The BT49 was created by legendary designer Gordon Murray for the Brabham team during the 1979 season.
The Brabham team had been competing in partnership with engine supplier Alfa Romeo since 1976 and won races in the 1978 season. However, the team’s 1979 car, the BT48, was not a great success.
Alfa Romeo started entering their own Type 177 and Type 179 cars in Formula One Grands Prix that summer, helping to convince the Brabham team owner Bernie Ecclestone that the partnership was over. Motorsport author Alan Henry writes that Ecclestone did not want his team to take second place to an Alfa Romeo works team, and that the team designing Alfa Romeo’s cars were drawing on Brabham knowledge.