Total Production: 8 1954 - 1955
Teams in motor racing are in the never-ending pursuit of staying ahead of the regulations. It isn't about being unsafe, it's about being unhindered. And in the case of Ferrari's 625, neither they nor the world, would realize just how ahead of the curve they would actually be.
Heading into the 1951 Formula One World Championship it was widely known the only two strong competitors in the field were Alfa Romeo and Scuderia Ferrari. But there was a problem. The costs associated with Formula One, even in those days, were already too high. The Alfa Romeo team had been using the old pre-war 158/159 Alfetta design. Costs associated with competing in the World Championship over the course of a year were already too high. But to create a whole new car that was also competitive enough to battle with the Ferrari 375 would be a cost too high for Alfa Romeo to bear. Therefore, change was coming. Everyone knew, but not everyone had the capital to really try and anticipate it. Nobody had the means that is…with the exception of Ferrari.
Well before the end of the 1951 season it was well known that the governing-body would make some changes to the regulations in order to reduce costs and increase competition. A reduction in engine capacity was certainly one of the moves to be expected but nothing had been formalized for certain. This would lead to the governing-body making the decision to run the World Championship for the 1952 and 1953 seasons according to Formula 2 regulations. It gave themselves, and manufacturers, more time to set certain parameters.
Despite some of the uncertainty, Ferrari would set to work fashioning a car that would subscribe to expected specifications. Taking into account these expected specifications, Ferrari would design and build the Ferrari 625 F1. This car would be built and make its debut as early as September of 1951. But then the governing-body would decide to go with Formula 2 for the following couple of years. The designers would take the engine and would keep the same external dimensions but would cast a reduced 2.0-liter internal capacity. This engine would be dropped into the 625 body and voila…the record-setting 500 Tipo F2 would be born.
Of course, the 500 F2 would go on to great fame and adulation for its performances against somewhat inferior competitors, that is, until Maserati came back into the picture with its A6GCM and A6SSG. Yet despite the presence of a resurgent Maserati effort Ferrari's 500 would still provide Alberto Ascari with back-to-back World Drivers Championships.
Then, with the reintroduction of Formula One to the World Championship in 1954, it would seem there would be a natural evolution from the 500 F2, and there would be. Ferrari would design and build the 553 F2 and the 553 F1. However, it had been the predecessor, that forward-thinking, anticipatory design by Ferrari that had led to the 500 F2. The 500 had certainly worked. So was there a need to evolve ahead, or, backward?
Perhaps using the same logic, 1954 would finally be the year in which the world would get to see Ferrari's 625 F1 compete in another World Championship race after its debut in Bari in September of 1951.
At the time of its debut in 1951, the 625 F1's design was certainly a departure and a rather huge leap forward in design when even compared to the mighty 375. Of course, the major influence to the car's design would come from the 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder, 210hp engine designed and built by Aurelio Lampredi.
The 375 F1 had been designed in mind of housing the massive 4.5-liter V12 engine. This gave the car, especially its nose, a large, round appearance that would be considered anything but sleek. But that would change with the 625 F1. The use of aluminum bodywork over a tubular chassis enabled the design team to create a beautifully sculpted design that was both rigid and strong.
Having only a 4-cylinder engine to build a car around, the team at Ferrari could truly make a beautifully sleek design. The shorter in-line engine would allow for a much lower-profiled nose. This also meant the line of the top of the bodywork was lower-profiled as it gently arose traveling aft toward the driver's cockpit.
The radiator inlet on the 500 would undergo changes depending upon the race. However, the inlet on the 625 would be part of a longer nose that allowed more air to flow underneath the car thereby reducing more turbulence, and therefore, drag. It also gave the car a much more appealing look as well, which was the way aerodynamics in the day was pretty much decided back in the day. The idea was, 'If it looked good it had to be fast'.
A part of being fast comes from a truly aerodynamic car. However, the majority of the speed comes from sheer power. And the 625 F1 would use a 2.5-liter, in-line four-cylinder engine that was capable of producing 210hp at 7000rpm. Ignition would come from twin-plug Marelli magnetos. The twin overhead cam design would be mated with two Weber 50 DCO carburetors to help produce the power that would propel the car from zero to 60 mph in only about 6 seconds and could complete a quarter-mile distance in just under 12 seconds.
Despite the power the in-line 4-cylinder engine was producing, the beautifully-shaped and elegant nose design would provide plenty of cool air to the radiator which meant the bodywork around the engine maintained a very clean look apart from a couple of small slit vents that adorned the top of the chassis. The only disruptions that were to be found ran along the lower portions of the side bodywork. Large cooling louvers would be used to extract the heat built up inside the engine compartment.
Besides sculpted bodywork providing clearance for elements of the engine stored under the cowling, the dominant feature protruding out the sides of the bodywork would be the large multiple exhaust pipes that would blend into one large pipe extending back along the car, by the cockpit opening and out the back of the car. Of course one of the many elements attached to the exhaust pipes would be the perforated cover attached over the top of the hot exhaust to help protect the driver's arm since the pipe ran right along the deeply cut out opening in the cockpit bodywork.
Also adorning the sides of the bodywork would be simple arched pieces of thick sheet metal. These would be simple devices to prevent rocks and other elements from being thrown up into the driver's face from the front wheels.
While being fast would be terribly important for any grand prix car, its ability to handle and be stable through the corners would be nearly as important. The front suspension of the 625 F1 was comprised of double wishbones and a lower leaf spring. In addition, the front suspension would also utilize an anti-roll bar and Houdaille hydraulic dampers.
The rear suspension would used the ever-popular de Dion live axle that would also use twin radius arms and Houdaille hydraulic dampers on a transverse lower leaf spring. All said, the front and rear suspension would provide good control and handling qualities that would match well with the power of the 2.5-liter engine.
Besides the front and rear suspensions providing the 625 F1 good handling, large finned drums would provide the braking power to arrest the 1320 pound car. The finned drums were important evolutions in that cooler air could pass between the fins allowing the heat generated inside the drum housing to transfer the heat to the cooler air passing by. This would help to maintain braking effectiveness and delay fading.
Behind a small simple windscreen, the driver's cockpit remained relatively bare with just an rpm gauge and some other small engine instruments adorning the instrument panel. Of course the main object occupying the driver's field of view would be the wood-trimmed steering wheel. The steering wheel was connected to a worm and sector gearing to provide the directional control of the front wheels. Running between the driver's legs underneath some sheet metal was the four speed manual drivetrain. Utilizing a multi-plate clutch and a limited-slip differential the transaxle would provide the rear wheel drive necessary to power the vehicle forward. The driver's seat consisted of a leather upholstered seat providing a little comfort over the long hours of wrestling with the car.
The final design element of the 625 F1 would be the rounded bodywork resting behind the driver's seat. Housed underneath the aluminum bodywork was to be found a 180 liter fuel tank that would house the gasoline and alcohol mixture.
Although the car had debuted more than a few years before, the 625 F1 would truly step into its purpose during the 1954 season. As with the majority of the years throughout the 1950s decade there would be a number of non-championship races, as well as, World Championship races in which Scuderia Ferrari would compete. All told, the Ferrari 625 F1 would make it yet another successful year for Ferrari despite the fact they would lose the World Drivers Championship.
The season would start out with a 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the Argentinean Grand Prix, the first round of the World Championship. The car would then go on to score a number of 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finishes at other rounds of the World Championship. The car would even earn Jose Froilan Gonzalez victory in the British Grand Prix. This would be the first World Championship victory for the 625 F1 and it was fitting that Jose Froilan Gonzalez earned it as he had been the one to score Scuderia Ferrari's first World Championship victory back in 1951.
In addition to a rather successful World Championship season which saw Ferrari drivers finish 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the World Drivers Championship title race, the team would also have a successful non-championship campaign. It would include no less than six victories, including the Gran Premio di Siracusa, Grand Prix de Bordeaux, BRDC International Trophy , Gran Premio di Bari, Grand Prix de Rouen-les-Essarts and the Grand Prix de Caen.
It is rather amazing to think that the car that ultimately led to the Ferrari 500 F2 would then be called upon to follow in its footsteps. Unfortunately for the memory of the 625 F1, it would come right after two dominant years of the 500 F2. And while it would not retain the World Drivers Championship for Ferrari it was by no means unsuccessful. It had paved the way for the 500 F2 in which everybody else had to catch up to. By the time it was the 625 F1's turn to finally take center stage, the competition had caught up. Otherwise, the 625 may have been just as dominant, if not more so. Nevertheless, the 625 would become rather lost in the shadow of the very car it helped to create.
'History: Singleseaters: 625 F1', (http://www.ferrari.com/English/Formula1/History/Singleseaters/Pages/625F1.aspx?decade=1950). Scuderia Ferrari. http://www.ferrari.com/English/Formula1/History/Singleseaters/Pages/625F1.aspx?decade=1950. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
'1954: Ferrari 625', (http://www.f1technical.net/f1db/cars/85/ferrari-625). F1 Technical. http://www.f1technical.net/f1db/cars/85/ferrari-625. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
'History: Singleseaters: 500 F2', (http://www.ferrari.com/English/Formula1/History/Singleseaters/Pages/500F2.aspx?decade=1950). Scuderia Ferrari. http://www.ferrari.com/English/Formula1/History/Singleseaters/Pages/500F2.aspx?decade=1950. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
'Ferrari 625 F1 (1954-1955)', (http://www.histomobile.com/dvd_histomobile/usa/13/1954_Ferrari_625_F1.htm. Histomobile. http://www.histomobile.com/dvd_histomobile/usa/13/1954_Ferrari_625_F1.htm. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
'Ferrari 625 F1', (http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/723/Ferrari-625-F1.html). Ultimatecarpage.com: Powered by Knowledge, Driven by Passion. http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/723/Ferrari-625-F1.html. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
By Jeremy McMullen