We mentioned last week that Formula One was celebrating its sixtieth birthday but a key fact escaped our attention - to mention that only one team has been there for all sixty seasons, and hence was also celebrating its sixtieth birthday. The Ferrari F1 Team made its debut in round two of the inaugural F1 Championship at the Monaco Grand Prix on May 21, 1950. A second place for Italian Alberto Ascari in the Ferrari 125 set the tone for the next six decades. To date the team has taken part in 799 Grands Prix, meaning that Istanbul next weekend will be the eight hundredth. To date, Ferrari’s race record shows 211 wins, 16 Constructors’ and 15 Drivers’ titles, which makes this team the most successful in mankind's most followed sport.
Four Ferraris were entered in Monaco 60 years ago: two updated versions of the 125 F1 were entrusted to the Italians, Alberto Ascari and Luigi Villoresi, while two other 125 F1s were in the hands of privateers Raymond Sommer and Peter Whitehead. Only the non-works cars took part in qualifying, with Sommer setting the seventh fastest time and Whitehead the tenth, 6”4 and 15” respectively off Juan Manuel Fangio on pole in the Alfa Romeo. Ascari and Villoresi’s cars arrived late and thus started the race from the third row.
A lightning move from Villoresi saw him move up to second at the start and, at the final corner on the first lap, a collision between Farina and Gonzales caused general mayhem. Fangio managed to thread his way through the cars without losing time, but Villoresi was held up by one of the cars being manhandled out of the way by the marshals and, because his engine cut out, he lost 1”18 seconds before continuing his pursuit.
In the lead, Fangio was precise and incredibly fast for all three hours and eighteen minutes of the race, but behind him, the Ferraris were in the hunt. Completely last after three laps, Villoresi was fourth on lap 10, third on lap 20 and on lap 31, he got the better of his team-mate to take second spot. After the run of refuelling stops, Ascari regained second place in a tight fought duel but on lap 62 Villoresi was forced to retire with a broken bearing.
The race thus ended in victory for Alfa Romeo but with a Ferrari, that of Ascari, on the podium, while Sommer, running as a semi-official driver came home fourth. The internal post race report reveals these brief notes from the Scuderia men, on the performance of its drivers: “Ascari: good. Villoresi: staged a brilliant recovery, making up a good part of the time lost during the enforced stop on lap two.”
Ascari won the title in 1952.
Sixty years have elapsed since that day and Scuderia Ferrari is still fighting for victory, as the only team that has been present at every round of a championship which represents the highest level of motor sport.
Its driving ranks have included all but a handful of the best drivers in modern history: Ascari, Fangio, Phil Hill, John Surtees, Niki Lauda, Jody Scheckter, Gilles Villeneuve, Alain Prost and Michael Schumacher to name just a few.