EverythingF1’s A Pit Stop Through Time: Ferrari 1950 -1954

Formula 1 is 70 years old in 2020, a lot has happened in that time, tragedy, excitement, politics and just about every emotion that any human can experience.

Few things remain consistent in 70 years within Formula 1, personnel come and go, tracks come and go, teams come and go.

However one team has stood the test of time …… FERRARI or Scuderia Ferrari to give them the full title.

Ferrari arrived in F1 not at the first race at Silverstone but at the second race in Monaco, they have remained in the sport ever since, over the next 70 years they have amassed countless drivers championships, race wins, constructors championships, they have been at the front, they have been in the middle, they have won, they have lost, most importantly they have endured. 

To understand Ferrari, we have to rewind the clock to 1929…

Scuderia Ferrari came into existence in 1929, at the time the team acted as a racing division of Alfa Romeo, with Enzo’s help Alfa Romeo had a race team of superstars including Giuseppe Campari and Tazio Nuvolari.

Enzo Ferrari retired from driving with 11 wins from 41 Grand Prix. Ferrari and Alfa Romeo remained in a partnership until 1933 when Alfa Romeo decided to withdraw citing financial issues, this decision was reversed after pressure from tire manufacture Pirelli. Even though the Ferrari/ Alfa team had talented drivers they struggled to compete with Auto Union and Mercedes.

Enzo Ferrari behind the wheel

1937 saw Scuderia Ferrari dissolved and Enzo returning to work with Alfa Romeo’s racing team, who were known as Alfa Corse.

The partnership would last until 1939, when Enzo Ferrari had a disagreement with Alfa’s Managing director Ugo Gobbato. Ferrari would leave Alfa, setting up a parts company called Auto-Avio Costruzioni. As part of his departure from Alfa Romeo, he was unable to design or race a car for 4 years.

With the outbreak of World War 2, Ferrari’s factory was bombed by allied forces, this forced Ferrari to relocate to Maranello from Modena. Ferrari decided that this was the time make his own car, he founded Ferrari S.p.A in 1947.

The Ferrari 1.5l 125. This was the first car to have the Ferrari name. With only 2 produced, it was the car that started it all.

With the no compete clause lapsed, Ferrari decided to take on the mighty Alfa Romeo. Ferrari’s open wheel debut was in Turin in 1947, with the first win a year later in Lago di Garda.

Ferrari didn’t have to wait long to get their first major success, winning the 1949 24 hours of Le Mans, in the Ferrari 166 MM driven by Luigi Chinetti and Peter Mitchell-Thomson.

The first car to bear the Ferrari name was the Tipo 125 with a 1.5 litre engine best car run under the Scuderia Ferrari banner as well as being sold to privateers such as Peter Whitehead prior to the start of the 1950 Formula One world championship Scuderia Ferrari achieved limited success.

Ferrari gained success with the Ferrari 166 MM at the 1949 24 Hours of Le Mans

Ferrari won 2 drivers championships, with Alberto Ascari winning both the 1952 and 1953 Championships. As the 1954 season ends, the newly entered Mercedes Benz team would challenge the dominate Ferrari team.

The inaugural season in Formula 1 was notable for how dominating the Alfa Romeo cars were, the supercharged 158 car was almost impossible to beat. Italian driver Giuseppe “Nino” Farina took the tile from teammate Juan Manuel Fangio.

Ferrari missed the first race in the 1950 season after Enzo Ferrari, who was unhappy at the “start money“ that is paid to entrants decided to race in a Formula 2 race in Belgium. The British Grand Prix was won by Giuseppe Farina with the podium completed by his Alfa Romeo teammates.

Ferrari would start the next race in Monaco, where the Scuderia team would in second place, Alberto Ascari would finish behind Juan Manuel Fangio in the Alfa Romeo, this on paper could be seen as a good debut, however the race was marred by a pile up at the start of the race that eliminated 9 of the 19 drivers.

Juan Manuel Fangio would finish 1 lap ahead of the field showing exactly how much work the Ferrari team have to do to catch up with the Alfa Romeo’s.

The rest of the 1950 season was all about the Alfa Romeo cars. They won all championship races in the season. Giuseppe Farina would enter the record books as Formula 1’s first ever World Champion.

Giuseppe Farina, Formula 1’s first ever World Champion

The 1951 season would finish the same as the previous year with a Alfa Romeo world champion, this time the Ferrari had a new unsupercharged 4.5 litre car, that posed a real challenged to the thirsty Alfa Romeo cars.

Everything that Enzo Ferrari had worked for came together in this race it started at qualifying, with Jose Froilan Gonzalez qualifying one second ahead of the Alfa Romeo of Fangio. This was Gonzalez and Ferrari’s first pole in Formula 1.

The race started with Fangio and Gonzalez neck and neck off the line, however it was Alfa Romeo driver Felice Bonetto that was in the lead going into the first corner. Gonzalez would take the lead from Bonetto on the second lap, with the remaining Alfa Romeo’s and Ferrari’s in hot pursuit.

The Alfa Romeo driver and reigning champion Nino Farina retired from the race with a clutch issue. Alberto Ascari also retired with gearbox issues.

Jose Froilan Gonzalez, won the 1951 British Grand Prix, the first win for Ferrari in Formula 1

It was clear that the Alfa Romeo cars were being challenged by Ferrari. This was not helped by the awful fuel consumption of the Alfa Romeo pair, they had to pit twice in the race, where the Ferrari cars only had to pity once, with pit stops being minutes long in the early days of Formula 1, the Ferrari cars could pull out a sizable gap to the Alfa cars that were stuck in the pits.

When the chequered flag dropped after 90 laps at Silverstone, Ferrari and Gonzalez crossed the line in 1st place, 51 seconds ahead of the Alfa Romeo of Juan Manuel Fangio. Gonzalez’s team mate Luigi Villoresi finished in 3rd completing the podium.

The last point paying positions went to Felice Bonetto (Alfa) and Reg Parnell (BRM) who finished 4th and 5th respectively.

The winning way for Ferrari continued at the next round at the daunting 14.2 mile Nürburgring Nordschleife. Ascari would come out on top against Fangio, with the Argentinian’s car overheating and gearbox issues.

The third win in a row for the Ferrari team was at the Italian Grand Prix, the race held at the Monza Autodromo near Milan. The race was won by Milan native Alberto Ascari. This was the third race in a row that Ferrari had won winning the previous two races at Britain and West Germany.

Juan Manuel Fangio would beat Alberto Ascari to the Championship title, with Alberto Ascari coming in second and Jose Froilan Gonzalez coming in third.

Although Alfa Romeo won the title, it was clear that they were not a dominate force in Formula 1.

The 1951 championship win would be the last for the Alfa Romeo team.

The 1952 season was the won in dominating fashion by Ferrari and Alberto Ascari, who won all but 1 race and the Indy 500 races this season. 

Ascari would miss the Swizz GP due to Qualifying for the Indy 500. The 1952 season would be ran using the Formula 2 rules, this was due to the withdrawal of Alfa Romeo amid funding issues and BRM unable to prepare two V16 powered cars in time.

Alberto Ascari driving his Ferrari 500 at the Belgium GP in 1952

With the championship being controlled by Ferrari, a couple of notable things happened this season, Mike Hawthorne’s drives in the Cooper would earn him a drive in Ferrari for the 1953. Juan Manuel Fangio would not contest the championship due to being badly injured at a crash at Monza. Juan Manuel was to have raced for BRM.

The season would end with Alberto Ascari winning the Championship, the only race he would not win would be the Swizz Grand Prix, due to qualifying for the Indy 500. Ferrari would still win the race with Piero Taruffi.

The 1953 season would have 9 races, again held with Formula 2 rules. Alberto Ascari would be the first driver to defend his title in Formula 1 history, Ferrari would win seven of the eight events, the returning Juan Manuel Fangio would win in the fragile Maserati at Monza.

The season was marred at an incident at the Argentine Grand Prix, the track was overcrowded after the Argentinian president Peron announced that entry to the race was free. It was reported that Peron had told the police to allow the masses in.

The 1953 Argentine Grand Prix was used as a political tool leading to tragic consequences.

As the race start was drawing near it was clear that something was amiss, with people lining both sides of the track making the race look more like a rally stage than a Grand Prix event.

Some drivers had wanted the race delayed or even abandoned; however it became clear that if they did not race there was a real possibility of a riot.

The race started as scheduled, however it was obvious that the crowd were making the situation even more dangerous, the crowd were encroaching further on to the road, waving their shirts and pullovers at the drivers, pulling them away from the drivers at the last possible second.

The tense situation was made worse when on lap 21, a broken wheel bounced into the crowd.

Disaster struck 11 laps later, when Farina, who was running third, spun his Ferrari after a figure darted out in front of him. The spinning Ferrari cut into the crowd scattering bodies in all directions.

Chaos ensued with another boy ran onto the race track and was struck and killed, ambulances were also involved in crashes as they headed to help the injured. Reports are sketchy with the number of dead ranging between 10 to 30.

Unbelievably the race continued with the beleaguered president Peron quietly leaving the circuit. The race was won by Alberto Ascari ahead of teammate Villoresi. Alberto Ascari would retain the title after winning five races.

The 1954 season saw a change in direction for the championship, the changed to a 2.5 litre un-supercharged engine. Mercedes Benz entered the Championship with a Mercedes Benz W196. Another change came for Ferrari as reigning champion Alberto Ascari moved over to the newly formed Lancia team. Points were awarded on an 8,6,4,3,2,1 basis with 1 point given to the fastest lap. Only the best 5 results would be counted towards the championship.

The 1953 Formula 1 grid looks very different with the new Mercedes Benz W196

Formula 1 suffered the first driver death this season when Argentine driver Onofre Marimon was killed during practice for the German Grand Prix.

Onofre Marimon, was the first driver to be killed during a Formula 1 race weekend, he tragically lost life during practice at the German Grand Prix

The 1954 season was not a great season for the Scuderia, with only two wins at the British and Spanish Grand Prix.

Juan Manuel Fangio would win the Championship after winning 6 races, driving for Maserati and Mercedes.

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