The horse emblem of Ferrari is probably one of the world’s most eponymous and recognisable car symbols. It appears worldwide on various items, both official and counterfeit, as a symbol of fast-living and status. The emblem conjures up images of the sleek red lines and trademark red paint of one of history’s most successful racing cars. The construction company has enjoyed incredible success both on the Formula 1 racing tracks and as a producer of street legal vehicles, under the name Ferrari SPA. Ferrari is now a leader in what is one of the most watched sports worldwide. As a result it is under constant scrutiny, and its history has not been without the inevitable troughs that come with the highs. These problems include financial struggles and factional infighting. The team’s future successes will surely depend on the ability to overcome these problems.
Ferrari’s history and success has given rise to it having the most dedicated fan base in the sport. Known as the Tifosi, meaning loyal Ferrari fans, these supporters appear in their droves, donning red flares, firing red beacons and engulfing the stands in a sea of red flags. Their presence is most obvious at the Italian Grand Prix, held at Monza, the Ferrari home track. This track has been the stage for much of Ferrari’s rich and successful history.
The Early Years: 1929 to 1946
Enzo Ferrari, the team’s founder was born in Modena on February 18th 1898. He came from a wealthy family, whose background lay in metal working. His interest in motor racing was encouraged by his father who had the financial means to support him. He was unsuccessful in finding a job with Fiat, the then construction leaders who would go on to buy into Ferrari. Having been demobbed in the First World War he began working for a garage which converted military vehicles. He then took on a job as a driver in Milan and soon became acquainted with the Alfa Romeo team. They offered him a job in 1920. By 1923 Ferrari was an official driver for the team, and the emblem he had adopted from fighter pilot Francesco Barraca, began to appear on the team’s cars.
The advent of the Second World War meant that the Romeo team was taken over by the Fascist government. Ferrari was unaffected by this and went on to build his first race car, the Tipo 815, under the name, Auto Avio Costruzioni. The Alfa Romeo factories were hit heavily in the war, which allowed Ferrari to invest in his solo project and take some of the leading names from Romeo with him. The war meant that there was no competitive racing, and Ferrari produced road cars to fund his racing project, Scuderia Ferrari (meaning “Team Ferrari”). These cars included the Pininfarina and 125 S, which soon became popular with the ultra rich. Angered by this demeaning of his work, Ferrari was determined to make an impact on the racing circuit.
The Golden Years: 1946 to 1968
Ferrari’s international motor sport début was at the 1948 Italian Grand Prix. He entered the supercharged 125 F1 in the races in Turin and came third. The following year Ferrari won its first title. Luigi Chinetti drove the 166M to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. Chinetti is also credited with keeping the empire afloat by selling cars to wealthy Americans and establishing the North American Racing Team.
The Formula 1 Racing Championship began in 1950 and Ferrari won four times in the first decade. Jose Froilan Gonzales scored a victory at the 1951 British Grand Prix. The following year Alberto Ascari won Ferrari its first World Drivers Championship Title, a feat he repeated in 1953. Ferrari picked up two more World Drivers Championship Titles, in 1956 with Fangio and 1958 with Hawthorn.
The 1950s were not without its tragedies in motor racing, with Ferrari losing the driver, Castelotti, in a crash which killed 12 spectators, some of whom were children. Enzo was charged with manslaughter. The following year, 1958, Muso, Hawthorn and Collins were all killed at the wheel.
The 1960s saw the sport grow far more competitive, with an influx of financial support and rapid advances in construction and engineering techniques. Ferrari was one of the smallest constructors in terms of the number of cars it produced in this decade. This changed throughout the decade, however, as the company moved more towards mass production of road worthy sports vehicles.
The decade did not begin well in the competitive racing stakes. The team were hindered by a crash in practice, before the competition in Monaco and it became apparent that the rear-engines 246 were too old to compete.
Ferrari took both the Constructor’s Title and the Driver’s Title in 1961 and 1964. The former was won with 156 F1 under the driver Philip Hill, and the latter in the 158 F1 by John Surtees. The 156, with its distinctive shark nosed design won countless titles. The drivers Von Trips and Hill seemed unbeatable, but it was Giancarlo Baghetti who broke the records. Baghetti was the first driver to win on his debut. This glory was somewhat dampened with Von Trips coming off the track at Monza, killing himself and 14 onlookers.
Ferrari was then to see several of its keys players defect to the ATS racing team. This was followed by the end of the 1.5 litre racing category, which put Ferrari under more pressure to develop a new championship-winning car. Attempts to develop a 3.3 litre engine V12 car were disastrous, with the 2.5 litre version proving much faster. Ferrari were rapidly losing their advantage over the likes of Porsche and Ford. Disputes and political battles within the team did little to help this. Mounting pressure drove Ferrari to sell the production side of the business to Fiat for $11 million USD. With this influx of funds, Enzo was keen to rebuild the team. This proved too much to ask in the short term, and 1969 was another unsuccessful season for Ferrari.
Building on the Successes: 1969 to Present
With Fiat as shareholder and technical partner, Ferrari was able to make advances in all areas of weakness. The team’s own track, Fiorano, was opened in April 1972. This gave them far more scope to test and improve its vehicles. Enzo moved his office on site and things began to look up over the years that followed. Gioacchino Colombo struggled with the development of the flat 12 engine of the 312 and was eventually replaced by Forghieri. Forghieri went on to develop the 312B3 in 1974 and Ferrari saw a fantastic return to form. He then introduced a transverse gearbox into the car, now the 312T, and Ferrari saw its first World Championship win in 11 years at Monza.
1976 saw Ferrari take the Constructor’s Title. Another new face brought hope of further glory in the form of the 25 year old Canadian driver Gilles Villeneuve. With a driving style frequently compared to that of former star Nuvolari, he picked up four wins in the 1976 World Championship. This was sadly not enough to compete with the Ground-Effect Lotus 79 which dominated the 1976 Championship. Villeneuve and Sheckter both drove the aerodynamically improved 312T4 with great skill and Scheckter took the 1979 Driver’s Title.
The following season saw Ferrari slump behind the British teams, with Villeneuve picking up only two victories in Monaco and Spain. The following seasons were wrought with in-fighting and Forghieri left in 1983. The McLaren-TAG and McLaren-Honda teams dominated the following seasons, despite Ferrari having set up a promising new construction site in Britain. The disputes continued and Enzo passed away in 1988, aged 90. Fiat tried to boost the team to its former glory with a string of new directors and managers, this proving fruitless until the arrival of a new driver, Michael Schumacher.
The Schumacher Era – 1996 to 2004
The mid-nineties saw a series of different designers, each with variable levels of success. What remained constant, however, was Schumacher’s skill in driving. This saw him pick up various World Championship wins, despite an array of technical problems with the new F310. He made the headlines for the wrong reasons in 1997, when he tried to force Jacques Villeneuve off the track and was disqualified.
By 1998 McLaren-Mercedes, with driver Mika Hakkinen, seemed unbeatable. The following year, Schumacher and Irvine capitalised on McLaren’s poor form, taking the Ferrari team to glory once more with the Constructor’s Title. Rory Byrne’s recently developed F1-2000 helped Schumacher to win the Driver’s Title for Ferrari. An amazing run of wins followed this feat. Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello won the Constructor’s Title every year from 2000 to 2004. This was also the strongest period of Michael Schumacher’s career, with him taking the Diver’s Championship Title a record breaking five times.
Scandal and Glory – 2006 Onwards
The 2006 season saw Ferrari steeped in controversy, taking a sponsorship deal with Malboro. It had previously been agreed that tobacco sponsorship was to end in Formula 1 and Ferrari came under heavy criticism. The 2007 season saw the team come under further fire from the press and supporters alike. A Ferrari employee reportedly approached a McLaren employee with an 800 page document which detailed the workings of the Ferrari cars. This was seen to give McLaren an unfair advantage, allowing them to adjust their tactics accordingly, to capitalise on Ferrari’s refuelling stops. McLaren was disqualified from the 2007 Formula 1 Championship as a result, allowing Ferrari to take the title with drivers Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen. The reputations of both teams were heavily damaged.
The next few years for Ferrari look to be a difficult time. There will be huge pressure on the two new drivers and both Byrne and Brawn, the key designers of the last decade, look set to retire. The future of the team can surely only return to glory if the in-fighting, that was endemic in the 1980s and 1990s, does not resume.
Titles and Achievements
- 15 Driver’s World Championship Titles
- 15 Constructor’s World Championship Titles
- 201 Grand Prix Victories of 758 contested
- 603 Grand Prix Podium finishes
- 195 Grand Prix Pole Positions
- 205 Grand Prix Fastest laps
- Ferrari is the only car constructor to have competed in every single season of the Formula 1 World Championship since 1950