The NBR Classic took place on the Nürburgring last Whitsun weekend. In untypical best Eifel weather with lots of sunshine, beautiful classic racing cars from many decades of motorsport history were at the start.
Ferrari is the most legendary name in motorsport and is surrounded by countless legends. There are many reasons for this – one of which is undoubtedly the figure of Enzo Ferrari, an old-school patriarch who determined the fortunes of his Scuderia Ferrari for so long and continued to shape the legend even after his death.
The other, probably the most illustrious name in motorsport, is the Formula One World Championship for drivers and constructors. It has been held every year since 1950, with the constructors’ championship only starting in the 1958 season. Formula 1 is a playground for geniuses and the most daring drivers of their time.
Ferrari and Formula 1 – Formula 1 and Ferrari, is it possible to imagine one without the other? Although practically everything has changed from the beginnings of the world championship to the present day, in terms of marketing and internationalisation, it is difficult to imagine a Formula 1 world championship without Ferrari.
Ferrari is the essence of Formula 1, it is simply the brand that has been synonymous with sportiness and competition from the very beginning. It is also the long history of this racing team with all its ups and downs, dramas and victories and above all the Italian emotions that is probably unrivalled anywhere in the world. Nowhere are the victories as sweet and the defeats as devastating as in Maranello.
Unfortunately, the path from hero to zero is also very short, but there is also the chance for the drivers to become Italian national heroes. This is the reason why almost all Formula 1 drivers one day want to race for the world championship in a Ferrari and, as in the case of Michael Schumacher, win it five times in a row.
After all, with a total of 15 drivers’ titles and 16 constructors’ championships, Scuderia Ferrari is the most successful racing team in Formula 1 history. But there is almost no mediocrity at Ferrari, either you are vastly superior like in 1952/53, in the mid-1970s with Niki Lauda and Luca di Montezemolo and in the early 2000s with Schumacher, Jean Todt and Ross Brawn, or you are almost subterraneanly bad like in the early 1970s, for example.
Also, as many prominent racing drivers have said time and again, politics is and has always been involved at Ferrari. The working atmosphere there is sometimes described as grande casino. The strategy mistakes during the era with Sebastian Vettel alone are legendary, racing cars coming in for a tyre change but the tyres not being ready. All of this sometimes seems extremely unprofessional, and ultimately it is. But the loyal worldwide community of Ferraristi forgives this time and again with incredible equanimity.
Only twice did the number 1 drivers manage to keep order and calm there, once Niki Lauda with his always analytical approach between 1974 and 1977 and then again between 1996 and 2004 Michael Schumacher with his meticulous work.
However, Niki Lauda’s time has to be rated somewhat higher because the Commendatore was still in charge during this period and basically wanted to make all the decisions himself. Legend has it that he was simply no longer told everything and a kind of parallel racing team was created around him.
Enzo Ferrari never had a particularly high opinion of his drivers, no matter how renowned they were. When Niki Lauda resigned in 1977, Ferrari described him as a Judas who had sold himself for three salamis.
There was only one exception with Sr Ferrari. That was the fearless Canadian Gilles Villeneuve. The spectacularly driving Villeneuve, always at or above the limit, drove the Ferraris, which were not really capable of winning at the time, home in races that no one else would have won. His fighting spirit, his willingness to take risks, his dedication – all this is legendary, but it cost him his life in 1982 in practice for the Belgian GP in Zolder, partly because Sr Ferrari failed to establish a clear relationship between Didier Pironi and Gilles Villeneuve as to who was number one and who had to take the back of the queue. That may well have been in the spirit of the sport, but with Villeneuve it was almost bound to end in disaster.
The list of Ferrari drivers who failed in their bid to win the world championship is much longer than the list of successful drivers. And almost no one, not even Michael Schumacher, has left Ferrari in complete peace.
Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel are just some of the names from the recent past who failed due to the Scuderia’s inability and politics. Juan Manuel Fangio left voluntarily after just one year and after winning his fourth world championship and found his fortune at Maserati.
Despite all the shortcomings, despite all the embarrassing mishaps, despite all the dramas and scandals – Ferrari is and remains the essence of Formula 1, the constant in an increasingly crazy global circus. No matter how many racing teams have disappeared, been sold or renamed countless times over the decades, Ferrari has been there from the beginning and always will be. With the best will in the world, I can’t imagine a Formula 1 season without the red racing cars from Maranello, without this grande casino, which ultimately has something almost likeable about it in this well-organised Formula 1 universe.
Unfortunately, it is relatively likely that the Scuderia will also have to take a back seat in 2024, behind Red Bull Racing, perhaps fighting with McLaren and Mercedes for the best of the rest. Lets see whether Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton will be successful with Ferrari in the future ? Find out more about our photographer Ralph Lüker.