Tipo 179F “test car” (1981)

The Alfa Romeo Formula 1 was ambitious and had great potential

At the end of the Seventies, development of the Tipo 177, the Alfa-Alfa Formula 1 car, was long and tortuous. Subsequently, the widespread use of single-seaters with ground effects soon made conventional cars obsolete, which led Autodelta to work on the new Tipo 179. The chassis was an aluminium alloy monocoque boasting a wide use of composite materials and a load-bearing engine. Composite materials were employed in the bodywork too, a crucial element in a "wing car": carbon fibre, Kevlar and above all aluminium honeycomb. The need to create Venturi ducts on the underside of the car, obviously sealed off by sliding sideskirts, made the 12-cylinder

boxer that had been improved for the Brabham unusable in the new car because it was too wide. For this reason, in just a few months a new 60° V12 was designed that had a lot in common with the old boxer, starting with the 2995 cc displacement. The power output was over 520 hp. Development of the 179 proceeded in parallel with the 177's debut and on the 9th of September 1979, when both cars took to the track at Monza for the Italian Grand Prix, the new car was entrusted to Bruno Giacomelli, who did not however finish the race. The 1979 season was drawing to a close and for 1980 Alfa Romeo chose the promising Patrick Depailler as Giacomelli's teammate but tragically he was killed in a controversial accident at Hockenheim on the 1st of August. For the remaining races

the second single-seater was entrusted to Vittorio Brambilla and the young Andrea De Cesaris. In the meantime, the Tipo 179 was improving quickly, to the extent that Giacomelli was able to take pole position at Watkins Glen: he opened up an enormous lead in the race until he was betrayed by a melting coil that robbed him of a certain victory. With a build-up like this 1981 had to be the turning point: at last the 179 was competitive and Mario Andretti was signed as the main driver. Although the displacement and configuration were the same, the engine was a new V12 with a different bore and stroke and an increased power output of 525 hp. Then came a dramatic turn of events that was worse than a cold shower for the team: in order to limit ground effects, sliding sideskirts were banned, making the promising 179 uncompetitive from one moment to the next. Its best result was Giacomelli's third place at Las Vegas, while Mario Andretti did not even finish the season. This was the beginning of a crisis for Autodelta that led to it closing down shortly afterwards. In the meantime, the designer Gérard Ducarouge started working for Autodelta and in view of the Tipo 182, starting experimenting on the old 179 with various ideas including a carbonfibre chassis.

 


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