged as an Osella, continued to appear in the back of that team's cars until the end of 1988.