Alfa Brabham (1977)

The engine from the 33 World Champion for Alfa Romeo's return to Formula 1

Alfa Romeo's official participation in Formula 1 had ceased at the end of the 1951 season after the two World Championships won by Nino Farina and Juan Manuel Fangio in the Alfetta 158 and 159. Years later there were to be a few occasional experiments with the V8 engine from the Tipo 33 installed in the McLaren M14D chassis in 1970 and in the March 711 the following year, with Andrea de Adamich above all taking them out onto the track. In neither case was the outcome sufficiently successful as to suggest that there would be a follow-up. The chance to make a comeback to Formula 1 in style arose again in 1975, the season in which Autodelta finally managed to take the World Championship for Marques with the Tipo 33 TT12, winning seven races out of eight and demonstrating the undoubted qualities of power and reliability of their 12-cylinder boxer. An agreement was thus reached with the brilliant Brabham Martini Racing Team, then run by Bernie Ecclestone. Alfa Romeo agreed to supply 12-cylinder engines from the 33, which made some modifications necessary as the engine was load-bearing in the monocoque BT 45. The car designed by Gordon Murray was presented in a beautiful white livery with blue and red stripes and during the event favourable comparisons were made with Ricart's Tipo 512, the only Grand Prix Alfa Romeo to have had a centrally-mounted engine. Marketing strategies later dictated a change to red and blue colours. Problems soon arose: the engine was powerful and reliable but still too heavy for Formula 1. Over the years the team took on a number of top-class drivers including Carlos Pace, John Watson and the World Champion Niki Lauda who won two races in 1978.The first was in Sweden, where the car was disqualified because it had been fitted with a rather eccentric large fan designed to suck air from underneath the car to increase downforce, and the second was at the Dino Ferrari Grand Prix at Imola, a non-championship race.

In 1979, the BT48 was given a new 60° V12 engine that permitted an improved ground effects configuration because it was smaller. However, results were not forthcoming and while a completely new Alfa Romeo single-seater had already made an appearance on the track, the contract was terminated even before the season ended.


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