The names Enzo Ferrari and Vittorio Jano had been inextricably linked since the days of Scuderia Ferrari racing as part of Alfa Romeo. In those days, prior to the start of World War II, the corsa red Alfa Romeos were nearly untouchable, that is until the Silver Arrows of Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union came onto the scene. By the 1950s, these two names were again apart, but it didn't mean Ferrari failed to keep tabs on the talented designer, even take over his efforts if he could.
By the end of the 1940s, Lancia would be heavily invested in motor racing and would turn to Jano for some competitive designs. In sportscars, Lancia would be quite competitive with the B20 Aurelia GT. But Jano would be working on something else as well. Then, very late in 1954, Alberto Ascari would make a debut at the Spanish Grand Prix with the new car, the D50.
The D50 would be unlike anything else. Immediately recognizable for its pannier tanks to either side of the chassis, the car also drove unlike anything else. With the weight of the fuel and oil placed between the axles, the car's handling was very centered and remained planted compared to the Maserati 250F that was meant to be driven in a slide to be fast.
Prospects for Lancia looked bright. Unfortunately, the balance sheet within the company was nothing but bright red and the company would be forced to abandon its Formula One interests before they even managed to get going. Ascari's plunge into the harbor at Monaco beng the fitting, and rather ironic, end to Lancia's heavy investment into Formula One.
This was the opportunity Ferrari was looking for. Their cars were struggling. Scuderia Ferrari had dominated the World Championship throughout the Formula 2 era, but neither the 625 nor the 553 could routinely battle with the 250F and especially the Mercedes-Benz W196 when it came onto the scene. Ferrari needed a competitive car for a rather cheap price. The Lancia D50 held the answer.
Ferrari would gain the rights to use the design renaming the car the Lancia-Ferrari D50. Jano and Ferrari would be back together again, and the partnership would pick up right where it started back in the early 1930s. The D50 was revolutionary in that its driveshaft location enabled the driver to sit lower to lessen the center of gravity. Then, of course, were there the pannier tanks that only further improved handling. All told, the D50 was a very competitive grand prix car. But Jano and the Ferrari team wasn't done.
Ferrari would manage to lure Fangio to the team following Mercedes-Benz departure from motor racing. The Argentinean figured Ferrari to have a strong car with the D50 and those at Ferrari would be hard at work to further improve upon the design to give the multiple World Championship a chariot suitable to his needs. Joined by other drivers like Eugenio Castellotti, Luigi Musso, Peter Collins and others, Fangio and Ferrari would be a difficult lineup to best at each and every grand prix. Powered by Jano's V8 engine, the evolved D50 would also prove to have the speed to stay at the front.
The power of the engine would be combined with changes made to the chassis to make the Lancia-Ferrari D50 a very tough car to beat. Continual evolution meant the pannier tanks would be kept for aerodynamic purposes only as the fuel would be move to a rear tank. However, the car would be further improved aerodynamically as the nose would grow longer providing a much sleeker profile to the nose. Additionally, bodywork would be made to cover the top of the gap between the chassis of the car and the tanks to further improve airflow.
Though the car would suffer from some reliability issues, Fangio and Collins would be right at the top of the standings nearly the entire season. When it was all said and done, the D50 would prove a winner as Fangio would take his fourth World Championship title with Collins ending the season in 3rd place.
It was obvious the D50 needed to be refined even further given the fact the pannier tanks were not even used for that which they had originally been designed. Furthermore, the Vanwall presented the future in the fact it was more aerodynamic and wider to enable tanks to the placed to the sides of the driver keeping the car better balanced. This was an evolution of the pannier tanks and something Ferrari would pay particular attention to.
Overall, the next iteration, the 801 F1, would bear great similarity to the D50 of 1956, at least from its side profile. However, there would be one important change and that would be the absence of the pannier tanks. Instead, the 801 F1 would boast of a wider chassis. However, in spite of some incredible performances, including the famous German Grand Prix, no Ferrari driver would climb to the top step of the podium over the course of the season. Further changes needed to be made to make the difference.
The answer Ferrari would be looking for would not come from a Formula One predecessor, but from a Formula 2 chassis. Ferrari had been relying upon its D50 in Formula One, and therefore, turned its attentions to Formula 2 and its 1.5-liter engine limits. By this point in time Jano would be joined by Enzo's son Dino. These two would set to work determining the best course to take with the engine. In time, the two would choose a V6 design. This would be a first for Ferrari and it would be the engine around which the team at Ferrari would design a chassis.
The V6 engine, when combined with double Weber carburetors, would be able to produce over 175bhp. This was remarkable for an engine of such a small size. What was more important was the fact the engine produced the power on avgas and not using the special alcohol mixture. Around the potent engine would be a tubular chassis. The suspension would include a wishbone arrangement at the front and a De Dion axle at the rear. And, although disc brakes had been around for a number of years by this point, Ferrari would still rely on drum brakes. The result would be a compact Formula 2 car named after Enzo's son.
To great detriment to Enzo, Dino would pass away before he even had an opportunity to witness the car he had had some influence. Therefore, the Dino 156 F2 would be named after Alfredo and it would immediately prove quick, even when pitted against Formula One cars. The fact the 156 F2 was not being left behind by his Formula One cars would greatly bother Enzo and he would order his team to concentrate on the Dino.
The Dino 156 had shown great promise, even up against Ferrari's Formula One cars. Therefore, the chassis would serve as the basis for a Formula One design. The engine would be the most important aspect that needed revision. Therefore, the engine displacement would be increased. By the end of the '57 season, Ferrari would debut a 1.9-liter variant. This would be followed on by even larger engines over the course of the '58 season.
Heading into 1958 Ferrari would find things going their way. New regulations banned the alcohol-based fuels in favor of avgas. For some teams, like Vandervell, there was great concern in adapting their engines to run on avgas. However, in a stroke of fortuitousness, Jano and Dino would focus on building an engine specifically for avgas. When the team was done, a 2.4-liter variant of the V6 was capable of producing around 270bhp, plenty of horsepower to compete with the best offered by the other teams.
Ferrari already had the car design too since the engine to be used was just an enlarged version of that which was used in the Formula 2 car. Therefore, the chassis only needed to be adapted to Formula One. To start with, the tubular chassis would be increased in size slightly to provide the necessary strength and rigidity.
The new 246 F1, the 246 denoting the 2.4-liter engine capacity and 6-cylinders, would be an elegant design and very similar to the Formula 2 car. The design would sport a low-profile radiator inlet and a shallow arc to the upper line of the bodywork. Because of this shallow arc the inlet pipes for the engine would protrude a fair bit out of the top of the nose. In an attempt to feed as much air to the engine as possible a clear shroud would be placed over the inlets to help capture and feed the air to the engine.
One of the major advantages of the Lancia D50 design would be the low driver position within the cockpit. The driver was a good deal of a car's weight and the lower the positioning to the ground the better than handling. This would be an important consideration for the 246 F1 Dino and would see even the tall Mike Hawthorn sit well down inside the car. The cockpit would be then surrounded by a single, wraparound windscreen to help improve safety and aerodynamic effect.
The exhaust pipes from the six-cylinder engine would trail out of either side of the nose and would pass along the side of the car before rising and coming to a stop above the rear tires. driver's head would rest against a tall tail that housed the fuel filler and the fuel tank. Also, over the course of the season there would be, on occasion, an extra fuel tank positioned in the left side of the car attached to the tubular framing to the left of the cockpit. This tank would be for fuel and would be used for two purposes. One of those reasons being to help stabilize the car. The other reason was that at circuits like Reims, where the high speeds increased fuel consumption the extra tank helped ensure there would not have to be a last dash for fuel, or, run out of fuel altogether.
Unfortunately, Ferrari would be slow to update aspects of the 246 F1's suspension. However, there would be some improvement from the 156 F2. The front suspension would use wishbones, coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers and anti-roll bar. The rear suspension would be an area of great frustration for the drivers as it would still make use of a de Dion axle and an upper transverse leaf spring. The rear suspension would also make use of older Houdaille hydraulic shock absorbers. This type of arrangement would entirely fit with Enzo's maxim that the engine meant everything and everything else was a very distant second.
This mindset would be further reinforced with the type of brakes the 246 F1 Dino would employ. Despite producing more than 270bhp and being a heavier car than the Formula 2 car, the 1958 challenger would still make use of drum brakes, just enlarged to help provide the stopping power. This would prove to be a weak spot for the car over the course of the season and would let the team down at times. However, it would not be until the Italian Grand Prix at the end of the year that just Hawthorn's car would be fitted with disc brakes for the first time.
In spite of its shortcomings, the engine in the Dino would prove to be a real strength and would help Hawthorn and Collins to go on and score a victory apiece. In the case of Hawthorn, the car would also enable him to score no less than five 2nd places as well, which would help ensure he earned the World Championship for 1958. Therefore, in spite of its drawbacks, the 246 F1 Dino would have enough strengths to take on the Vanwalls and the Coopers and end up on top in the Drivers' Championship.
Unfortunately, the success would come at a heavy price and the 246 F1 Dino would also be remembered as one of Ferrari's most deadly machines as no less than two drivers would lose their lives behind the wheel of the car over the course of the season. Interestingly, both Luigi Musso and Peter Collins would lose their lives in similar crashes. Therefore, the 246 F1 is remembered as one of Ferrari's most bittersweet machines in Formula One history. Sources:
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Wikipedia contributors, 'Ferrari Grand Prix results', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 9 November 2013, 00:03 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ferrari_Grand_Prix_results&oldid=580825901 accessed 12 November 2013By Jeremy McMullen