- July 13, 1918
- May 26, 1955
- Not Active
- Scuderia Ferrari Maserati,Lancia
Alberto Ascari was an Italian racing driver, double Formula One world champion (in 1952 and 1953), both times driving Ferrari. He was one of just two Italians who won the Formula One title, the other one being Giuseppe Nino Farina. Ascari scored 13 wins in 32 Formula One championship races, which is second best ever win ratio in history, only behind Juan Manuel Fangio.
Alberto's father was a race car driver too
Alberto Ascari was born on July 13, 1918, in Milan, Italy. His father Antonio was a race car driver too, competing mostly with Alfa Romeos during the 1920s. Antonio was killed at the age of 36, on July 25th, 1925, during the French Grand Prix at Montlhery. There were similarities between the father's and son's death because Alberto also died at the age of 36. He succumbed to injuries after he crashed during the test drive at Monza on May 26th, 1955.
Despite his father's horrific death in the race car, Alberto was interested in racing. He started to race with motorcycles in the early years and switched to a car in 1940. His first recorded race was the 1940 Mille Miglia, where he drove Ferrari. During 1940, he competed at Targa Florio and Gran Premio de Tripoli, driving Maserati 6CM.
1940 was also an important year in his private life because Alberto got married to Milan girl Mietta. They later had two children, a boy and a girl. The boy was named Antonio in memory of Alberto's father.
Ascari and Villoresi together bought a Maserati
World War II began and racing activities were stopped. Alberto resumed with racing in 1947 when he bought a Maserati 4CLT from the Orsi family. To purchase a car, Ascari collected the money together with friend Luigi Gigi Villoresi. They successfully raced on the tracks of Northern Italy but also at some international races, such was the Sehab Almaz Bey Trophy in Cairo or the Grand Prix de'l Automobile Club de France. In that time, Alberto was nicknamed 'Ciccio' (Tubby), because of his stature.
1948 was even better, as Ascari scored his first Grand Prix victory in Sanremo and second place at British Grand Prix. He repeated the participation at Grand Prix de l'Automobile Club de France and finished 3rd, driving Alfa Romeo 158.
Enzo Ferrari hired Ascari in 1949
Enzo Ferrari, who had been a great friend and team-mate of Alberto’s father, was impressed by Alberto's performances, and he signed both Ascari and Villoresi to drive for Ferrari in 1949. Alberto started to win regularly and he became one of the biggest racing stars of the time.It was a transitional period for the new Formula One regulations, which were introduced by the FIA in 1946. Finally, in 1950, the first Formula One Championship was organized.
Scuderia Ferrari had an F1 debut at 1950 Monaco Grand Prix, with four drivers in 1.5L V12 engined Ferrari 125 cars. The 100-lap race was won by Juan Manuel Fangio with Alfa Romeo. Alberto finished 2nd, his team-mate Raymond Sommer finished 4th, Gigi Villoresi retired and Peter Whitehead didn't even start.
Alberto Ascari's inaugural F1 championship
At the 1950 Swiss Grand Prix at Bremgarten, all Ferraris retired. In the next event, the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, the Italian was driving a new Ferrari 275 chassis with a 3.3 V12 engine. He finished 5th and took two points. Ascari and Villoresi appeared at Reims for the French Grand Prix, but they withdrew during the practice.
In the final event of the 1950 championship, at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Ascari was driving the Ferrari 375 chassis with a 4.5L V12 engine. Only seven cars finished of 26 starters. Ascari was sharing the car with Dorino Serafini and they finished second behind Nino Farina, who became the first ever Formula One champion. Ascari collected 11 points and finished 5th in the championship standings. Ascari's first F1 season was winless but he won nine non-championship events, most of them with F2-spec Ferrari 166.
Ferrari 375 brought new results in 1951
In the 1951 Formula One season, Ascari had used only one car, compared to three in the first season. Ferrari 375 with a 4.5L V12 engine was victorious at two of seven races, plus two more podiums, and he finished second in the classification, behind Fangio.
The 1951 season started with sixth place at the Swiss Grand Prix. Alfa Romeo's dominance was continued and they took four of five top positions. Two second-place finishes followed at the Belgian Grand Prix and French Grand Prix. The gearbox of Ascari's car broke at Reims, so he finished the race in the car of Jose Froilan Gonzalez and they both got three points. In the next race, the British Grand Prix, Gonzalez scored the first ever pole and the first ever victory for Scuderia Ferrari. The Italian qualified fourth, but retired in the race after 56 laps, again due to the gearbox problem.
First Formula 1 championship win at Nordschleife
Ascari's first ever F1 victory followed at the German Grand Prix at Nürburgring Nordschleife. He won ahead of Fangio and Gonzalez and jumped to the second place in the championship classification. After one more victory at Monza, only he and Fangio had a chance to take the championship title ahead of season's finale at Spain's Pedralbes Circuit.
The decisive race was determined by tire choice – Ferrari chose a 16-inch rear wheel, whilst Alfa Romeo chose 18-inch. Although Ascari was the fastest qualifier, he was forced to stop more frequently to change tires and he finished fourth, two laps behind Fangio, who won the 1951 title.
The only European driver at Indianapolis 500
In 1952, Ascari became the only European driver who participated at Indianapolis 500. The event was formally the part of Formula One championship, but only Americans competed in it. Ascari changed that when he appeared with the championship winning Ferrari 375 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He qualified 19th but retired early in the race, after 40 laps.
Because of his trip to America, Alberto missed the Swiss Grand Prix, which was the opening round of the 1952 championship.
Fantastic streak of six victories for the championship title
After he returned to Europe, Ascari achieved a fantastic streak of six victories in six races. He dominantly took the title ahead of team-mates Nino Farina and Piero Taruffi. The reigning champion Fangio was being out of racing for most of the season after a crash in the non-championship Monza GP in June.
In 1952, Ascari was driving Ferrari 500 with 2.0 L4 engine, made under the Formula Two regulations. He won at Spa-Francorchamps, Rouen-Les-Essarts, Silverstone, Nürburgring Nordschleife, Zandvoort and Monza. In five of six races, he started from pole position.
One more world title with Ferrari
Ascari won three more consecutive races in the 1953 season, making him the winner of nine straight championship races. He won the Argentine Grand Prix and Dutch Grand Prix from the pole position and the Belgian Grand Prix starting from second. His winning streak ended at the French Grand Prix, in the so-called "race of the century", in which Mike Hawthorn won against Juan Manuel Fangio.
At the 1953 British Grand Prix, Ascari again took the pole and won the race, crossing the finish line just a second before Fangio. At Nürburgring Nordschleife, Ascari and Villoresi shared the #1 Ferrari and finished eighth. At Swiss Grand Prix, Ascari started second and scored his last F1 victory. He secured his second championship title before the final race at Monza, in which he spun and retired in the very last lap, after the fantastic four-way battle against J. M. Fangio, Nino Farina and Onofre Marimon.
Ascari moved to Lancia but drove Maserati and Ferrari
The salary disagreement was the reason he left Ferrari at the end of the season. Ascari switched to Lancia for the 1954 season. However, as their Lancia D50 wasn't ready for racing, Gianni Lancia allowed him to drive twice for Maserati (at the French Grand Prix and British Grand Prix) and once for Ferrari (at the Italian Grand Prix). At Reims, he retired in the very first lap, at Silverstone he raced 31 laps before retirement. He recorded the fastest lap time, together with six more drivers, and was awarded 1/7 of a point.
He retired again at 1954 Italian Grand Prix at Monza, driving Ferrari 625, after leading for 41 laps. He finally debuted with V8-powered Lancia D50 at the Spanish Grand Prix, which was the last race of the season. The long-awaited Lancia D50 was a brilliant car and Ascari immediately set the fastest practice lap and led from pole but retired after nine laps due to clutch problems. He was awarded one point for pole position, so at the end of the 1954 championship, he collected 1 1/7 points and finished 25th in the final standings.
Famous Monte-Carlo harbor crash caught on video
After Ascari's two victories at the non-championship races (Valentino GP and Naples GP) with new Lancia D50, the 1955 Formula 1 Championship season commenced in Argentina. Ascari started from the 2nd position but the accident in lap 21 forced him to retire. Monaco Grand Prix in May 22nd, 1954, was the last Ascari's race. He again started from 2nd position and again retired before the end of the race, but it was the retirement everybody would remember.
In Lap 80, when the leader Stirling Moss stopped in the pits after Mercedes' engine blew up, Ascari had a chance to take the lead. Unfortunately, he lost the concentration and made a mistake at the chicane after the tunnel. He crashed through the barrier and fell into the sea.
Fatal accident at the unplanned practice
Four days after the famous Monaco accident, Ascari was on his feet again. He was at Monza and attended the practice session for the Supercortemaggiore race, which was scheduled for May 29th. Just before going home to lunch with his wife, he decided to try a few laps with the Ferrari 750 Monza of his friend Eugenio Castellotti. In shirt sleeves, ordinary trousers and Castellotti’s helmet, he set off.
He crashed on the Curva del Vialone, one of the track's challenging high-speed corners. Thrown out from the car, Ascari suffered multiple injuries and died a few minutes later. The corner at Monza's circuit where the accident happened was subsequently replaced with a chicane and it was renamed in his honor as Variante Ascari.
Video : The story about Alberto Ascari
One of the greatest drivers of all time
Ascari's Formula One career lasted only six seasons but he was remembered as one of the greatest drivers of all time. Formula One victories and titles made him famous, but of course, he was competing at other famous races, such as Targa Florio, Mille Miglia, Carrera Panamericana, Sebring 12 hours or 24 Hours of Le Mans.
He debuted at Le Mans in 1952, driving Ferrari 250 S Berlinetta together with Luigi Villoresi. They retired due to clutch problems. The next year, Ascari and Villoresi competed with Ferrari 340MM Berlinetta and again they didn't reach the 24-hour finish mark. They were close to finish, but the clutch gave up after 229 laps. Of other notable races, Ascari finished second at the 1951 Carrera Panamericana (with Luigi Villoresi in Ferrari 212), he won the 1953 1000 km of Nürburgring (with Nino Farina in Ferrari 375MM) and scored the victory at 1954 Mille Miglia, driving Lancia D24.