- July 28, 1924
- July 06, 1958
- Not Active
In its early days Formula 1 had many hero drivers who were real role models, and Luigi Musso, born in Rome on 28th of July 1924, surely was one of them.
After the World War 2, Musso started his racing career, driving together with his two brothers but they weren’t too supportive and soon he bought his own car, 750cc Giannini. He raced in the events like Tour of Italy, Targa Florio, and Mille Miglia but his aggressive driving style caused troubles and Luigi crashed in almost every race.
However, talented driver slightly started to improve and soon he was in the centre of attention. Many factory teams became interested in his services and one of them was Maserati. He signed with the Modena-based manufacturer and quickly proved that he was able to win the races with a proper car. He won numerous national events and became the rising star of the Italian motorsports.
In 1953, Musso debuted in Formula 1 World championship, finishing 7th at Monza. Next year, Luigi confirmed his talent and quality. He scored a class win in Giro di Sicilia, later finished 3rd in Mille Miglia, won the Naples Grand Prix and finally won the class in Targa Florio. The brilliant season in sports cars racing was crowned with the 2nd place in the Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix, losing to Mike Hawthorn and with a victory in the non-championship race in Pescara.
Italy had racing stars such as Alberto Ascari, Eugenio Castellotti, and Umberto Maglioli but they were already established as the top racers but Musso was considered as the one who will surpass their glory. That kind of pressure soon will become too heavy for Luigi.
Driving a powerful Maserati 250F, Musso during the season of 1955 thrice finished in second place at the non-championship races while at the championship races his best result was 3rd place at the Dutch Grand Prix. Musso finished the season in tenth place overall and secured move to Ferrari team.
The expectations were high, especially after a perfect start and Luigi’s triumph at the 1956 Argentinian Grand Prix when he shared a seat with legendary Juan Manuel Fangio. Unfortunately, Musso missed a big part of the season after a crash in the sports cars race at Nurburgring. That accident was just one of the signs that showed how hard this young Italian battled against pressure and excessively high expectations.
Luigi recovered enough to take his place in one of the Ferraris for 1957. In the battle against likes of Fangio and Peter Collins he did pretty well and finished the season in third place overall, behind Fangio and Stirling Moss. Musso did especially well at the non-championship races, finishing on the podium in each of five events.
Still, the expectations weren’t met completely. Being Italian who drove Italian car was something memorable, but everybody was looking at Musso through the successes of Ascari and Castellotti, former champions who were killed in the crashes. Was he expecting the same fate? He was probably one of the first F1 stars who was a typical example of "the whole package". He was a handsome lad from Rome and attracted many women, even the famous Maria Teresa Fillipis, probably the most popular woman in the history of Formula 1.
Before the start of 1958 season, Musso again was considered as one of the title contenders, together with his teammates and fierce rivals Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins, The beginning of campaign went well for Italian who finished 2nd in Argentina and Monaco and won the non-championship Syracuse Grand Prix.
Sadly, a damnation of the popular Italian drivers has continued. After Ascari and Castellotti, anther Italian driver was killed. Musso died in the crash at French Grand Prix in Reims when his Ferrari spun, struck a ditch and somersaulted. The head injuries were very serious and later that day Musso passed away in the hospital.
It was the sad end for the talented driver who was fighting against his rivals but also against his own problems. He was in debts and at the same time he had F1 duties, he had to continue to race sports cars with a great success and even won Targa Florio in 1958. His heart probably was full but it was too much for Luigi’s weak body.
The prize money for winning the French Grand Prix was the biggest in the championship and Musso was killed literally running for money. Interestingly, by the end of the year, Luigi’s rivals Hawthorn and Collins, who made a deal to share the prize equally, leaving the Italian alone, also died.