Alfa Romeo has a rich history in F1. Their first race was at the 1950 British Grand Prix, but throughout all these years they have only taken part in 186 Grands Prix. The Italian team’s participation has been on and off throughout the years, and so you might wonder what engines Alfa Romeo use in F1.
The Alfa Romeo F1 team uses the Ferrari 1.6 liter V6 turbo hybrid engine. The Italian brand has close ties with Ferrari and has been a customer team for nearly 100 Grands Prix. But Alfa Romeo has been in and out of the sport over the years despite their long history in F1.
Alfa Romeo’s history in Formula 1 stretches all the way back to 1950, when the sport first started. The team was far more successful in its earlier days than it is now, and we’ll take a closer look at the brand’s history in the sport below.
Does the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Use Ferrari Engines?
The Alfa Romeo Formula 1 team currently uses Ferrari’s 1.6 liter V6 turbo hybrid engine. This is the same engine that is fitted to the works Ferrari car, and Haas also use this engine, as they are another Ferrari customer team. Alfa Romeo has been using the Ferrari engines since 2018.
The Ferrari engine suffered a major drop in performance in 2020 and 2021, which correlated with a drop in performance from the Alfa Romeo team as well. The Italian Formula 1 team, along with Haas, were consistently struggling for pace and often found themselves near the back of the grid.
However, since the start of the 2022 season, Alfa Romeo and Haas have been benefiting from a more powerful Ferrari engine. The Ferrari engine is comfortably the strongest on the current grid, and it was especially powerful at the start of the season where all Ferrari powered cars performed well.
Has Alfa Romeo Sauber Always Used Ferrari Engines?
Alfa Romeo started using Ferrari engines in 2018, but they haven’t always used the same engines. When the brand first joined the Formula 1 World Championship, they started with Alfa Romeo engines, built in-house at their factory in Portello, a district in Milan, Italy.
This plant was responsible for producing Alfa Romeo cars and engines up until the 1980s when the Arese plant took over production. Back then, it was much simpler and easier for the Italian sports car brand to build their own Formula 1 engines, but modern Formula 1 engines are extremely complex and expensive, so Alfa Romeo rely on Ferrari engines instead.
Return To Formula 1
In 2018 the Alfa Romeo name returned to Formula 1 as they partnered with the Sauber F1 Team. Sauber is a team that is based in Hinwil, Switzerland. It’s much cheaper and easier to partner with a current Formula 1 team than it is to start a brand new team, which is why Alfa Romeo opted against entering the sport as a works team.
The problem, however, is that the Sauber F1 Team never built their own engines. This means that they don’t have the facilities at their factory, or the knowledge and expertise in their engineers, to build engines capable enough to compete against the best engine manufacturers in the world.
However, the Sauber team already had strong connections with Ferrari, and with Alfa Romeo being another Italian brand based in Milan, a partnership with Ferrari seemed like the best way forward for all parties involved.
This would be the first time that an Alfa Romeo car would use a Ferrari engine. Previously, Alfa Romeo cars were powered by Alfa Romeo engines for a total of 110 Grands Prix, ten victories, and two World Championships. While the brand was the title sponsor in 2018, the team was renamed in 2019, removing the Sauber part of the name. However, the business and team structure remained the same.
NOTE: The Sauber F1 team existed in various forms from 1993 until Alfa Romeo came back into F1 in 2018. That team used various engines, from Ilmore to Mercedes, and from Ford to BMW. For the sake of this article, we’ll only be considering the Alfa Romeo brand in F1, both as a works team in the 1950s, and in its current Sauber partnership.
Alfa Romeo F1 Team Engines Over The Years
We might be used to Alfa Romeo being a midfield or backmarker team, but in their earlier years they enjoyed some success. In fact, the first ever Formula 1 World Championship was won in an Alfa Romeo with an Alfa Romeo engine. In 1950, Guiseppe Farina became the first ever Formula 1 World Champion, driving an Alfa Romeo.
Farina got two pole positions, three wins, three podiums, and three fastest laps in seven races. He ended the season on 30 points, which was 83.3% of all the points he could possibly score during the course of that season.
Just a year later in 1951, the great Juan Manuel Fangio took the first of his five Formula 1 World Championships in an Alfa Romeo. With four pole positions, three victories, five podiums, and five fastest laps, the Alfa Romeo was looking strong. Fangio claimed 31 points in eight races, which gave him the World Championship.
Alfa Romeo pulled out of the sport following all of this success, but unfortunately they did not win a constructors’ title. The Formula 1 World Constructors’ Championship was only started in 1958, which means that Alfa Romeo missed out on this prestigious title.
Alfa Romeo As An Engine Supplier
Alfa Romeo supplied engines to various Formula 1 teams between the early 1960s and the mid 1980s. While they also had a works team from 1979 (more on that in a moment), they had several partnerships that saw them provide engines for teams like Brabham and Ligier. However, they saw very little success during this time.
Their First Return To Formula 1
Alfa Romeo made a comeback to the sport in 1979. However, they had a relatively average midfield stint during these years. Their highlights were two pole positions, one fastest lap, and five podiums, until they eventually withdrew from the sport again in 1985. At the end of this stint, the team had scored a total of 50 points.
Modern Alfa Romeo
In 2018, Alfa Romeo returned to the sport again, this time partnered up with Sauber F1 Team, being named Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team (the team became Alfa Romeo Racing in 2019). For the first time in the team’s history they would use Ferrari engines instead of their own. But the team still had very little success in the pinnacle of motorsport.
Alfa Romeo spent most of their time in the midfield or at the back of the grid. The team has scored a total of 130 points so far but has had no appearances on the podium and no fastest laps to their name.
Does the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Use Other Ferrari Components?
When Alfa Romeo rejoined Formula 1 and started using Ferrari engines, they used some other Ferrari components in addition to the engine. However, since the start of the 2022 season, Alfa Romeo has somewhat separated from Ferrari in this sense.
The team confirmed at the start of 2022 that they will only be using the engine and the transmission that Ferrari provides them. The rest of the car, such as the rear suspension, fuel tank, and the outer structure of the gearbox, are now built by Alfa Romeo Sauber. These are all parts that the team used to buy from Ferrari in the past.
This independence came as a result of the strict budget cap that the teams need to adhere to. Alfa Romeo has been trying to loosen Ferrari’s grip on their team, and becoming more independent in their operations and car design is the first step in doing so.
This gives Alfa Romeo more freedom over the design of their own car, rather than being forced into using a specific design that has to comply with the parts that they buy from Ferrari. Time will tell whether this will prove to have been a good choice.
Alfa Romeo use Ferrari engines in F1. With their latest return to the sport in 2018, the team took on Ferrari engines because of the costs and complexity of having to build their own V6 turbo hybrid F1 engine. However, the Alfa Romeo works team in the past used Alfa Romeo engines.