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
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 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
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
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
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
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 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
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 . . . .