‘So what is it?’ we hear you cry, ‘a 500 or a 625?’ Well it’s both, kind of. We’ll explain …
The 1952 and ’53 seasons had been very good for Ferrari and in particular the great Alberto Ascari, who’d cleaned up in the Ferrari Tipo 500. Having said that, the championship consisted of relatively few races (eight in ’52 and nine in ’53) and the Ferrari was – by some distance – the best car, with Alfa Romeo and BRM having pulled out. Happy days indeed.
The thing is though, the ’52 and ’53 championships had been run to Formula Two regulations with two litre motors, but 1954 was to revert back to Formula One and two and a half litres. So Ferrari fitted a larger unit to the 500 and called it the 625. With Mike Hawthorn and Frolian Gonzalez on board, driving talent was not an issue. What was an issue, however, was the emergence of both the Maserati 250F an the Mercedes-Benz W196.
The pretty Ferrari sadly had no chance and indeed didn’t get a look-in, save for one victory in 1954 (Hawthorn) and another in 1955 (Trintignant). The Maserati was a superior car to the Ferrari, and the W196 superior to the Maserati.
For 1956 Ferrari decided to make use of Lancia’s D50 chassis, Mercedes-Benz withdrew from racing, and the Maranello outfit returned once again to the top spot with Fangio and Peter Collins doing most of the winning.
So ultimately we have to consign the 500/625 to the annals as of the prettiest F1 cars ever that didn’t ultimately make the grade. Not winning much rarely looks this good.
Photography: Antony Fraser