GP Tipo 159 Alfetta (1951)

World Champion again

Following the overwhelming success of 1950, when Giuseppe "Nino" Farina won the World Championship at the last race, ahead of two teammates Fangio and Fagioli, for the 1951 season Alfa Romeo decided to continue using the Alfetta, albeit under the new name Tipo 159 reflecting the depth of changes that had been made. Over the course of the season, the Alfettas proved to be faster than the Ferraris, with Maranello trying various cars and various technical features, but very high petrol consumption forced the Alfas to make frequent stops to refuel. Of the eight championship races, the first three were won by Alfa Romeo, excluding the Indianapolis 500 Miles which was regularly ignored by the European teams even though it was part of the World Championship. Fangio won the first race in Switzerland, while his teammate Farina won in Belgium. The French Grand Prix, which was also the European GP, was run on the extremely fast Reims circuit and on this occasion the Alfa Romeo team entered Luigi Fagioli, the third "Fa" in 1950, in the race as well. When Fangio's 159 retired it was Fagioli who

gave him his own car during a pit-stop, allowing him to go on to win the race and earn points which would prove to be invaluable at the end of the season. In fact, in the next race, the British Grand Prix, José Froilán González managed to lead Fangio across the finish line, giving Ferrari its first Formula 1 victory, after which Enzo Ferrari himself wrote a famous letter to Alfa Romeo confessing: "Today I killed my mother". The Cabezon's was, however, just the first of Maranello's victories: in the Grands Prix which followed victory went to Alberto Ascari.

The outcome of the Championship was uncertain through to the last race, the Spanish Grand Prix, where Fangio and Alberto Ascari started with the same number of points, with the Italian in the Ferrari in pole position. However, the Pedralbes street circuit proved to be treacherous, especially for the tyres: Ferrari decided to fit one type of tyre while the Alfa Romeo men, having noticed that Fangios's car had a suspicious lack of grip during practice, opted for another. It was this decision that allowed Fangio to win, as the Ferraris were constantly troubled by problems with their tyres. Thus the Argentinian won his first World Championship, the first of the five that made him a motorsport legend. For Alfa Romeo it marked the successful conclusion to a period of exhaustive development that had begun as early as 1938 with the Tipo 158. After careful consideration on the part of the engineers and management the team decided to retire from motor racing's blue ribbon series: the 159 had reached its limit of its potential and in order to carry on winning the team would have needed a new car which

Alfa Romeo, with its commitments to road car production, could not afford.


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