There are many iconic Ferrari automobiles. However, within the manufacturer's extensive Formula One history there are but a few that are immediately recognizable. And among those few perhaps none are more recognizable and linked to Ferrari than the famous 156 'Sharknose'. However, the legend of the 'Sharknose' would actually begin in 1960 in Formula 2.
The mid-engine revolution had come to Formula One toward the end of the 1950s. Then, in 1960, Ferrari still didn't have an answer for the small and nimble Coopers with their mid-engines and Jack Brabham at the wheel. Ferrari's drivers, Phil Hill, Willy Mairesse and Richie Ginther would all have to make due with an evolved front-engine 246 F1 Dino. And on the tight and twisty circuits the advantages of the Cooper mid-engine would be more than apparent as the three Ferrari drivers would routinely struggle. However, Hill would uphold Ferrari's honor at the final race of the season, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. The circuit favored power over handling and Hill was able to propel his way to victory.
In spite of the tremendous victory in front of the Tifosi, the writing on the wall was more than clear. Ferrari needed to join the revolution or it would die. Thankfully, the move to a mid-engine car would not be sudden and untested. Throughout the 1960 season the team would compete with a new chassis, the 156, in Formula 2.
In 1957, Ferrari would design and build a 156 F2 Dino. This tubular framed body would be mated with a 1.5-liter longitudinal, front-mounted, V6 engine that was capable of producing 180 bhp. This engine would be used to great effect by the manufacturer and that of Fiat. This engine would then be used in the Formula 2 car to great success. This Formula 2 car would end up serving as a basis for Ferrari's attempt to join the mid-engine revolution.
Heading into the 1961 season, Ferrari would find the revolution would take a turn back in its direction. The governing-body for the World Championship would end up making an important decision for the upcoming 1961 season. They would determine to make the maximum displacement of the engines only 1.5-liters. When combined with the restriction against using alcohol in fuels, Ferrari would find itself in good position precisely because of the fact their 1.5-liter Formula 2 engine would perfectly suit the new Formula One regulations.
While Vanwall and BRM would have to make extensive changes to their engines to run without the alcohol, the only evolution Ferrari would have to take its engine through would be in the design of the engine's layout. While the British teams were busy fighting the new regulations concerning the presence of alcohol in the fuel, Ferrari was busy changing the V-angle of the engine to be used in the Formula One car. The angle would be changed from 65 degrees to a striking 120 degrees. The small size of the V6 engine with its almost flat layout would serve perfectly for a new light and nimble Formula One car.
1960 would see Ferrari use the 65 degree V6 engine in a newly-designed Formula 2 car known as the 156 F2. The low profile and small size of the car would enable Wolfgang von Trips to take an easy victory at the Solitude Grand Prix. Ferrari's chief designer Carlo Chiti knew he had a design that would work well with the new regulations coming into effect for the 1961 season. Therefore, he would set about evolving the Formula 2 car into a Formula One contender capable of taking Ferrari back to the top of the Drivers and Constructors World Championships.
Like many other changes enacted at Ferrari, they would come out of necessity instead of desire. In a desire to evolve the engine to fit within the plan for a new Formula One car, the designers would find the increased width of the wider engine necessitated a mid-engine placement instead of a front placement of the engine. Still, the small size of the 1.5-liter engine would enable Chiti to design an all-new, very small chassis that would help the team meet its desire for a lighter and more nimble chassis. The small size of the car would use just four large steel tubes to serve as the rigid structure of the car. The 120 degree, 200 bhp engine, would be bolted to those steel tubes.
The small nature of the car would also cause the designers to utilize a different suspension arrangement for the new car. In many ways, the new car would be much less complicated as the same system would be used on the front suspension, as well as, the rear. Both the front and the rear suspensions would make use of a double wishbone arrangement with coil springs over Koni dampers. An anti-roll bar would be utilized on the front and the rear to help with all-important stability.
The steering and brake systems of the 246 F1 Dino would be well outgrown by the time Chiti and his team designed the new car for the '61 season. Instead of the older worm and sector type of steering, the new car, which would become known as the 156 F1, would make use of rack and pinion steering. In the same way, the older 246 F1 still used large drum brakes to provide its stopping power. The 156 F1, however, would use ventilated disc brakes at each wheel. However, the rear brakes would be boast of a different setup arrangement. Room around the rear wheels with the driveshaft and other components associated with the engine made it technologically difficult and challenging. Therefore, the disc brakes would not be positioned out at the wheels on the 156. Instead, the discs would be positioned inboard on the driveshaft.
Over top of the small rigid frame and the 1.5-liter V6 engine Chiti would place a rather uniquely-designed aluminum bodywork. Slim and low in profile, the aluminum bodywork would entirely encase the tubular frame and the engine creating a very smooth and low profile design that positioned the driver high above the top of the car. A large wrap around windscreen would help to offer the otherwise greatly exposed driver some protection. A single bar roll-hoop would be incorporated into the frame of the car but really wouldn't offer any reassurance as most the drivers sat taller than the bar. Just behind the single-bar roll-hoop the inlet pipes would protrude out of the top of the bodywork at the back of the car.
The twin exhaust pipes would exit low underneath the car and would travel aft until they expelled their hot gases well aft of the rear bodywork. The clean bodywork design of the 156 F1 would be dominated by a design feature from which its nickname would be drawn. Instead of one large radiator inlet scoop on the nose, Chiti would design the bodywork with a twin-nostril look. From this twin-nostril design element the car would earn its nickname the 'Sharknose'. Besides the windscreen, driver, roll-hoop and inlet pipes protruding out of the top of the car the design of the 156 F1 'Sharknose' was very clean and low to the ground. When combined with the 120 degree V6 engine, Ferrari had its nimble little performer it had been lacking the season before. The overall package would weigh in at just over a thousand pounds but would be more than a couple of hundred pounds lighter than the 246 F1. Of course, part of the weight reduction would come from the smaller size of the engine itself. But still, the 156 F1 had the look of a strong contender. But with the fuel controversy, Scuderia Ferrari would actually find themselves in a stronger position then they perhaps believed, whereas the year before they were well behind their competition.
Thoroughly prepared for the start of the season, Ferrari would be immediately on the pace in '61. Phil Hill would take 3rd in the first race of the season, the Grand Prix of Monaco. Then, the very next race on the World Championship calendar would see Wolfgang von Trips come through to take his first-ever Formula One win. He would lead home a Ferrari one-two. Hill would follow von Trips' victory in the Netherlands Grand Prix with another victory and one-two finish for Ferrari at the Belgian Grand Prix. Throughout the rest of the season, the 156 F1 'Sharknose' would earn two more victories and three more podium results.
By the end of the season, the 156 F1 'Sharknose' would earn Phil Hill his first and only World Drivers Championship title and Ferrari would take the Constructors' title. In fact, because of the 156, Hill still remains the only American to be crowned World Champion. In the case of von Trips, the 156 F1 would not only take him to his first Formula One victory, but it would also carry von Trips into the Italian Grand Prix with the lead in the World Championship by four points over his Ferrari teammate. But most unfortunate for the 156 F1 would be the fact that it would be remembered, in the minds of many, as the car in which von Trips would lose his life at the '61 Italian Grand Prix after colliding with Jim Clark.
In spite of that tragic moment in September of '61, the Ferrari 156 F1 'Sharknose' would actually provide the vast majority their fondest memories of von Trisp in Formula One. In his hands, the great sportscar driver would shine in Formula One. Unfortunately, this shining star would be unable to carry Ferrari's two pilots home to the most important one-two of the season.Sources:
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'Ferrari 246 F1 Dino', (http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/127/Ferrari-246-F1-Dino.html). Ultimatecarpage.com: Powered by Knowledge, Driven by Passion. http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/127/Ferrari-246-F1-Dino.html. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
'Ferrari 156', (http://www.ddavid.com/formula1/fer156.htm). Dennis David and Family. http://www.ddavid.com/formula1/fer156.htm. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
Wikipedia contributors. '1961 Formula One season.' Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 3 May. 2012. Web. 4 May. 2012.By Jeremy McMullen