The single-seater Alfetta 158 is undoubtedly one of the most prestigious cars from the Museo Storico Alfa Romeo, one of the most precious specimens for its historical-sports relevance worldwide. The same car that today celebrates 65 years since the first victory of the Biscione in the then new-born Formula 1 World Championship.
It was indeed on May 13, 1950 when four „Alfetta” took to the track at Silverstone, England. They were entrusted to Giuseppe „Nino” Farina, who became the champion at the end of the season, and to Luigi Fagioli, Juan Manuel Fangio, the rising Argentine star who won the world title in ’51 again with the Alfetta, and Reg Parnell, British driver chosen in honour of the country hosting the first Championship.
Farina won the race and two other places on the podium were also initialled Alfa Romeo – the cars of the Milan-based company dominated the race, a script that was repeated throughout the Championship. During the season the trio Farina-Fagioli-Fangio were dubbed by the public as „the 3F” and together with their Alfa Romeo they held the name of Italy high in international motor racing, in a delicate historic moment for the country and for Alfa Romeo itself.
Stage of the extraordinary showdown of the Alfa Romeo Team was the „Grand Prix of Great Britain” – „III RAC British Grand Prix” – which that year was also titled as the „European Grand Prix” and run on the Northamptonshire track in the 1948 configuration – Silverstone, 40 miles to the north of London, is a track that was born from a former Royal Air Force airfield and was destined to become one of the most spectacular stages of F1.
After the chequered flag was waved between the Abbey and Woodcote, King George VI personally congratulated all the drivers of the „Alfa Team” for the exceptional result: pole position (Farina), victory (Farina) and other two places on the podium, fastest lap (Farina) and the top of the league throughout the Grand Prix. „Nino” Farina thus also took home the first „hat trick” of F1.
This is the beginning of a new era in the racing world. In the following decades, Formula 1 will become „Queen” category, the most followed by the public, a real „global” phenomenon and even Alfa Romeo will follow a path of enormous commercial expansion and international fame.
The 158 is the result of a project of 1938, and the „Alfetta”, which were still competitive twelve years later, albeit with an interval imposed by world events, are still in the midst of their technical development.
The regulation of the new-born F1 allows the cars to be equipped with a 1.5 litre supercharged engine, or 4.5 litres with atmospheric power: the 158 has an eight-cylinder in-line of 1479 cc with compressor which, starting from 195 HP in ’38, in its subsequent developments arrived at Silverstone in ’50 with almost 300 HP. In 1951, with the „159”, evolution of the „158”, the engine reached a maximum power of 425 hp (450 in test), thanks to a two stage compressor and a whole host of other improvements. The regulation also does not state a weight limit for the cars, nor for the amount of fuel on board.
The supremacy of the 158 at Silverstone assumed a high symbolic value for Alfa Romeo. The sporting achievements of the Alfetta were a driving force for the rebirth of the Alfa, after the difficulties and damages of a world war that inevitably left its mark. The Alfetta 158 is to be considered as the closing car of the pre-war era of the brand. In 1951, after the second world championship won by Fangio with the „159”, Alfa Romeo officially retired from racing to concentrate personnel and equipment on the series production.