Enzo Ferrari, the enigmatic founder of the world’s most famous car brand and racing team, passed away on this day 25 years ago.
Respectfully referred to by those around him as ‘Commendatore’ (commander), Ferrari preferred the humbler term ‘Ingegnere’ (engineer). Born in the northern Italian city of Modena in 1898, Ferrari raced cars himself until the early thirties, while working for Alfa Romeo.
Ferrari formed his eponymous company in Maranello two years after World War Two ended. Now campaigning his own cars, they were on the grid for the second round of the new world championship at Monaco in 1950.
The following year they won their first race, at Silverstone. With characteristic melodrama Ferrari “cried for joy”.
“But my tears of enthusiasm were mixed with those of sorrow,” he added, “because I thought ‘today I have killed my mother'” – referring to the defeat he had inflicted on the Alfa Romeo team.
Ferrari was afflicted by personal and professional tragedies. Alberto Ascari won the championship for Ferrari twice in the fifties, but died testing a Ferrari sports car in 1955.
The following year Ferrari’s son Dino died at the age of 24, suffering from muscular dystrophy. Another son, Piero, was born to another woman and only officially recognized after the death of Enzo’s wife Laura in 1978.
By this time Ferrari himself was an increasingly rare presence at F1 races. A ceremonial visit to practice for the Italian Grand Prix was the only time he watched his cars in action away from the factory and test circuit.
His death in 1988 came during a difficult season for his team. McLaren had swept the board and scored their 11th win in as many races at the following round in Belgium. But at Monza fortune smiled on Enzo’s cars.
A rare engine failure sidelined Alain Prost’s McLaren, and two laps from home Jean-Louis Schlesser blundered into Ayrton Senna’s path, taking him out of the lead. That left Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto to score an emotional one-two for Ferrari on home ground – a fitting farewell to the Ingegnere.
Here he is in a rare appearance in an advert for Goodyear tyres from 1988: