Ferrari, 1000th F1 Grand Prix: the origins of the myth –

A color – red – that seems to belong to him and that no other team would dare to wear today in Grand Prix, out of respect. An emblem, the black prancing horse on a yellow background, as a sign of rallying. A fervent, unwavering Tifoso people; envied, jealous. A den – Monza – where she likes to express her power and contemplate the passion she arouses even more than elsewhere. And then, a story that merges with that of Formula 1. On the circuits since the origins of the world championship in 1950, Ferrari is the living legend of the sport, its ultimate incarnation in the eyes of all, including its rivals.


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The Scuderia is still there, almost a thousand years old in terms of contested Grands Prix. The only common thread of sport through the ages, its technical changes, its political struggles, its mercantile issues. When it was created in 1929, it was guided by the stubborn, whole-hearted character, the visionary spirit of its founder from Modena, Enzo Ferrari. She survived him by knowing how to reinvent herself through daring, through extraordinary successes as resounding failures. Dramas too.

Today, red embodies motor racing as a matter of course and, beyond that, sports cars. Like white for household appliances in our homes, black for technical products. Red is this symbol intimately linked to the ostentatious sporting character, a claim of power. Like the area where the tachometer needle of a high-speed engine ventures, glowing exhausts. And then, in the effort, do not we say that we are "in the red".

In the shadow of the Monza circuit, the bright red Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, September 5, 2020, as part of the Italian Grand Prix

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"Red is a proud color, steeped in ambition and thirsty for power, a color that wants to be seen and that is determined to impose it on all the others."Sums up Michel Pastoureau, the historian specializing in the symbolism of colors. It is obvious that Ferrari has popularized red through more than seven decades of production of exceptional GTs and commitments on the tracks. is not his choice but a legacy of the Gordon Bennett Cup, which from 1900 to 1905 brought together nations by racing cars of the same color. Italy had thus inherited red. From this vestige, Ferrari has made part of its own identity and eventually made it his own.

Mechanics learned on the job

Enzo Anselmo Ferrari was intended for the automobile. He was born on February 18, 1898 but registered two days later in the civil registry due to a snowstorm. A setback among others which will not prevent a powerful destiny guided by will.

His father Alfredo was then the eponymous boss of the Officine Meccanica Alfredo Ferrari, a small business of building footbridges and roofs for a railway company which had up to thirty employees. It is by diversifying its activities into car maintenance that it offers little Enzo the environment of a lifetime. And made him discover the magic of racing at the age of 10, on September 6, 1908, on the Bologna circuit. Seeing Felice Nazzaro win the Coppa Florio on his FIAT 130 HP Grand Prix is ​​particularly impressive. He even describes a "violent emotion"The experience is much more than a revelation. He will say that it was on that day that he wanted to become a racing driver.

Enzo doesn't like studies, he dreams of being an opera singer but he is also interested in mechanics learned on the job in his father's workshop, in parallel with his lessons at the technical school in Modena. He has time to carve out a future for himself in this wealthy family, one of the first to own a car, a De Dion-Bouton. At least he believes. Soon those years will no longer be those of recklessness. The teenager will give way to the man. Violently. The First World War occurs, and then the tragedies, in 1916: his father Alfredo dies of pneumonia and his older brother, Alfredo, nicknamed Dino, paramedic at the front, succumbs to an illness.

Alfa Romeo driver, a first consecration

Now alone with his mother in the household, he has no choice but to give up his studies to find a job. However, his military obligations are catching up with him at full speed. Mobilized, he shoes the mules in a workshop. In this context of misfortunes which makes you grow too quickly, this desolate world which marks the end of naivety and makes you enter adult life on a forced march, he is in turn threatened. In 1918, he was one of the patients affected by the so-called "Spanish" influenza pandemic. From which he escapes.

Fortunately, he has character and a work disposition that is obvious. From the mobilization during the Great War, he returned with a letter of recommendation that he thought was decisive for joining FIAT. In fact, the industry giant "cannot offer a job to all war veterans. "Failure undermines him and makes him say in" Mes joys terribles "that he feels"alone in the world".

But the obligation to recover from it pushes him to seek near Turin, where the Giovannoni workshops entrust him with the delivery of bare chassis of old military vans to a body in Milan. His mission is thankless, but on these roads between Piedmont and Lombardy, he becomes a seasoned driver and feels that the driver he has promised himself to become is not far from revealing himself. He even dreams with open eyes in the Bar del Nord where he lives, in Milan. This place is the haunt of racing enthusiasts as well as pilots such as Felice Nazzaro, the winner of Bologna.

Enzo Ferrari, in 1927

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One of his relations – Ugo Sivocci – finally brought him into the National Mechanical Constructions (CMN), where car production started. Enzo Ferrari closely follows the testing of the sporty version of the 15-20HP and even acquires a copy which he does not take long to enter in the Targa Florio, one of the flagship events in Italy. We are in 1919, the Great War is over, the competitions resume. He is 21 years old and nothing can deviate him from his path. Not even the decline of CMN, which leads him to race with an Alfa Romeo. And soon for Alfa Romeo, following a second place at the Targa Florio in 1920, confirmed by a second place in the category the following year. He saw this new pilot status as a consecration and expressed it thus in "Piloti che gente": "What mattered to me was the day I was able to make my official entry into the Alfa Romeo team.. "

The Scuderia born "from an idea that sprang up spontaneously"

In 12 years of career, the Modénois will compile 9 victories in 39 participations, in races of hill or of secondary level. But one of them, signed in 1923, will be more important than the others by the inspiration of an emblem recognizable among all that it will suggest. On the Savio circuit, near Ravenna, on June 17, he met Count Enrico and Countess Paola Baracca, parents of the late aviator Francesco Baracca, elevated to the rank of ace for having shot down five aircraft in combat, and died on the field of honor. Enzo Ferrari talks about the adoption of the rampant Cavallino as a "simple and fascinating story".

"Ferrari, put my son's little prancing horse on your machines. It will bring you luck", asked the countess. Enzo Ferrari, both impressed and moved, kept a photo of the hero posing proudly in front of his Spad VII struck by a black prancing horse on a white background. A black prancing horse because, during the First War world, the squadron of which Francesco Baracca was part was attached to a cavalry regiment founded by Victor-Amédée II of Savoy, who had made it its emblem. When choosing it as the Scuderia coat of arms, in 1932, Enzo Ferrari placed the animal on a yellow background, the color of Modena.

The Cavallino Rampante on a Ferrari flag, in the sky over Budapest, at the 2018 Hungarian Grand Prix

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From his overall modest competitive record, Enzo Ferrari does not draw any bitterness. Made to lead men, he knows that sooner or later the hard-working driver will step aside in front of the daring team boss.

Paradoxically, this opportunity will present itself in the midst of the stock market and financial crisis, without having anticipated it, during a dinner offered by the Automobile club of Bologna. The Scuderia was born "of an idea that came up spontaneously during a meal in Bologna in 1929, he explains in his memoirs devoted to pilots. My first partners were two brothers, hemp traders, Augusto and Alfredo Caniato, as well as Mario Tadini", the best hill climb driver of the moment.

During this round table between pilots on Sunday, November 16 to be precise, his power of conviction opens the doors to the fate he dreams of. A fruitful discussion and 200,000 pounds later, the Societa anonima Scuderia Ferrari will be a reality on November 20, with the financial support (10,000 pounds), technical – specifically cars – and logistics from Alfa Romeo. In addition to the 5,000 pounds that Pirelli adds to the trash.

I mainly wanted to get to know the men well

It's an adventure that begins, carried by the passion of a lifetime. Modena is the setting, precisely via Trento e Trieste. And if Alfredo Caniato is the chairman, everyone knows that Enzo Ferrari, the general manager, manages it on a daily basis. And is already orienting its future by advancing the name of Felice Trossi to replace the ephemeral and resigned Alfredo Caniato. Which will soon be followed by Mario Tadini. Finally, Enzo Ferrari has chosen Gioacchino Colombo as technical director.

The Alfa Romeo team thus took its first steps under the Scuderia flag and Enzo Ferrari was quick to let go of the wheel in 1931, just after the birth of his son Dino in 1932. On the tracks, success came but death by Giuseppe Campari, September 10, 1933 in Monza, causes a real fracture. Giuseppe Campari was an opera singer and necessarily admired for that by Enzo Ferrari, and above all one of the best drivers of the moment. The Modena boss then proves his resources by enlisting Tazio Nuvolari, for whom he has the highest esteem.

Once again, he knew what he wanted and how to move forward. "I wanted above all to know people and things well. Pilot, organizer, manager without clearly defined competence …", he will say. Nuvolari proved him right by beating at the 1935 German Grand Prix the Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union of the" era of the Titans ", formidable from every point of view by the propagandist will of Adolf Hitler.

The twelve-cylinder engine of the dream

Without the means of German organizations, the Scuderia performed well by winning more than half of the races in which it participated in the 1930s. Ferrari is reinventing itself thanks to its handyman Gioacchino Colombo, whose Tipo 158 from 1937 is a marvel avant-garde in which Alfa Romeo is not mistaken.

But Enzo Ferrari will not experience the advent of this machine in the happiest way. Having gone to Milan to sponsor the Alfa Corse Competition service, he came into conflict with engineer Wilfried Ricart and returned in 1939 to set up on his own in Modena. To revive, he obtained from Alfa Romeo a large sum of money against the ban on creating cars in his name, for four years. In the premises of the new Auto Avio Costruzioni, he created an anonymous automobile with the 815 logo. A reference to the 158, but not a success, far from it.

While the war ravaged Europe, Ferrari moved as soon as he had legal authorization, in 1943, on land he owned in Maranello. The manufacturer opens an aircraft engine maintenance activity and deploys his business to employ 160 people. The call of competition is strong, and Gioacchino Colombo is here again. The two men agreed in August 1945 that a 1.5-liter V12 was the best engine to fit in the first competition Ferrari, the 1947 Tipo 125.

"I had always dreamed of a twelve cylinder, and I had kept in my memory the image of an old Packard which had raced in Indianapolis in 1914, and also that of a Delage which had finished second in Lyon in 1924., he explains in "My terrible joys". I had always loved the singing of a 12 cylinder. But, and it was certainly this reason that gave me the most desire to carry out this project, there was only one firm which, in the world, produced a 12 cylinder. It spurred me on and became a challenge for me. A few years later, Packard abandoned its 12-cylinder, and I became the only one to make such engines.. "A melody for a legend? Enzo Ferrari would have preferred this explanation rather than admitting to having been inspired by block 512 of Wilfrid Ricart …

Horror and emptiness

The industrial part of his company, Ferrari Automobili has just been created and this V12 is its flagship, usable in Grand Prix as well as on sports cars. He is a "seller". The 125S brought Ferrari into the world of racing on May 11, 1947, in Piacenza. History holds that within two laps, Franco Cortese would have won without technical boredom. But two weeks later, the triumph is Roman. His machine holds up and he becomes the first winner with a machine bearing the Prancing Horse crest. Forever.

The future looks promising, especially as the International Sports Commission has adopted the regulations for the future Formula 1. It will be necessary to have a compressed 1.5 liter engine or 4.5 liters atmospheric to compete in the first World Championship of name, in 1950. For Ferrari, it suffices to add a compressor to the V12.

Jean-Pierre Wimille and Giuseppe Farina (Alfa Romeo 158) at the Grand Prix des Nations, July 21, 1946 in Geneva

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The Scuderia is ready to rub shoulders with Alfa Romeo on the Grand Prix stage, but the 158 that it created for the Milanese house in 1937 remains the benchmark. Six copies hidden in the barn of a cheese factory in northern Italy have just been dusted off and put back into service. In the hands of Frenchman Jean-Pierre Wimille, it won in the rain in Turin on September 5, 1948 in Turin.

However, fate steps in in this horribly lethal time. All the pilots do not manage to drive faster than the death and the tragic accident of the Frenchman, in January 1949 in a park of Buenos Aires in the middle of an unruly crowd, decimates the firm at the Quadrifoglio. Felice Trossi retired before succumbing to illness, Alfa Romeo leaves the field open for a season to its rival, and it is into this void that Alberto Ascari rushes to offer Maranello his first Grand Prix victory, the 5 July during the Swiss Grand Prix.

Formula 2 in power in Formula 1

1950 is the return to normal. Not at the christening of the World Cup on May 13, 1950 at Silverstone, because true to his principles, Enzo Ferrari turned to more lucrative starting bonuses from a Formula 2 race in Mons, Belgium. For the Reds, it all started in Monaco, on May 21, and to see a driver at the top of a podium it will be necessary to wait the following year. Wink or snub, the Argentinian José Froilan Gonzalez wins at Silverstone.

Ferrari became a car manufacturer in 1947, the Scuderia won the 24 Hours of Le Mans from its first participation in 1949, but on July 14, 1951, it took its true dimension by opening its record in Grand Prix. The Modena boss leaves his Alfa Romeo years behind. He emancipated himself for good and declares not without emotion: "It's like I killed my mother". The formula will remain famous.

This founding victory has a happy future with Alberto Ascari on circuits which will become haunts of lords, the Nürburgring and Monza. Ferrari is still a rising star in Formula 1, but not for long.

Indeed, Maranello seized power in 1952, by surprise. By default more exactly. Alfa Romeo's abandonment of competition weakened an already uncompetitive field and Gordini's withdrawal did not help. Maserati in restructuring, we can not bet on the English HWM, Connaught and Cooper to change. Faced with this void, the Formula 2 regulations are designated as the basis of the Formula 1 championship for two seasons. Originally called to make the number, the machines of the lower category will rule, and Ferrari will take care of making it reign …

Fangio, I know you are expensive, but I need you!

While risky, innovative choices often have to be made to open up gaps and areas for progress, it is with a little luck that Ferrari has become the benchmark for the new Formula 1: its new Tipo 500 Formula 2 engine is in production. indeed the best compromise of this palliative regulation. A decisive advantage for the F500 of Alberto Ascari, author of 11 wins in 15 Grands Prix contested in 1952 and 1953. What was undoubtedly also needed for the Milanese. "As a pilot, Ascari had a precise and resolute style, but he absolutely needed to go ahead.", said Enzo Ferrari. To be completely honest, we must add that a certain merit goes to the boss: it is he who gave the keys of the technical department to Aurelio Lampredi, at the origin of the famous Tipo 500 engine. .

Everything is a matter of technical cycle, and for having badly approached the new situation, Ferrari is dominated in 1954 and 1955 by Mercedes, its enormous means, its Silver Arrows and its imperial Juan Manuel Fangio. But as too often, misfortune is never far away, even tragedy: at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Mercedes of Frenchman Pierre Levegh takes off in a grandstand, causing 85 deaths. The shock is immense in the opinion and Mercedes does not have the heart to continue the adventure in motorsports.

Enzo Ferrari (left) and Juan Manuel Fangio (right) during the Italian Grand Prix, September 2, 1956 – Bernard Cahier

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And then, by a tragic coincidence, it was Mike Hawthorn, who is about to make his Grand Prix comeback with Ferrari, who caused the chain reaction by putting a fishtail on a competitor just before entering the Jaguar pit.

Ferrari thus recovers the triple world champion Fangio. Out of duty as much as out of pride towards Alfa Romeo and Mercedes. "Fangio, I know you are expensive, but I need you!", he launches to the Argentinian, on the phone.

It will be for the better – a new title – and for the worse – a divorce against the backdrop of South American grievances against the boss Emilien. In all this, the Reds are still varnished: they have upgraded themselves by inheriting the six D50s and equipment from Lancia, in bankruptcy. The talent of Enzo Ferrari as negotiator is perhaps not for nothing: FIAT interceded in his favor and even promised his support for five years to the tune of 250 million pounds.

FIAT hopes that Ferrari will shine, but Fangio as chameleon champion flies with his Maserati in 1957. A swan song, in fact: "El Maestro" will retire the following year and Mike Hawthorn will crown himself in a bow tie on a Ferrari before to retire. And killed himself three months later in an open road chase.

Decidedly, everything is just starting over. Technically too. And in this matter, Ferrari is curiously not convinced by Cooper, who moved the engine to the back of his car. A revolution that hits the mark: Jack Brabham is the 1959 world champion. According to Enzo Ferrari, "it was always the oxen who pulled the cart!"But what follows will show that he was against the grain of history.

Jack Brabham, winner of the 1959 British Grand Prix driving his rear engine Cooper

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