Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Maserati – Making History

[cars name="Alfa Romeo"] Tipo B (P3)
1935 German Grand Prix
Tazio Nuvolari

The Nürburgring, 1935. Italian Tazio Nuvolari starts the German Grand Prix in front of government officials, 250,000 spectators, and an entire regiment of the Nazi army. His 265-hp Alfa Romeo P3 is almost three years old. The 400-hp Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union giants in front of him on the grid – thundering, state-sponsored monsters on their home track – seem, to the layman, indomitable. There’s so little hope for anything other than a German win that race officials have brought only one recording of a national anthem: “Deutschland über Alles.”

After a strong start, wet conditions give Nuvolari’s lighter, more nimble, and more reliable Alfa the upper hand. He fights it out at the front of the pack, only to fall more than a minute behind when broken pit equipment delays a fuel stop. Over the remaining ten laps, Nuvolari becomes a man possessed, slamming his way through the Germans before an astonished crowd, pressing the leading Mercedes so hard that it blows both its rear tires. After his win, flustered officials search frantically for a copy of the Italian national anthem. In the end, they don’t have to look far: the recording used is Nuvolari’s own copy of “La Marcia Reale,” which he carries perpetually as a good-luck charm.

Maserati 250F
1957 German Grand Prix
Juan Manuel Fangio

The Nürburgring, 1957. Juan Manuel Fangio, four-time world champion, is forty-six years old. Fangio sits on the grid with a plan. His Maserati’s tires are short-lived, so light fuel loads and an early, well-orchestrated pit stop are necessary. He qualifies on the pole, knowing that he must stay out in front and build a thirty-second lead in order to keep the stop from costing him his position. He passes the early leaders – Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins, both in Ferraris, both younger and hungrier – painstakingly builds up his lead, and pits. But nervous mechanics botch the stop, and the planned thirty-second tire-and-fuel pit ends up taking three times as long. In the interim, Hawthorn and Collins fly by. And then, calmly, Fangio gets back in his car and proceeds to make history.

What follows is the stuff of legend: A gear higher in almost every corner. The first 190-kph (118-mph) lap of the ‘Ring. Seven successive lap records. And, amazingly, a win, clinching Fangio’s fifth championship. He gets out of the car, tells himself he never, ever wants to drive like that again, and retires the following year.

Scuderia Ferrari
2000-2004 F1 Fleet

Ten years ago, it arguably was possible to distill Ferrari’s long competition history into a single achievement. If pressed, you could probably come up with one race, one win, one choice combination of man and machine that epitomized the Italian marque’s glory. But not any longer. Ferrari’s domination of Formula 1 from 2000 to 2004 was so total and so complete that it effectively cast fifty years of motorsport success into the shadows.

When Michael Schumacher arrived at Ferrari in 1995, the once-great team was in tatters. Twelve years had passed since the Scuderia last won a constructor’s championship; eighteen had gone by since Maranello had produced a world-champion driver. Fortunately, Schumacher’s talents extended far outside the cockpit – he was, and remains, a man singularly devoted, a man with the capability to inspire greatness in others. When Ferrari gave him free rein to assemble an engineering team in 1996, he surrounded himself with the best possible people and worked tirelessly to maximize their talents. The results – six consecutive constructor’s championships (starting in 1999), five straight driver’s championships, and a level of dominance never before seen in the sport – speak for themselves.

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