What you didn’t know about Enzo Ferrari

Enzo Ferrari created one of the greatest icons in world motoring and did so through a Formula One team that has become as large as the sport itself. His legacy will live in the form of his name that will appear on racing cars for as long as racing exists.

Enzo was an incredible man who commandeered enormous respect wherever he went. His actions have had a long lasting effect on Formula One as well as Italy itself. His story is an amazing one, and here are some interesting facts about Enzo you might not have known.

Enzo Ferrari was an accomplished driver in his own right.

Before Enzo started making cars he loved racing them. His boyhood dream was to be a racing driver and he started entering amateur competitions as soon as he could, usually in cars that he helped prepare himself.

Enzo was actually quite a good driver and competed in some very competitive events. He won a few significant Italian races and competed against the likes of Antonio Ascari (Alberto’s dad) and Tazio Nuvolari (the Michael Schumacher of 1930). Although Enzo raced with some success he was never as good as those great drivers, which was largely because he hated pushing his cars too hard. He could not keep up with Ascari and Nuvolari because he had too much mechanical sympathy for his machines.

Enzo was signed as a driver for the Alfa Romeo factory team, which was a huge honour in those days, and took three victories for them in Italy. However, after practice for the biggest race of his life, the 1924 French Grand Prix, Enzo mysteriously withdrew from the race due to sickness and quit full time driving. Some have suggested that he wasn’t ready to be humiliated on the sport’s biggest stage and that he chickened out. Although Enzo continued racing every now and then, he never had the same level of success.

His relationship with Alfa Romeo blossomed as a result of his driving, because he was able to use his reputation as a fast driver to sell Alfa’s from his own dealership back in Modena.

Enzo Ferrari had two separate families.

Enzo Ferrari married Laura Garello in 1923, and they ‘officially’ stayed together until her death ten years before his own. Together they had a son called Dino who passed away at age 24 from muscular dystrophy. However, Enzo also had a mistress called Lina and they had a son as well who was named Piero. The linage of Enzo’s illegitimate son was not widely exposed and until Laura Ferrari’s death in 1978, Piero was forced to adopt his mother’s maiden name of Lardi.

Piero owns ten percent of Ferrari today and you will often see him referred to as Piero Lardi Ferrari.

Laura Ferrari made her presence known around Maranello and this frustrated a lot of people high up in the organisation. Her constant interference was one of the reasons that a large number of engineers stormed out of the Scuderia and started their own team in 1962. Funnily enough, her presence also frustrated Enzo which is why he sought solace with Lina.

Enzo mixed his time between both families. He would conceivably have dinner at one house and then head over to the other, and was effectively living two separate lives.

Enzo Ferrari visited Dino’s grave every day.

Enzo was riddled with grief following the death of his first born son in 1956. Not only did Enzo lose a son, but lost the man who would inherit the family dynasty he had worked so hard to create. Enzo famously once said “The only true love can be a father’s love for his son” and he wore black sunglasses everyday for the rest of his life following Dino’s passing. Enzo named a string of successful Grand Prix cars after his son, along with a collection of high performance road vehicles. He also named the Imola Grand Prix circuit and a local school in his honour.

Enzo’s life was regularly punctuated with grief and this makes up a large part of his character. Along with his son, his brother and father also died young. Then of course there are the many drivers that he felt strongly for, who perished in his cars. In his later years many people described him as cold and uncaring, and perhaps this was a defence mechanism that he used against the pain he had felt for much of his life.

Enzo Ferrari had a very hostile relationship with Juan Manuel Fangio, despite their shared success.

Enzo Ferrari totally loved some drivers but absolutely detested others. Strangely, despite being one of the best of all time, and despite winning Ferrarithe World Championship in 1954, Enzo Ferrari did not like Juan Manuel Fangio.

Perhaps even stranger was that the feeling was mutual.

Firstly, Enzo did not like the way Fangio jumped from team to team. He wanted his drivers to be devoted to Ferrari and nothing else. Loyalty meant a lot to Enzo and he didn’t like Fangio’s tactic of simply jumping into the fastest car. He also didn’t like that Fangio’s success detracted from his own. As far as Enzo Ferrari was concerned, his cars won races and his drivers lost them. He did not like the way that Fangio’s success was not seen in the same light. Everyone knew the Argentinean was the best driver of the day so it was Fangio that won the race, not Ferrari.

He also disliked Fangio’s girlfriend who was rude and intrusive.

Juan Manuel didn’t feel any love for Enzo either. He was probably upset that Enzo detested him from day one, and that might explain why he started claiming Ferrari was trying to sabotage his championship efforts. It sounds like Alonso has more in common with Fangio than we first thought! We will never know the truth for sure, but Fangio’s claims are almost certainly false. Enzo Ferrari did not like seeing his cars break down and would have been angry that Fangio suggested he did.

Fangio only ended up at Ferrari because the dominant Mercedes team pulled out of F1, and he needed to get himself into another quick car. Ferrari was his only option, and Enzo wanted the best driver of the day so he could take best advantage of Mercedes’ withdrawal. Their relationship lasted just one year.

Enzo Ferrari never attended race meetings.

Many people know that Ferrari never attended the actual races but no one knows for sure why. He attended Friday practice for the Italian Grand Prix once per year but that was it. Some people have suggested that Enzo couldn’t stand the sight of his cars being damaged, or that he was afraid of travelling, or that he simply didn’t care about racing.

The most likely explanation though, is that Enzo liked distancing himself from the team so that he could easily blame other people for any problems. I’m sure we’ve all found it easy to criticise the Ferrari team from our living rooms, and Enzo felt exactly the same way. He liked dragging people into his office and explaining to them why they cost his team the race victory. By removing himself from the day-to-day operations he could blame people for the team’s issues rather than make them his own.

The problem with this way of working was that Enzo was rarely told the full truth by those at the circuit. Everyone was afraid of Enzo’s wrath and would invent all sorts of stories to avoid it. Ferrari engineers became well known for unfairly blaming everything on the drivers, which is part of the reason why so many of them left the team in disgust.

Enzo Ferrari was buried within an hour of his death.

Enzo Ferrari’s health deteriorated significantly in his late days and those close to him knew that his passing was imminent. They also knew that his death would spark emotional scenes all over the country and that thousands would feel moved to pay their respects. They rightly wanted Enzo’s funeral to be a gentle and private affair, and went to extreme efforts to ensure this was the case.

Enzo Ferrari died in his bed early on a Sunday morning, and within an hour his body had been laid to rest following a short funeral. It was a fitting and dignified end for the man who wanted to be remembered after his death through the cars that bear his name.

Post a comment