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italians and formula 1 - part two
from fiat to ferrari

by Christopher Pepe
(return to sports)

After the Fighting

After 6 years of war most of Europe lay in ruins including much of its automobile industry. Having been converted to munitions or military-vehicle production they were ready targets to heavy aerial bombing. Germany was still banned from racing when in September of 1945 the first race meetings were held. The winners of the three races that were held were Amed�e Gordini in a car made from left over parts, Henry Louveau in a Maserati and Jean-Pierre Wimille in a Type 59 Bugatti. There were few modern racing cars available to compete. In all of Europe there were several pre-war Maseratis and Alfas available including a couple of 158s that were hidden in a cheese factory during the war.

Ferrari fields its own car
There were only four races of Grand Prix caliber held during 1946. The top drivers included Giuseppe 'Nino' Farina, Jean-Pierre Wimille, Louis Chiron, Achille Varzi and Tazio Nuvolari. The F�d�ration Internationale d'Automobiles (FIA) was formed to organize the sport at an international level, and it decided to establish new rules for Grand Prix racing. For the first time the term Formula One was applied. The formula was set for 1947, and allowed 1.5-litre supercharged or 4.5-litre unsupercharged cars. Alfa Romeo would win every race that it entered that year. In 1948 Ferrari fielded their own car. After parting with Alfa Romeo before the war Enzo Ferrari promised that Scuderia Ferrari would not compete against their former patrons for four years. In 1949 Alfa Romeo was forced to withdraw from racing due to financial woes. Without the Alfa Romeo, the field was left open to Maserati, Ferrari and Talbot to enjoy some success.

Death of a Giant

The death of Nuvolari
The post-war era saw the gradual return of most of the famous races in Europe including the Targa Florio, Le Mans and the Mille Miglia. The first Mille Miglia held after the war was in 1947. The entrants were overwhelmingly Italian and definitely represented a mixed bag were it not for the presence of Nuvolari, then 55.

Leading the race at the half way point his open Cisitalia sports car developed electrical problems when it started to rain heavily. After lengthy repairs he rejoined the race and worked his way back to the front but had to settle for second place Already suffering from ill health he entered the grueling race again the following year. Driving a new sports car from Ferrari he soon found himself where he belonged, in the lead. Though Nuvolari was very sick, coughing and spitting blood he was still able to open an incredible 29-minute lead over his own teammate! Driving in the only manner that he knew, flat out on the edge, he left parts of his car all along the Italian countryside. Whether it was the manner in which his car was built or his driving style, the Ferrari slowly came apart. Soon the driver's seat came loose and was shortly replaced with a sack of oranges and still he drove on. Knowing that he was dying and that this might be his last chance for a victory he would not quit.

When he reached Maranello his appearance shocked Enzo Ferrari, who begged him to quit even at the cost of denying Ferrari his first victory. Some thought that he was on a suicide mission to die at the wheel of a race car rather than in a hospital. Finally the brakes on his car failed while still leading the race. He had driven the Ferrari as fast as he could, as long as he could and had it not failed nothing on this earth could have taken this last great victory from his grasp. His race over he stopped his car by the side of the road, exhausted he was lifted from his car by a local priest and put to bed. This turned out to be his last major race and five years later he was to die in bed. The Italian nation and the world of motorsports mourned the death of the greatest driver the world would ever see.

The World Championship

Giuseppe Farina - first champion
In 1950 a World Championship for drivers was introduced. The championship would be decided based on the results of seven races: the British, Swiss, Monaco, Belgium, French and Italian Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500. The latter was included in the hope that this would promote Grand Prix racing in the Americas but in reality the effects were minimal. Alfa Romeo returned to contest this new series with a team made up of pre-war drivers, Giuseppe Farina, Luigi Fagioli and Juan-Manuel Fangio.

These drivers except for Fangio were beyond their peak years and depended on their vast experience against younger rivals. Their main opposition came from Ferrari but the cars from Maranello lacked reliability and the championship would be decided between the three Alfa Romeo drivers. The final round at Monza would crown the first World Champion. Farina would win the race and gain the title of the first World Champion. 1951 started where 1950 left off with Alfa Romeo still in charge. Ferrari strengthened his team with the addition of Froilan Gonzalez joining Ascari and Luigi Villoresi. Ferrari was gaining strength and Alfa Romeo aware of this growing threat and unable to finance a proper defense of their title for next season chose to withdraw at the end of the year. Few knew then that this would all but mark the end of Alfa Romeo's involvement in Grand Prix racing.

The use of formula two cars
Starting in 1952, The World Championship was run using Formula Two cars of 2 litres unsupercharged or 500 cc supercharged. Ferrari would dominate Grand Prix racing for the next two years winning 30 out of 33 major races. Then, in 1954, many new cars were introduced. One car of particular note was the new Lancia D50 Designed by the renowned Engineer Vittorio Jano. The D50's V-8 engine was slightly offset and served as a structural member of the chassis. It featured side-mounted external fuel tanks that allowed for the weight distribution to be maintained while the fuel load changed.

Changes to the Formula 1 Landscape

Lancia and other manufacturers leave Formula 1
The season opener in 1955 was held in Argentina, and saw many changes on the Formula 1 landscape: the near-death of Ascari (who was rescued from a crash only to die four days later while testing a Ferrari sports car); Lancia, without their top driver and facing severe cash shortages, forced to withdraw from Grand Prix racing; and then the withdrawal of Mercedes. Ferrari, meanwhile, continued to burn up the track, with Fangio winning his fifth and final World Championship. And by the close of the 1950's, the face of Formula 1 had changed forever, with the great manufacturers Maserati, Mercedes and Alfa Romeo, now only distant memories.

The 1960's
The new formula for the 1961 season placed a minimum car weight of 450kg, limited engine size to 1500cc and banned the use of supercharging outright. The new rules were met with wide spread protest that these cars would be under powered and lose fan interests. The British teams were most effected as they did not have a suitable engine and would be at a disadvantage to Ferrari for the foreseeable future. The development of a new V-8 Coventry-Climax engine was running into problems and most of the British teams had to rely on an old four-cylinder unit. Ferrari, since converted to the rear-engine format, would have the advantage this year. Driving for Ferrari were two Americans, Phil Hill and Richie Ginther who were joined by the charismatic German Wolfgang von Trips.

After a loss at Monaco, Ferrari would hardly be stopped again that year. Even Reims, where all of the factory Ferraris would fall victim to mechanical problems, was won by a private entrant, Giancarlo Baghetti, in a Ferrari. The year's championship belonged to Phil Hill.

Ferrari and Stirling Moss
Despite Ferrari's great success, they correctly sensed that their cars could not forever maintain their dominance over the British contingent. Therefore, they sought to sign the Brit's best driver. Stirling Moss had earlier spurned Ferrari's advances due to an incident that had happened earlier in his career when in 1951 Enzo Ferrari offered Moss a place in his team for a race at Bari. When Moss appeared for the first day of practice he asked which one of the cars was his, and was told that there would be no car. Ferrari had changed his mind and had given Moss's car to Piero Taruffi. Moss swore that day that he would never race in one of the red cars but feeling a desire to once again have competitive car he considered this offer carefully. Seeing new British teams sprouting up like mushrooms Ferrari began to feel vulnerable. To Moss he confided. "I need you. Tell me what kind of car you want and I will make it for you in six months. Put your ideas on paper for me. If you drive for me, you tell me on Monday what you did not like about the car on Sunday and by Friday it will have been changed to your taste ... If you drive for me, I will have no team, just you and a reserve driver. With Moss, I would need no team ..." Moss would not turn his back on Rob Walker so he suggested to him that he would drive a Ferrari as a Rob Walker entrant. Amazingly Ferrari agreed and a car was dutifully prepared and painted Rob Walker blue. However, Moss never drove the Ferrari, for he crashed and suffered career-ending injuries at an Easter Monday meeting.

Ferrari workers walk out
After Ferrari's success in 1961, the story would be completely different the next year. Ferrari's 1962 season suffered due to internal politics. A major rebellion exploded at the Ferrari factory that saw a mass walkout of engineers and technical staff including their chief engineer and team manager. The 1962 season would be fought with reworked 1961 cars driven chiefly by Phil Hill and supported by Willy Mairesse, Ricardo Rodriguez, Giancarlo Baghetti and Lorenzo Bandini in the face of a strengthened British (Lotus) and German (Porsche) challenge. At the end of the year, it was Graham Hill that made all of England proud, and reigned as Formula 1 World Champion. And Italian manufacturaers and drivers would suffer mediocre results (compared to their years of great success) throughout the remaining years of the 1960s.

From Niki Lauda to Mario Andretti

Ferrari signs Mario Andretti
Many felt that Ferrari would be the class of the field in the 1970s. Ferrari, in an attempt to fulfill this belief, attempted to sign Jackie Stewart for the 1971 season. But Stewart decided to stay with Tyrrell. Ferrari, unable to sign Stewart, turned to American Mario Andretti. While Ferrari's first choice, Stewart, won that year's Championship, Andretti would prove his worth.

Nikki Lauda and the introduction of the paid driver
The 1972 season looked set to be a repeat of the last year which was dominated by Jackie Stewart and Tyrrell. Ferrari had the experienced Ickx ably joined by Regazzoni and American Mario Andretti when his schedule would permit. Lotus without Jochen Rindt and led by a young 25 year old Brazilian, Emerson Fittipaldi was not thought to be a major challenger. Now called John Player Specials after the cigarette brand, they were painted in a stunning black and gold. Another major tobacco company, Phillip Morris paid a large sum to BRM who would now be called Marlboro-BRM. Unlike the gentleman drivers of the past the sport saw the rise of the paid driver who would purchase his seat in a team with personal sponsorship money. In Niki Lauda's case it was by means of a bank loan from and Austrian bank as he joined Peterson at March. Fittipaldi became the youngest World Champion in history and would double the score two years later.

The year 1973 marked the retirement of Jackie Stewart but before he was done he would win five more races for Tyrrell and his third World Championship. The season was dominated by three drivers - Stewart and Lotus teammates Emerson Fittipaldi and Ronnie Peterson. Matra was no longer in Formula 1, BRM was in its death throes and Ferrari was in turmoil. After a disastrous season Ferrari decided to quit sports car racing and concentrate on Formula 1. The Ferrari 312B which was redesigned last season by Mauro Forghieri would show immediate results from the renewed focus of the Italian Factory. Clay Regazzoni returned from his unlucky year at BRM and with him came the Austrian Niki Lauda. Many who knew only of Lauda as a paid driver were surprised of his selection by the Prancing Horse but he would soon show that he belonged at the top.

The Lauda Years

Lauda and Ferrari
Lauda would bring to Ferrari new blood and along with the promotion of a young lawyer, Luca di Montezemolo, to head the F1 team Ferrari's fortunes would take a turn for the better. After taking up residence at the Canal Grande Hotel in Modena he spent endless days testing and working with the engineers and mechanics to improve the performance of the Ferrari 312B3. The chief rivals to Ferrari would be the McLaren M23s of Emerson Fittipaldi and Denny Hulme, the Lotus of Ronnie Peterson, the Brabham driven by Carlos Reutemann and the Tyrell of South African Jody Scheckter. While Ferrari's success was not immediate, they spent the better part of the new serving notice that they would be a potent force in the years to come.

In 1975, Ferrari regained the top step of Formula 1. After 11 years, the Constructors Championship, as well as the World Driving Title, was returned to them courtesy of an Austrian driver who had to buy his way into Formula 1. Niki Lauda won five races to triumph over the previous year's champion Emerson Fittipaldi. After a slow start, Lauda took over the tracks and won 4 of his next five races including Monaco, Zolder, Anderstorp and Paul Richard. As the season wound down, Lauda took third place at Monza and clinched his first World Championship. The season ender at Watkins Glen saw Lauda celebrate his title with another victory.

Andretti joins Ferrari
The next year, 1976, started with a few surprises. The racing season was expanded to sixteen races. Two-time World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi quit McLaren and joined his brother at Copersucar. James Hunt who was without a drive when Lord Hesketh decided to pull out of Formula 1 was hired to replace the Brazilian. The remmnents of the Hesketh team was purchased by Frank Williams who along with his partner, Austrian-Canadian oil millionaire Walter Wolf would contest the new season. On the technical side Tyrell produced a six-wheeled car, the P34, with four small driving wheels while Brabham was now powered by Alfa Romeo engines. Lotus was still struggling with their Type 77. Ickx had left Ferrari to join Wolf-Williams and his seat was taken by Mario Andretti.

The first two races, Brazil and South Africa, were both won by Lauda for Ferrari. At Spain, Ferrari debuted their 312T2. Lauda went on to win at Monaco and Belgium, and sat comfortably in first place. However, the season moved to Germany and the forbidding Nurburgring. Hunt qualified on pole but Niki Lauda was right beside him on the front row. The crowd was set for what looked to be a fantastic battle between the two main rivals for the championship. Lauda still held a sizable lead but Hunt was coming on strong. On the second lap Lauda's Ferrari spun across the track and hit the barriers at over 150 mph. The Ferrari burst into flames and was rammed by a following car. Several drivers arrived at t he scene and managed to pull their colleague from the stricken car. Lauda had somehow lost his helmet when the car overturned and suffered major burns to his head, face, arms and hands while his lungs were also severely damaged. Helicoptered to the hospital he was given last rites by a Roman Catholic priest. Amazingly he fought back from his injuries, his face permanently scarred, and competed in the Italian Grand Prix 6 weeks later!

While Lauda's unfortunate injury would cost him the title, Andretti (who through hard work and talent brought Lotus back to the sharp end of the grid) came on strong to win the season 's final race in Japan. With his strong victory, Andretti would give the world a glimpse of things to come.

The Birth of Ground-Effects

New developments
Two major developments occurred during 1977, the Renault turbo made its debut at the British Grand Prix while the Lotus-Ford 78 debuted in Argentina. Both would effect racing for years to come. The Lotus was the first successful implementation of "ground effects" - the ability to harness the air that travels under the car.

Andretti drives for Lotus
The two new Lotus 78 cars were driven by Nilsson and American ace Mario Andretti, who would help to lead Lotus back from the wilderness. 1977 also saw the return to Grand Prix racing, after an absence of almost 70 years, the French car pioneer Renault. The 1977 British Grand Prix marked the debut of a young French-Canadian named Gilles Villeneuve driving a McLaren M23. After Lauda refused to drive the two remaining races, Ferrari hired Villeneuve to finish the season.

Mario Andretti had won 4 races in 1977 but reliability problems doomed his championship chances but in 1978 he would complete his boyhood dream and win the World Championship. For 1978 Andretti was joined by Ronnie Peterson at Lotus replacing Gunnar Nilsson who was suffering from cancer that would soon take his life. In all Lotus won eight of the sixteen races that year with six going to Andretti and two going to Peterson. 1978 marked the second time an American would become World Champion but Andretti's title was forever marred by the death of his teammate, Ronnie Peterson at Monza.

In a decision that he would soon regret, Carlos Reutemann left Ferrari in 1979 for Lotus. He was replaced at Ferrari by Jody Scheckter who would be teamed with the hard charging Villeneuve.

The Turbo Years

By 1981 Ferrari was now firmly in the turbo camp, but even the talents of Gilles Villeneuve couldn't carry the ill-handling car to the championship. But in 1982, the turbos of Ferrari, Renault and now Brabham dominated the opening race at Kyalami. The British teams continued to fight what would become a losing battle against the turbos, until BMW suppplied the coveted turbo engine.

The death of Villeneuve
A bitter feud between the Ferrari teammates Didier Pironi and Gilles Villeneuve would lead to tragedy at Zolder. Villeneuve desperate bid to out-qualify his bitter foe ended when he crashed into a slow moving Jochen Mass. Villeneuve never won a championship, victories at all costs were his goal not the marshalling of valuable points. The sport had lost a direct descendent of Bernd Rosemeyer and Tazio Nuvolari when the little Canadian driver died. The words used to describe the pre-war German ace; "... shot meteor-like across the motor racing firmament..." by Cyril Posthumas could well have applied this racer whose life was speed. As often happens it is only after something is gone do we begin to realize what it was that we had. Almost as an afterthought the race was won by John Watson for McLaren.

A turbo-charged car had yet to take its driver to the World Championship. That was to change in 1983. Two new manufacturers introduced turbo-charged engines - Honda and TAG-Porsche. 1983 also saw the effective banning of ground effects with the requirement for flat bottoms. The first half of the season saw Ford-powered victories at Long Beach, Monaco and Detroit before the turbos took over for good. The 1982 season had been a development season for Brabham and new engine supplier BMW, but when the car came right Nelson Piquet was the man to bring it home winning two of the last three races and claiming his second World Championship. The eighties now had their second double World Champion but there seemed to be something missing that year.

With the death of Villeneuve, Formula One had lost the driver many considered one of its greatest even though while he raced the World Championship would go to others. Formula One was still looking for its next big star. Soon they would have two and the grid seemed hardly big enough to contain them. The old guard was still not quite through though 1984 might be looked upon as a transition year when the remarkable Niki Lauda, one year returned from retirement claimed his third and last title. The runner-up for the second year running, this time by a mere half point was his young teammate Alain Prost. Lauda using all of his race craft was able to counter the speed of his new rival but the writing was on the wall. A new force had come to the fore in Formula One. Called in later years the "Professor" he was the fastest man on the grid ... for all of one year.

The Duel

The rise of Ayrton Senna
Turbo-charged engines were soon to be used by all of the teams save Tyrrell. Fuel consumption was restricted to 220 liters with refueling stops no longer allowed. Mandated by a desire to reduce overall speeds these rules had the negative impact of turning many of the races into "economy runs". Radial tires became standard equipment for both wet and dry tires.

Italians fared well in the transition to Turbo-charged engines, but saw much heated competition from manufactureres such as McLaren, TAG-Porsche, and Lotus. And despite some aggressive driing by Ferrari's Michele Alboreto, Brazilian racing great Ayrton Senna would rule Formula 1 racing. In the years between 1984 and 1991, Senna, teamed with Alain Prost, helped McLaren win the drivers and constructors championship a stunning seven times. 1987 was the one they missed.

Formula 1 reverts to non-turbo engines
Finally, recognizing that the turbo cars were simply too powerful (and in the interest of safety) it was decreed that from 1989 onwards Formula One would revert to 3.5 litre non-turbo engines. It was decided to run two interim years where both types of engine would run alongside each other. A separate classification was created to recognize the normally aspirated engines so for 1987 only drivers could battle for the Jim Clark Cup.

1988 was a stunning year. Not since the dominance of Alfa Romeo and Mercedes of the 1950s has the sport seen one team win the championship by such a massive margin. McLaren finished the championship with 199 points. Ferrari were second place with less than a third of that figure. Of the sixteen races in the season McLaren won every one - except for Monza where Gerhard Berger brought his Ferrari home first in front of the fanatical tifosi. But it was McLaren's domination of the late 1980's that would mark the close of the decade.

To be continued . . . Ferrari closes the millenium in winning fashion . . . .

Three Part Series
1 - 2 - 3

Parts of the preceding article have been reproduced from the following web sites: The Story of the Grand Prix, and Grand Prix History.


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