The Italian Job

When you think of Formula 1 team bases there are only really 2 locations to choose from, Great Britain and Maranello. In fact, if you look at the list of constructors titles since its inauguration in 1958  only once, in 1969 with Matra, has the winner not derived heritage from either. Even then, the French team was ran by Ken Tyrrell from a shed in Surrey. In 1958 Vanwall were Champions and the Driver’s Championship belonged to a Briton, Mike Hawthorn, who was racing for Ferrari.

Ferrari have entered almost every race to date and with 928 starts they have amassed 224 victories. 19 British drivers have won 257 races so you would imagine that these figures would overlap and one driver would have claimed at least 20 Grand Prix for the Prancing Horse. However, only 17 races are synonymous. There have only been 9 Brits who have raced for Ferrari and of them only 6 have won in red.

Mike Hawthorn

Wins for Ferrari:3 , Wins in Career:3

The 1951 British Grand Prix saw Ferrari’s first win in the new Formula 1 class. Jose Froilan Gonzalez won to start a 16 win from 17 race run for the Scuderia. The 14th race, and 4th different winner for Ferrari was Mike Hawthorn, competing in his 9th race. The 1953 French GP at Reims was known as the ‘Race of the Century’ for the slipstreaming battle with Fangio’s Maserati down the long straight causing the lead to be changed at virtually every corner. After 3 hours of racing the top four finished within 5 seconds of each other, unheard of in GP racing of the time. Hawthorn left Ferrari twice, to Vanwall in 1955 and BRM in 1956 but returned in 1957 following Mercedes domination of the sport. His best result was second place in the German GP behind the greatest driver of the era’s greatest drive. 1958 saw remarkable consistency from Hawthorn who took the crown despite only winning one race. Podium finishes in 7 of the 10 rounds including the victory in France gave Hawthorn the title by a point from Moss. It was a well deserved championship as he won despite dropping 7 of his 49 points under the 6 best results rule. Hawthorn retired at the end of 1958 due to an illness in his kidney but would tragically die in a road accident in early 1959.

Mike Hawthorn with Sir Stirling Moss 1958

Peter Collins

Wins for Ferrari:3 , Wins in Career:3

With Hawthorn moving to BRM for 1956, Ferrari employed 24 year-old rising star Collins due to his impressive drive in the Targa Florio in 1955. The season would be characterised by the car sharing policy of the Ferrari’s, where a driver would be expected to hand his car over in the event that their team-mate ran into trouble. Having came 2nd in Monaco in a joint effort with Fangio who had damaged his car, Collins won back-to-back races in Belgium and France. Another shared 2nd place in Britain gave Collins a 2 point lead with 2 races to go. An accident at the Nurburgring put him out of the race and seemingly out of the Championship as Fangio won to take an 8 point lead. What happened in the final round in Italy would never happen again. Fangio’s Ferrari severed a steering arm and he was out; all Collins had to do was win the race and he was Champion. But in an act of incredible humility, courage and dignity he permitted Fangio to complete the race in his car surrendering the title to the great Argentine. 1957 was unsuccessful for Ferrari but 1958 saw Collins win the British GP in an season plagued by unreliability. He was killed chasing his successor at Ferrari, Tony Brooks at the Nurburgring. Aged just 26 it is hard not to see Collin’s death as a tragedy for the sport as he would not doubt have challenged the greats of the 1960s and almost certainly have been team leader around the time of the dominant Sharknose 156.

Collins at Silverstone

Tony Brooks

Wins for Ferrari:2 , Wins in Career:6

Brook’s was the first British driver to come to Ferrari having already won Grand Prix. Having won in only his third start, a shared British GP win with Stirling Moss in 1957, he entered 1958 with a Vanwall car which would win the constructors title. Unfortunately for Brooks the car was win-or-bust and with 3 times as many wins as Champion Hawthorn, Brooks ended up 3rd in the title fight. 1959 was his only season at the Maranello and he won twice in France and Germany but ultimately lost to Brabham. A poor decision to re-join Vanwall for 1960 fell through and he drove uncompetitive Cooper and BRM machines with little success until his retirement at the end of 1961. Another great driver whose potential was unfulfilled.

Brook’s and Moss’ joint win at Aintree 1957

John Surtees

Wins for Ferrari:4 , Wins in Career:6

Big John Surtees is immortalised as the man who won on both 2 wheels and 4. His career in motorcycle racing brought him 7 Championships by the age of 26 and in 1960, his final year of riding, he won both the 350cc and 500cc classes whilst competing in 3 F1 races for Lotus. Incredible performances for Cooper and Lola led to the Ferrari drive in 1963. Surtees won at Nurburgring, the scene of most British Ferrari drama, after Clark’s engine lost a cylinder. A year later Surtees won again and victory at Monza put Surtees in contention for the Championship. At half distance the title looked certain to be heading to the great Jim Clark who had 30 points to Surtees’ 6. But 2 wins and 2 second places from the remaining 5 rounds gave Surtees the title by one point in a frantic race in Mexico. With Clark out and Surtees’ team-mate Bandini second to Hill, Ferrari signalled to Bandini to let Surtees past giving Surtees a vital extra 2 points. There were no wins in 1965 as Clark powered to the title but in 1966 he won his final race for the team in Belgium. In 1965 Surtees had suffered a serious crash whilst racing in the Can-Am Championship and was omitted from the Le Mans line-up. This caused Surtees to quit Ferrari on the spot and he joined Cooper for the rest of the season winning the final round in Mexico. He moved to Honda in 1967 and claimed his final win in Italy. He would go on to found a team in his name and race unsuccessfully with them until 1972. The team competed until 1978.

John Surtees, 1964

Nigel Mansell

Wins for Ferrari:3 , Wins in Career:31

For 21 years from 1968 to 1989 Ferrari raced without a British driver. Nigel Mansell was the last driver to be signed by the famous purple ink of Enzo Ferrari himself. He had been in contention for the title in 1986 and 1987 with Williams having lost to Prost and Piquet respectively. Mansell began his career at Lotus in 1980 but was blighted with concerns over his attitude. When he was picked up by Williams in 1985 he was winless but ended the year strongly with victories at the European GP at Brands Hatch and in Kyalami. His two championship near misses both collected 5 victories but with Honda choosing to follow Senna to McLaren, Williams were left without an engine. The Judd CV was woefully unequipped and Mansell, now 36, saw Ferrari as a final shot at success. Winning his first race for the team in Brazil was followed by 4 retirements as the McLarens reestablished their grip on the title. A great move boxing Senna in at Hungary led to another win in 1989 but Mansell wound up 4th in the Championship with disappointing results including disqualification, and the subsequently taking out Senna whilst being lapped, in Estoril. 1990 saw new team-mate Prost join from McLaren. But unreliability meant the season was more of the same for Mansell and despite a great win in Portugal he left Ferrari for Williams in 1991 after being tempted out of retirement. It was a good decision as the dominant FW14B swept all before it in 1992 with Mansell winning 9 races and the title. He went on to become CART Champion in 1993 and had fleeting races with Williams in the wake of Senna’s death before retiring at McLaren mid-way through 1995.

Nigel Mansell in 1990

Eddie Irvine

Wins for Ferrari:2 , Wins in Career:6

Irvine joined Ferrari in 1996 as a definitive number 2 behind Michael Schumacher. The team had been reconstructed since Jean Todt’s arrival from Peugeot Rally in 1993. With Rory Byrne and Ross Brawn tempted from the successful Benetton team with Schumacher, Irvine offered little resistance to the Double Champion. Irvine suffered terribly from reliability in 1996 and over the next two seasons scored podiums usually behind Schumacher. He was expected to fulfill this role until he was to be replaced by former Jordan team-mate Rubens Barrichello in 2000 with Irvine going the other way to Jaguar. However on the parade lap at the British GP Schumacher broke both his legs at Stowe corner putting him out of the majority of the rest of the season. This meant Irvine was the only driver capable of challenging the McLarens with a fairly evenly matched package. Irvine had won the dramatic season opener in Melbourne but had suffered scruffy results in the first half of the season. Second place in Britain followed by two wins in Austria, where the McLarens tagged each other, and Germany, where team-mate Salo let him through. With 3 rounds to go, the Grand Prix circus headed for British Ferrari driver drama central, the Nurburgring. An epic wet race was eventually won by Herbert but if Irvine was to win the title he needed a strong result there. He should have showed better than his seventh place suggested after a tyre mix up in the pits but he was caught and passed by Hakkinen who finished the race looking more and more the Champion. Irvine won his last race for the team in the penultimate round in Kuala-Lumpur complete with controversy over the new barge boards Ferrari had installed. Hakkinen’s 3rd place meant Irvine led going into the final round by 4 points. A classic Hakkinen vs Schumacher battle played out in Suzuka with Irvine 3rd losing the title by just 2 points. He completed his move to Jaguar but retired at the end of 2002.

Eddie Irvine with Michael Schumacher

The top British drivers drove for Ferrari in the 1950s successfully and only Moss had no F1 affiliation with the team. The best of the 1960s were all based around BRM, Lotus and Tyrrell and the only British Champion of the 1970s, James Hunt, fought directly against Ferrari for the title. The gaps between the drivers are interesting though. 21 years between Surtees and Mansell shows a derf of leading British talent at that time.

This list concludes in the 20th Century. 17 years into the new millennium and we are no closer to a British driver at the Scuderia. If Lewis Hamilton is keen to expand his legacy a final few outings in a competitive Ferrari could make him the most successful Brit there ever. Food for thought the next time Mercedes contract negotiations come around.


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