- Triumphs And Abrupt Departure
- Major Engine Suppliers and Competition Return
- Sauber Partnership
- Third Coming
- Stark Uncertainty
About to start the sixth season since its reappearance to Formula 1, Alfa Romeo is still miles away from experiencing the glories of the past.
Many people may not know, but despite currently riding in the last pack, the team was prominent in the early days of Formula 1.
The Italian brand has been through ups and downs and is facing challenging times since the third coming to the grid in 2018.
In this article, we will go deeper into the path taken by Alfa Romeo and how the brand has become one of the most mediatic in the elite of motorsport and especially in Formula 1.
Triumphs And Abrupt Departure
If there are brands that have marked generations, Alfa Romeo is undoubtedly one of the teams with the most significant tradition in motorsport.
Competing in 24 Hours of Le Mans made the Italian brand gain early prominence. Eventually, this would also happen in Formula 1, as Alfa Romeo was one of the founding brands of the category in 1950.
Success came right away when the team won the first race at Silverstone in the same year with Giuseppe Farina and his teammate Juan Manuel Fangio. In seven races in the season, the Italian team achieved six victories, where both drivers won respectively three times.
Such triumphs on the track crowned Alfa Romeo’s season, performing like an absolute powerhouse. With three points ahead of Fangio, the Italian Giuseppe Farina was proclaimed champion in 1950.
The winning period would also carry on into the following season. Alfa reached the podium in all races of the 1951 season. The stellar performances would guarantee the first title to Argentinian Juan Manuel Fangio, who would also be a four-time champion between 1954 and 1957.
After this, the team started to lose its supremacy due to the rise of Ferrari. In 1952, the brand decided to step away from the competition. This marked the first departure of the Alfa Romeo team from Formula 1.
Major Engine Suppliers and Competition Return
Despite leaving as a constructor, Alfa Romeo didn’t remain far from the grand stage for long. The Italian brand emerged as an engine supplier to Brabham, Cooper and McLaren from 1961 to 1979.
That same year, a new cycle began when it finally decided to return to Formula 1 as a team. However, performances were not convincing and repeating the success of the 1950s was an illusion.
Represented by Autodelta, the brand’s racing division, Alfa Romeo competed in just five of the fifteen races of the year. The team’s driver duo was composed of the Italians Bruno Giacomelli and Vittorio Brambilla and had as their best result a twelfth place conquered by Brambilla in the Italian GP.
The following years were marked by reliability and aerodynamics issues, resulting in several abandonments. As rare positive moments, Alfa Romeo had a pole position in the 1980 United States GP and a podium in Las Vegas a year later, both captured by Giacomelli.
With Autodelta leaving the command in 1982, Alfa Romeo developed a new car with former Ligier engineer Gérard Ducarouge. Alfa would reach the best outcomes in its second venture in Formula 1.
At that time, the drivers Andrea de Cesaris and Mauro Baldi won two podiums in the German and South African GPs and secured sixth place in the standings.
In 1984 and 1985, things went wrong for Alfa Romeo. The team faced a negative streak of results, despite reaching the podium once in 1984.
During the disastrous 1985 season, in which it did not score points, the Italian brand decided to leave Formula 1 again. The company still acted as a supplier in 1986 and 1987 to the Italian team Osella.
Many years later, Alfa Romeo announced its comeback for the third time to Formula 1. It was the first time since 1985 that a team had competed under the Alfa Romeo name in Formula 1.
Everything settled in after the agreement with Sauber that was established in 2018. The partnership between the two was then expanded and culminated with the creation of the Alfa Romeo Racing team in 2019.
In the first season since the return, Alfa Romeo took eighth place, scoring 57 points and finishing ahead of Haas and Williams. The team achieved the best season results at the Brazilian GP, securing fourth place with Kimi Räikkönen and fifth with Antonio Giovinazzi.
The brand’s return to Formula 1 pleased the category’s nostalgic ones, but the performance hasn’t had the same effect. Serving as a “laboratory” for future Ferrari drivers since the days of Sauber, the team has no pretensions to grow in importance or fight for titles, to the disappointment of fans of the brand and category.
Just as Felipe Massa drove for Sauber before being promoted to Ferrari, the same happened with Monegasque Charles Leclerc, who passed through the team in 2018 and the following year replaced Räikkönen in the Maranello team.
The brand reported the signing of a multi-year deal with Polish oil company PKN Orlen, as its main sponsor in 2020. As a result, Alfa Romeo changed its name to Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen.
The team continued competing under this designation until the end of 2021 when the team started the following season under the name Alfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen.
The agreement between Alfa Romeo and Sauber was initially valid for two years, but the parties announced an extension until the end of the 2021 season. With this, the conditions of the long-term partnership started to be reviewed and evaluated annually.
Later in 2022, Alfa Romeo confirms that the deal with the Swiss company renews for another year. However, amid rumours of a possible purchase of Sauber Group by Audi, Alfa Romeo wasted no time to publicise the end of the partnership with Sauber after the end of 2023.
The 2023 season is about to start, and Alfa Romeo is pushing to improve its competitiveness on the track, despite alterations to the team’s management. The team will count on Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu to pursue the renewed objectives.
Last season, Alfa Romeo secured sixth place with 55 points. The first half of the season was very encouraging, as the team consistently scored points and moved up quickly in the constructors’ standings.
Over the second half of the season, they suffered a few disqualifications due to mechanical issues that reflected the C42’s inability to outperform the other drivers and teams. This would end up putting a brake on aspirations for what was proving to be a more convincing season compared to recent years.
Alfa is still finding its way through major success, and there are speculations about its future in the sport. To set back these doubts, Audi will take over in 2026, and this can be highly advantageous for the team.
This outcome would be a great start for the definite turning point since the team has been struggling to fulfil its potential. Only time will tell what is coming for Alfa Romeo, but the team seems optimistic about their chances this time.