|Ferrari 156 F1 'Sharknose'|
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Ferrari's racing car development program was based on evolution rather than revolution. This resulted in some of the greatest racers ever built, but also meant that drastic rule changes often left the Italian manufacturer trailing well behind the competition. This was hardly the case in 1961 when Formula 1 had switched from a displacement limit of 2.5 litre to 1.5 litre. That limit had previously been used for Formula 2 for which Ferrari had already developed a state of the art V6 engine. The (British) competition fought long to prevent the rule changes and as a result were very poorly prepared for the new season.
The twin-cam V6 engine bore close resemblance to the 2.5 litre that had been successfully raced in Formula 1 since 1958. It was first raced in a front-engined chassis and in 1960 appeared in Ferrari's first mid-engined single seater chassis. At first sight the mid-engined car that appeared in 1960 was brand new, but that would have gone against Ferrari's design principles. Closer inspection revealed that it was in fact the familiar F1/F2 chassis with the engine moved to the rear of the driver. The relocation of the engine did necessitate the development of a new gearbox.
Known as the 246P, the mid-engined Ferrari debuted at the 1960 Monaco Grand Prix, powered by the larger of the two V6 engines. Richie Ginther drove the new car and finished a credible sixth at a track where the much nimbler British Coopers and Lotus felt much more at home. After its Monaco debut, the Formula 1 engine was replaced by the smaller Formula 2 engine. One of Ferrari's other Works drivers, Wolfgang von Trips humiliated the competition at the 156P's only Formula 2 race. He won the Solitude Grand Prix with great ease.
Over the winter, chief engineer Carlo Chiti worked hard to refine the new Formula 1 car, although the basic design of the 1960 was retained. The chassis consisted of four large tubes and was suspended by double wishbones all-round. The most obvious change was the much slimmer bodywork with a very striking twin nostril front air intake, which gave the car the nickname 'Sharknose'. The biggest priority was the development of a new version of the V6 engine with a 120 degree V-angle, instead of the 65 degree angle of the original design. This freed up more space for the intakes and lowered the centre of gravity.
Even though the new changes should have favoured the nimbler British chassis, they were lacking a proper powerplant and were forced to start the season with a Climax four cylinder engine that produced a modest 150 bhp. That was a stark contrast with Ferrari, who had not one, but two engines ready for the 1961 both pumping out around 190 bhp. Needless to say the 1961 season was a complete Ferrari walk-over; they were beaten only twice by a brilliant Stirling Moss in his Lotus. It was not all good news for Ferrari as championship leader Von Trips had a fatal accident at Monza. This opened the door for Phil Hill to become the first American World Champion, winning the Belgian and Italian Grands Prix.
Ferrari's fortunes quickly turned as many key personnel left after the famous palace revolt in the winter of 1961/62. Among them was Carlo Chiti. As a result development grounded to a halt and the team had to make do with the 1961 car. The competition had caught up and left the 'Sharknose' well behind with their more advanced chassis and above all the new V8 engines from Coventry Climax and BRM. These were about as powerful as the Ferrari V6, which really revealed the weakness of the outdated tubular chassis design compared to the spaceframes and monocoques used by the other teams.
A very young Mauro Forghieri eventually replaced Chiti and went about developing a new chassis. A first sign of things to come was the 156/62P, which debuted at the German Grand Prix. It was the first Ferrari Formula 1 car to use a spaceframe chassis and also featured a much more reclined driving position. The sleeker body no longer had the trademark sharknose. The experimental 156 struggled at its debut, but at the following round at Monza was the fastest Ferrari and eventually finished fourth. In the difficult season the best results were a second and two thirds for World Champion Hill. Lorenzo Bandini added another podium to Ferrari's tally.
The experimental spaceframe car would form the basis for the 156/63. The chassis was carried over, but the double wishbone rear suspension was abandoned. Following the competition's example, the suspension now consisted of a lower wishbone, a top link and twin radius arms, which connected the upright with the bulkhead. Another novelty was the six speed gearbox, mounted between the engine and the final drive. The car was an improvement, but it was still one step behind the competition, who were now using a monocoque chassis, which was lighter and more rigid than a tube chassis.
Ferrari had lost former World Champion Phil Hill as he joined Chiti at ATS. He was replaced by motorcycle World Champion John Surtees. He was joined by either Willy Mairesse or Ludovico Scarfiotti. By fitting the V6 engine with Fuel Injection Forghieri had found another 10 bhp. Together with the new chassis this helped Surtees to score two podium finishes and two fastest laps in the first three races. He went all out for the German Grand Prix on his favourite Nürburgring track and managed to score his first GP win and Ferrari's first in almost two years. He had also recorded the fastest lap.
Towards the end of the season, the spaceframe cars were replaced by the 156 'Aero'. This used a semi-monocoque chassis consisting of a basic tubular frame covered in duralumin sheets. Surtees qualified the car on pole at its debut, but scored no further victories. In 1964 Forghieri had finally bridged the gap to the competition when he mated the 'Aero' semi-monocoque chassis to a brand new V8 engine that pumped out around 210 bhp. The new Ferrari 158 really came to its own in the second half of the season, with Surtees scoring two victories and eventually clinching the driver's title.
Unfortunately all of the 'Sharknose' Ferraris were scrapped after the 1962 season and today only some of the 1963 cars remain. In recent years various replicas have been constructed around original parts, including one that starred in Chris Rea's film 'La Passione'. Although competitive for a single season and eclipsed, the 156 'Sharknose' has earned its place among the all time great Formula 1 cars.
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