Top ten… Italian Ferrari drivers

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Giancarlo Fisichella is the latest Italian to drive for Ferrari
Giancarlo Fisichella is the latest Italian to drive for Ferrari

We’ve not had a good old-fashioned top ten in a little while and I thought the occasion of Giancarlo Fisichella achieving his life’s ambition by joining Ferrari for the Italian Grand Prix was worth marking.

Here are ten of the best Italian drivers to race for the prancing horse. Will we be counting Fisichella among them soon?

Alberto Ascari

Starts for Ferrari: 27
Wins for Ferrari: 13

The only Italian driver to win a world championship – two, in fact – while driving for Ferrari. But he didn’t do it at the wheel of an F1 car, for in 1952 and 1953 the world championship was run to Formula Two regulations.

Alberto Ascari dominated in his Ferrari 500, winning every race he entered in 1952 except the Indianapolis 500. His winning streak lasted into 1953, and his nine consecutive victories remains a record.

Juan Manuel Fangio considered him one of his toughest rivals, but in 1955 Ascari died at Monza while testing a Ferrari sports car. The corner where he perished now bears his name, but is differently configured.

Giuseppe ‘Nino’ Farina

Starts for Ferrari: 20
Wins for Ferrari: 1

Giuseppe Farina won the first ever world championship for Alfa Romeo in 1950, and was regarded by his peers as an especially ruthless driver.

Joining Ferrari in 1952, he was runner-up to Ascari in the championship with four second places and no wins a clear sign of his team mate’s supremacy. He won just once for Ferrari, at the Nurburgring in 1953.

Farina died in a road accident in 1966 while he was on his way to the French round of the world championship. At the time he was working on the set of John Frankenheimer’s film “Grand Prix” as a stunt driver.

Piero Taruffi

Starts for Ferrari: 13
Wins for Ferrari: 1

A former motor cycle racer who switched to four wheels in 1930, Taruffi joined Ferrari in 1949, one year before the world championship began.

He was third overall in 1952 behind team mates Ascari and Farina and scored his only world championship win at the Swiss Grand Prix at Bremgarten. Taruffi later drove a Ferrari 315 Sport to victory in the final competitive Mille Miglia, in 1957.

Luigi Villoresi

Starts for Ferrari: 20
Wins for Ferrari: 0

Villoresi had some of his greatest successes before World War Two driving for Maserati. That included wins on the Targa Florio sports car race in 1939 and 1940 – but the latter was marred by the death of his brother Emilio.

He returned to racing after the war – during which he’d been captured and held prisoner – but was badly injured at Bremgarten in 1948. Two years later he was in Ferrari’s Grand Prix team, but his only wins for them came in non-championship events.

Luigi Musso

Starts for Ferrari: 15
Wins for Ferrari: 1

Musso took Villoresi’s place at Ferrari in 1956. He was a lap behind the leaders in his first race at Argentina, when Ferrari team mate and local hero Fangio stopped with fuel pump failure. Musso was ushered into the pits and Fangio took over his car, driving it to a shared victory.

It was Musso’s only win for Ferrari. The following year he refused to hand his car over to Fangio in similar circumstances at Monza, and later retired after a tyre failure.

Musso was a ‘coming man’ during the reign of Fangio, picking up a string of second places in 1957 and 1958. But he was killed during the French Grand Prix at Reims when he hit a ditch at 150mph and his car flipped over.

Giancarlo Baghetti

Starts for Ferrari: 8
Wins for Ferrari: 1

Achieved the remarkable and never-equalled feat of winning his first Grand Prix, but seldom did as much as score a point again after that.

Read about how Giancarlo Baghetti won in his first Grand Prix start.

Ignazio Giunti

Starts for Ferrari: 4
Wins for Ferrari: 0

Giunti showed a lot of promise with wins in the Sebring 12 Hours and Targa Florio sports car races. He made his Grand Prix debut at the mighty Spa-Francorchamps circuits – back when it was a tree-lined, flat-out 14km monster – and scored an impressive fourth place.

Giunti stayed with Ferrari for 1971 but during the Buenos Aires 1,000km that year he hit the stationary car of Jean-Pierre Beltoise. Giunti’s car exploded and he died from his injuries.

Lorenzo Bandini

Starts for Ferrari: 35
Wins for Ferrari: 1

Another promising Italian driver who met a tragic end at a young age.

Bandini was championed by Ferrari team manager Eugenio Dragoni, which was met with hostility by team mate John Surtees, who had won the championship for Ferrari in 1964. Surtees left the team, to Bandini’s regret, as the pair got on well.

Bandini had won his first Grand Prix at Zeltweg in Austria in 1964. But by 1967 he found himself thrust into the role of team leader and the pressure told.

While chasing Denny Hulme around Monte-Carlo Bandini crashed at the chicane and suffered terrible burns, to which he succumbed three days later.

Ludovico Scarfiotti

Starts for Ferrari: 6
Wins for Ferrari: 1

Scarfiotti was appointed by Dragoni in a plainly political move – he was the nephew of Gianni Agnelli, then heir to the Fiat empire which took over Ferrari in 1969.

Nonetheless, Scarfiotti remains the last Italian driver to win his home Grand Prix in a Ferrari. His victory at Monza in 1966 was one of only two starts for the team that year. He left Ferrari in 1967 and was killed in a crash at a hilldlimb the following year.

Michele Alboreto

Starts for Ferrari: 80
Wins for Ferrari: 3

The driver who came closest to repeating Ascari’s feat was Michele Alboreto. He joined Ferrari from Tyrrell in 1984, having already won twice for the British team.

Alboreto became a winner for Ferrari on his third appearance for the team at Zolder in Belgium. In 1985 he won twice and led the world championship at the halfway point of the season. But Ferrari failed to heed his warnings about reliability and Alain Prost snatched the title as Alboreto failed to finish the last five races.

He spent three more years with the team but never won again. He left F1 after 1994, subsequently raced in Champ Cars and later switched to sports car racing. Tragically, Alboreto was killed testing an Audi at the Laustizring in Germany in 2001.

And not forgetting…

It would be wrong to leave Italian-born Mario Andretti out of this feature. He was born in Italy, but his family moved to America and took on US citizenship.

Andretti had a stellar racing career with victories in major races and championships across a range of disciplines including, of course, the Formula 1 world championship, which he won for Lotus in 1978.

Andretti won his first Grand Prix for Ferrari in South Africa in 1971, and started a total of 12 races for the team. That included two starts in the final races of 1982, substituting for the injured Didier Pironi. This was also the last time, prior to this year, that Ferrari used four different drivers in a single season.

Who was the best Italian Ferrari driver? What can Fischella achieve for the team in the final five races of 2009? Have your say in the comments. Plus, add your suggestions for future top tens…

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52 comments on “Top ten… Italian Ferrari drivers”

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  1. What can Fischella achieve for the team in the final five races of 1009?

    2009 :)

    I think Fisi will do much much better than Badoer. I don’t think he’ll beat Kimi but I can see him getting a podium in one race and solid points in the rest.

    1. Changed it :-)

  2. It would be wrong to leave Italian-born Mario Andretti out of this feature. He was born in Italy, but his to America and took on US citizenship.

    moved to America?

    Anyway, it’s amazing how many of them died! Sometimes I forgot just how dangerous this sport used to be.

    1. Even Vito Corleone was born in the small Sicilian town of Corleone in 1887 but moved to America.

    2. Anyway, it’s amazing how many of them died! Sometimes I forgot just how dangerous this sport used to be.

      The deaths of Italian drivers was one of the reasons Enzo Ferrari tended against hiring them as time went on – Italian racing driver dies in Italian racing car never made for good press coverage back home.

    3. Fixed that too!

  3. Gosh, racing used to be a killer – 7 out of 10 died during races or in tests or driving to a race….ooah!

    Keith: What about Nuvolari? He was not a Ferrari / F1 driver, but many consider him the best Italian driver ever. Regarding a future top 10 list, what about the 10 best ever Brazilian drivers? Well, perhaps the top 5 will do, lest we end up having the likes of Ricardo Rossetti or Enrique Bernoldi in it, which would be somewhat surreal (imagine Senna and Rossetti in the same list) and a bit embarrasing…

    1. What about Nuvolari? He was not a Ferrari / F1 driver

      Ten best… Italian Ferrari drivers

      1. Since an nationality exception was made to accomodate Andretti, one could perhaps make a team exception to include one of the greatest drivers ever, who happened to be Italian.

    2. I kept this just to world championship era drivers, but Nuvolari would be the first addition if we went pre-1950.

  4. But he didn’t do it at the wheel of an F1 car, for in 1952 and 1953 the world championship was run to Formula Two regulations.

    So how then can the ’52 and ’53 chapionships be counted in any of the records for the Formula One World Championship?

    1. I believe that if it had been run to F1 regs (at the time), then there would have been too few entrants to constitute a “championship”. Therefore the use of lower-technology, lower-cost, slower cars allowed more entrants. Sound familiar….?

      1. F2 regs were used for F1 in 1952-53 because of the lack of availability of F1 cars, which at that point were mostly pre-war cars like the Alfa Romeo 158. There were plenty of entrants, just very few cars for them to race.

        F2 cars were far more widely available and were only used until a new set of F1 technical rules could be devised.

        1. Where had all the 1951 F1 cars disappeared to then? I guess they’d all ended up as giant fireballs, by the sounds of it.

          1. I think they were mostly prewar. I guess F1 wanted the cars to be more modern than that and so changed the regulations. Or like you said they all expired.

  5. Seeing as you mentioned Mario Andretti shouldn’t Jean Alesi get an honourable mention? He is a “French Sicillian” after all.

    1. Seeing as you mentioned Mario Andretti shouldn’t Jean Alesi get an honourable mention? He is a “French Sicillian” after all.

      Yeah but Alesi gets disqualified for looking like President Sarkozy, that and he seemed to enjoy crashing more then racing, like Kovy.

    2. Or Clay Regazzoni, Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa. They have had lots of almost italians

  6. So many of them died!!! Even Ludovico Scarfiotti who managed to survive the race course died in an accident. Schumacher suffered a horrendous crash in 1999. Now Massa suffers a terrible accident.

    It is as if Ferrari drivers are under some sort of curse.

    1. You forgot about Gilles…

  7. i seem to remember reading that farina could have been exceptional but his best years were behind him when the WDC began. and i agree with Antifia, there should be some mention of Nuvolari, one of the ‘greats’ according to many.

  8. Here’s a question that’s not altogether unrelated to this article:

    Which F1 team has had the highest number of drivers from it’s home country?

    My first instinct is to say McLaren and Williams would be up there, but then when I think about it maybe not…


    1. But would you count McLaren’s home country as New Zealand or the UK?

      1. That’s a good point. Anyway, if we consider what FIA say, McLaren is a British team as they have an English licence to race.

      2. What country did they hold their license in when Bruce McLaren was in charge? If it was NZ then look at both countries seperately and then amalgamate the results…

  9. I think Fisichella should help Ferrari keep third in the constructors championship with some points finishes and he may even manage to get a podium. I doubt he will manage to beat Raikkonen in normal conditions.

    1. I would have agreed with you two weeks ago but after Fisi’s stunning consistent drive at Spa, given equal opportunity I think he could easily match or beat Kimi.
      A replay of the Spa safety car situation and Kimi wouldn’t breeze by Fisi so easy given the same KERS!
      Could be a Ferrari 1 2 if the rest drop their collective balls as they did at Spa.
      And that would be spectacular at Monza, even more so if Fisi got the win!

  10. Shouldn’t take much for Fisi to get in among the Scarfiottis of this world. A visit to the podium at Monza, or a win somewhere else, should do it.

    These top tens are great – would be hard to pick out the 10 best ones…how about the 10 best driver bust-ups and sackings? Prost, Mansell (McLaren), Scott Speed, Bourdais could get in, Piquet definitely will, and depending on the Singapore investigations he could be no.1

    1. Fernando Alonso at McLaren has got to be there!

  11. Interesting that you mention M.G. Andretti and his Italian descent. Silly thing is, though, that when Mario and twin-brother Aldo were born, the town of Motovun was indeed Italian. It was handed to Yugoslavia after WWII, though, while becoming Croatian after the break-up of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. In the mean time, the Andrettis opted for US citizenship.

    1. Seems like if you drove for Ferrari, ate spaguetti and had two t’s in your surmane you were qualified as Italian….Sorry Keith, cheap shot from me.

    2. This just gets even more complicated!

  12. The very best has been Alberto Ascari, no doubts.
    I remember in the 70’s Enzo Ferrari wasn’t willing to sign with an italian driver, because of press criticism if one of the drivers died.
    Now, formula 1 is much safer and the lack of Ferrari italian drivers is because they are not fast enough. And probably Ferrari wouldn’t expose an italian young driver to the enormous press pressure.
    Fisichella is fast and expert enough to fit in the role, I think they made a good choice.
    I thought Badoer also was a good choice, and I’m quite sure that nobody, neither himself, could have thought he would have been so slow.

  13. It’s doubtful that Fisi will do any more races for Ferrari after this season, but if we could see him stand on the top podium once before the close of the year, it’d be great.

    1. The most important thing for Fisi is that he has secured for himself a deal for the forthcoming season. Probably he would have not raced yet for Force India, and probably for any other team. So for him it was very important to sign to become a test driver

  14. But…won’t it be banned, next year also, to test cars during the season?
    So…what’s worth to be a text driver?

    1. Reserve driver, is probably more as they should be known now. But we don’t know what Ferrari have in mind for next season, will Massa be able to continue, he may still experience some adverse reactions and have to miss some races, and if Kimi goes and they chance Schuey, then there may be some chance for Fisi to get a drive. But if your going to be relegated to “Reserve” driver, there is no better place to be really is there?

  15. There are quite a few, but there is only one.
    Gilles Villeneuve
    nuff said

    1. oops!….ITALIAN Ferrari drivers.
      Sorry, any Ferrari list that doesn’t mention Gilles gets me going. I’ll read, and retain, more closely next time!

  16. My favourite ever driver was Alessandro Zanardi. I treat him equal with Ayrton Senna.
    Things he was doing in ChampCar were amazing.
    His Laguna Seca pass is legendary.

    1. “Things he was doing in ChampCar were amazing.”
      Not so much so in his two stints in F1 tough.

      1. Yes. Minardi, Lotus, Williams-Mecachrome… no wonder. F1 is irrelevant.

        1. He managed to be beaten by his team-mates at Minardi, Lotus and Williams. Nobody expected him to win GPs in those cars, but if he was any good he should have beaten the other guy in the same car.
          F1 is irrelevant? ChampCar is the American version for the sport in which they did not manage to be competitive (like American Football is a phony version of Rugby and Basebal a fat-man’s version of Criket). It is just rubish. F1 man that are too old or too slow go to ChampCars and rule. ChampCar champions come to formula 1 and embarrass themselves every single time.

          1. I meant F1 is irrelevant to my liking of Zanardi, who WAS a super talented driver.

  17. Your top 10 only covers Ferrari’s post war…. if you include Scuderia Ferarri pre war when running Alfa’s then you can add Tazio Nuvolari, one of the greatest racing drivers of all time…. not sure about how many wins he had with Ferrari …. but it was a lot !

    1. But Keith wrote only about F1 drivers.
      ‘Cause we could also name Ferrari drivers from all other series – sportscar racing, Le Mans etc. if there have been some significant Italian names.

      Btw. According to the data on Wiki, Nuvolari has never won a race in a Ferrari car. Although he has won a race (or races) for Ferrari in an Alfa Romeo car, which Scuderia Ferrari were running in those times.

      1. But they were grand prix’s, and the cars did carry the prancing horse….. and keith just said “ten of the best Italian driver to race for the prancing horse”….. A long time ago but Taz was a great driver by any standards…..

  18. Don’t forget Luca Badoer…

    1. it says “Ten best…”

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