It was a promising defeat. #F1 #Ferrari-F1
Enzo’s belief that equally valuable lessons can be learned from defeats and victories is central to Ferrari’s entire history, prompting many moments of brilliance and some thrilling comebacks.
The Romans used to say that success has many fathers, while defeat is always an orphan. Napoleon clearly shared this notion, so it might be surprising to learn that Enzo Ferrari, a character with a touch of Bonaparte about him (albeit one who evaded his Waterloo), never quite saw things like that.
To Enzo’s way of thinking, Defeat, always with a capital D, was seen as a starting point. Yes, to quote another of his celebrated sayings, whoever came second in a race was simply the first last, but disappointment should never lead to resignation. Occasionally, Il Commendatore would use a seemingly contradictory term to describe a defeat: “promising”. It demonstrates the intellectual energy of the man. The ability to avoid the self-pity of the defeated. The tenacity of someone who never stops planning, organising, experimenting.
One of his best-loved maxims, “the finest victory is the next one”, was born from a desire to always accentuate the positive. At Maranello they refused to give up, a characteristic that’s as resolute as ever. Like any other successful company, the history of Ferrari is littered with difficult moments, some dramatic and some even tragic. Despite the disappointments, that glorious story hasn’t been broken; the dream hasn’t been shattered. The record books speak for themselves.
Take the autumn of 1974. At the peak of a #Formula-1
One season marked by the Scuderia’s renewed competitive edge, with Niki Lauda at the wheel alongside #Clay-Regazzoni
, there was an unexpected set-back. On a gloomy afternoon at the Watkins Glen circuit in the US, #Emerson-Fittipaldi
won the title for McLaren. It was a stinging blow for the Prancing Horse and came after a decade of frustrating grand prix results.
The following morning Enzo ordered Mauro Forghieri to start preparing the 312 T: a great car, noted for its revolutionary transverse gearbox. Within 12 months, Lauda celebrated his comeback as World Champion, demonstrating (talking of well-known sayings) that, in the sporting sense at least, revenge isn’t necessarily a dish best served cold. It’s best hot, almost boiling, if there’s a Ferrari involved.
A defeat at the start of the Swinging Sixties was also promising. Although waiting for the cultural and musical upheaval provided by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, technology buffs in England were well ahead of their times, introducing the rear engine placement on grand prix cars. A lot has been said about the Drake’s apparent nostalgia for the countryside, and how he liked to tell colleagues that the oxen went ahead of the plough in the fields.
However, his love of rural life (Enzo wrote about seeing something in the spirit of workers in the fields around Modena that suggested they could become mechanics) didn’t stop research and development. Far from it. By 1961, the 156 F1 had moved its oxen to the rear. The car, designed by Carlo Chiti and driven by Phil Hill, scored a bullseye, bringing the world title back to Maranello.
In other words, the company founded by Enzo in 1947 has in its DNA the knowledge that the motto “try and try again” isn’t just a homage to Galileo, to Descartes and to Dante’s Paradiso (as his muse, Beatrice, could be considered Dante’s literary and romantic Ferrari). Trying and trying again allows you to sublimate the very idea of defeat. Reinterpreted as another stimulus, painful in its immediate outcomes (who likes to lose?), but hugely valuable in terms of what can be learned in the dark hours of disillusionment.
Staying with F1, it’s perhaps no coincidence that, in more than 60 years of grand prix escapades, Ferrari is the only team never to have taken a break. The Scuderia has always been there, since #1950
. Others (or rather all of them, from #Mercedes
) have come and gone, often due to a lack of results. In so doing, Ferrari’s competitors have unwittingly borne witness to the uniqueness of the Maranello manufacturer.
But how can you then escape from the magnetic intensity of a memory that takes you straight back to the events of 1982? An annus horribilis for the Drake and his people, struck down by irreparable grief for Gilles Villeneuve, killed on the track at Zolder, followed by Didier Pironi’s awful accident, which saw him confined to hospital when he seemed to have the championship in his pocket. Enzo’s response to these defeats, which were about so much more than merely failing to reach a chequered flag ahead of anyone else, was an extraordinary declaration of bravery and valour.
Forghieri didn’t give up his responsibilities as Technical Director: amid tears and gritted teeth he carried on with the development of the 126C2, a car propelled by a powerful turbo engine. And, at the end of that ill-fated season, thanks also to the contribution of the Frenchman, Patrick Tambay, and the Italian-American, Mario Andretti, the Prancing Horse went on to win the World Constructors Title.
A strong sense of identity surfaces among the fragments of glory brought back up to now, extending beyond the legacy of the Founder. Because in #2000
, for instance, when #Mika-Häkkinen
seemed certain to prolong a barren stretch that had already lasted more than 20 years, promising defeats in Austria, Germany, Hungary and Belgium were the launch pads for an astonishing change of fortunes. At Monza and Indianapolis, Suzuka and Malaysia, the legendary Michael Schumacher turned the lessons he’d learned into gold. The German won every race, in a car designed by Rory Byrne. And a new Ferrari chapter began.
What rivals find hard to understand is the lack of a particular word in Ferrari’s vocabulary: resignation. Because resignation has never found a home at Maranello.
After a very difficult #2014
season the Scuderia confirmed Enzo Ferrari’s belief that defeats could still have a promising outcome and force the team to try even harder next time. In #2015
duly returned to the elite group of competitors, thanks to the determination of its drivers, #Sebastian-Vettel
(below) and #Kimi-Raikkonen
A strong identity surfaces among the glory.
“Bravery and valour have always been key Ferrari attributes”
Ferrari team work found its greatest reward during what is now known as the “Schumacher era”. The long title chase, which started in 1996, came to fruition in #1999
, bringing five Drivers Titles and six Constructors Titles to #Maranello
. Or, to be precise, six Drivers Titles and eight Constructors Titles, considering that Kimi Räikkönen’s (pictured on this page) 2007 title and the 2007 and 2008 Constuctors Titles had their origins in the German driver’s Scuderia heyday.
Enzo Ferrari used to keep all the car pieces that failed during races in a cupboard he called “the museum of errors”
The collection was not only an example of his wit, but also evidence of the man’s intuition and firm belief that every single part of a car was an important component. A message that he was always keen to pass on to his team.
Publicly, Enzo would always blame a car’s malfunction on a cheap element worth just a few Lire, but had a different message for his staff. He insisted on the absolute care of every minute detail, because even something apparently insignificant could determine the outcome of a race.
Niki Lauda was famous for his rather direct style of talking. His comments were often censored and repackaged before reaching Enzo’s ears thanks to a dedicated team of mediators close to Il Commendatore.
The Austrian driver arrived at Maranello in #1974
after a difficult season for Ferrari and soon made some caustic remarks about the car during testing. His comments were altered to ensure that Enzo would not take the opinions of a newly appointed driver who had yet to prove his worth in the wrong way.
Enzo’s mediators were rewarded with the successful #1975
season, when Lauda won the Drivers Title in the #Ferrari-312T
Niki Lauda’s 312 T, with its unique shape and transverse gearbox, seen here at Monaco in 1975, brought the Scuderia its first title in 11 years. Bottom left, Patrick Tambay in #1982
, Ferrari’s annus horribilis, dominated by the Scuderia but forever marked by the death of Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi’s accident.
At Maranello they have always refused to give up.
The eternal battle – sometimes successful, sometimes difficult – against British rivals has provided the plotline of many chapters in the history of #Ferrari
, pictured right at #Monaco
, and John Surtees in #1965
, pictured below at #Silverstone
, were unable to retain the world titles won in the previous years.
World Champion in #1964
is pictured here the following year, when the Scuderia was defeated but never gave up. This attitude paid off when Sebastian Vettel won the Malaysian Grand Prix in March #2015