World Champion

  • 15 March 2021
  • 4 min read
  • 7 images
World Champion image

It’s worth remembering something that tends to be forgotten: In order to defeat Alfa Romeo in Formula 1, Enzo Ferrari hadn’t hesitated to make a major investment by betting on a normally-aspirated engine rather than a supercharged one. An investment that would have been justified if the World Championship Formula had lasted more than two years, which is exactly what happened. In 1954, a new regulation limiting engine capacity to 2,500cc had already been planned for, while in 1952 and 1953 they would have raced with their Formula 2 single-seaters, sending the mighty 375 powered by the large V12 engine designed by engineer Lampredi into retirement.

1-5-1536x1047 Named Ferrari Special, with the all-white Scudetto to avoid giving the impression that this was an official participation, the 375 F1 suitably modified to race in Indianapolis driven by Ascari was to be stopped by inexperience: the spoked wheels used on the European circuits proved too fragile for the very fast curves of the Indiana circuit and the future F1 world champion was forced to retire after a frightening slide.

Victory finally came at Silverstone, but there were of course others, Including Monza. There had also been that immense emotional turning point that caused Enzo to declare that he had killed his Mother. But the most important achievement had eluded him: the World Championship victory that was within reach. Fangio, cunning and methodical, had managed to take advantage of every opportunity to accumulate points with his Alfa and took advantage of Enzo’s unequivocal error at the final race, in Spain. The circuit, according to Pirelli, would have required the new 18-inch tires but Enzo, incorrectly, chose not to modify the winning car, and lost. Ferrari, however, always had a plan: to bring a suitably modified 375 to Indianapolis. The American race was valid for world championship points. Why not give it a try?

2-6-1536x1152 The mighty 4,493cc V12 which now produced 400hp thanks in part to the adoption of three new Weber 40IF4C carburettors was not enough to bring success to Ferrari in America. Lack of experience in American racing was the cause.

The paradox, a kind of curse of the 375, manifested itself once again through a wheel. In Maranello they had worked relentlessly on the project, which was promoted, not surprisingly, by Luigi Chinetti, a valuable importer to the US market. The 375s modified to meet the Indy regulations, with work carried out on the displacement, had been sold to American drivers. But the one destined for Ascari had been profoundly revised, with an elongated wheelbase and many useful upgrades installed specifically for the American oval racing circuit. But the lack of experience of the team caused them to pay a heavy price: the spoked wheels used on the European circuits were unsuitable for the very fast corners of Indiana and Ascari showed incredible skill in controlling his car when one gave way. Ferrari had predicted that things might not go well, and denied that his participation was official by removing the prancing horse from the shields that had appeared on his cars to distinguish them from those sold to privateers.

3-5-1536x1023 The small 500 F2 was the undisputed star of the F1 World Championships in both 1952 and 1953. In the two seasons it always won safely and gave Ascari the World Title twice.

He never repeated that experience but in the same season of 1952, he did have the satisfaction of winning all the European races and claiming the Title of Formula 1 World Champion with Ascari. The success was identical the following year: the new formula didn’t catch him off guard and his 500 F2, using Lampredi’s two-litre dual overhead camshaft engine pushing 2 valves per cylinder and twin-plug ignition, left everyone standing. In two years Maserati, with Fangio, managed to defeat him just once, but when it happened, the second World Title had already been in Maranello for some time. His cars triumphed at the Mille Miglia with Bracco and Marzotto but the successes were now everywhere thanks to customer drivers and his sports cars. The Ferrari legend had become a reality in just seven years. Pininfarina began to provide the bodywork for his GT cars and famous celebrities and crowned heads of state flocked to Maranello to meet the man himself and buy his unique and victorious cars.

4-1536x1152 The small 4-cylinder dual overhead camshaft engine designed by the Engineer Lampredi had allowed Ferrari to construct a simple, lightweight car, equipped with an extraordinary maximum torque. Unbeatable!

5-4-1536x1223 The most beautiful image of Ascari, twice triumphant in the F1 World Championships. He later left Ferrari and suffered a tragic fate.

6-6-1536x1073 Ferraris were also unbeatable in the Sport category: in addition to the sixth consecutive victory at the Mille Miglia in 1953 with the 340 MM Spider by Giannino Marzotto, the cars from Maranello, often in the hands of customer drivers, dominated the world across. The Ferrari legend was born.

7-6-1536x1374 In between the many successes, a terrible burden weighed on Enzo Ferrari’s heart: his brilliant son Dino was inexorably heading towards a premature death due to muscular dystrophy.