The Ferrari 500 F2 is a Formula 2 car which competed in the Formula 1 World Championship in 1952 and 1953, winning both editions. The car was the protagonist of a first test in Bari, and then officially debuted at the Modena Grand Prix, held on September 23th 1951, winning the debut race with Alberto Ascari.
A triumph brings luck for the car that will dominate the next two seasons of Formula 1, with the Italian driver Ascari obtaining the first two world titles for himself and for Ferrari, with a superiority that has been repeated very few times until the seasons across the 2000s.
The 500 F2 is the first Prancing Horse car to be designed with an engine other than the classic twelve-cylinder: in fact, the acronym 500 represents the displacement of 500 cubic centimeters per cylinder of the engine, a total of four, with an equal bore and stroke at 90 by 78 millimeters.
At the end of 1951, with the withdrawal of Alfa Romeo from racing, the starting grid of Formula 1 had few cars registered. For this reason, before the start of the 1952 season, the International Automobile Federation announced that for the next two years it would be allowed to race with Formula 2 cars, a category that sees the participation of teams such as Gordini, Cooper, Maserati and the Ferrari itself.
One of the few Formula 1 teams prepared for the new requirements is Ferrari, which was already working on the new 500 F2 at the beginning of 1951.
To meet the new requirements dictated by the regulation, the technicians in Maranello decide not to modify the twelve-cylinder used on the 166 F2 and the previous Formula 1 car, but to design a brand new four-cylinder from scratch with a split considered more suitable for the 2.000 capacity cm³ and to that of 2.500 cm³, which would come into force in 1954 under the careful guidance of the designer Aurelio Lampredi.
As early as the spring of 1951, the 2.000 cm³ engine was ready for the first bench tests. The first tests reveal, as claimed by Lampredi, its greater efficiency than a twelve-cylinder of the same displacement: the new engine has more torque, weighs forty five kilos less, has an improved weight-to-power ratio of fifteen percent, and can count on sixty-five percent fewer moving parts.
The power generated is equal to 165 horsepower at 7.000 rpm, reaching even 200 horsepower thanks to some changes made over time. The smaller size of the engine compared to a twelve-cylinder also allows for a better weight distribution, thanks also to the gearbox - four-speed with differential - housed under the driver's seat, and to the magnets arranged near the front axle.
The engine is completed with two overhead camshafts, two double-barrel carburettors, while the frame is made up of tubular side members, drum brakes, independent front suspension with trapezoids, and transverse leaf spring, and rear controlled by the De Dion bridge.
Leaving aside the engine in the two years that will see it as the protagonist of the world championship, the 500 F2 will undergo very few changes. The only major change will consist of an elongated nose to be used in fast circuits, in order to achieve better aerodynamic penetration. But apart from these minor changes, the car will never undergo profound changes, being in fact a balanced object both in form and substance.
The 1952 season
The debut of the 500 F2, as mentioned, takes place at the 1951 Modena Grand Prix, in a race not valid for the Formula 1 world championship, with Ascari and Villoresi at the wheel. The former wins in front of José Froilán González, on board on a 166 F2, while the latter is forced to retire.
The following year the pre-season races sanctioned from the beginning the superiority of the 500 F2, which won with Ascari in Syracuse, Pau and Marseille, and imposed itself in Naples with Giuseppe Farina on board. The 1952 Formula 1 season opens with the Swiss Grand Prix, in which Alberto Ascari does not participate as he was committed to becoming familiar with the Indianapolis circuit and the 375 Indy.
However, the opening race was won by Piero Taruffi ahead of Rudi Fischer, both on 500 F2s.
The rest of the season for Alberto Ascari, always at the wheel of the 500 F2, is a triumph: the Italian driver imposes himself in all the races scheduled on the calendar, namely Belgium, France, Great Britain, Germany, Netherlands and Italy.
At the end of the season, Farina, Taruffi and Rudi Fischer, Ecurie Espadon driver, are placed behind Ascari, again on 500 F2s.
The 1953 season
The 1953 championship follows the lines of the previous season, despite the fact that Maserati has become more competitive thanks to the A6 GCM, which has a more powerful engine than that of Ferrari, but which overall is inferior in terms of road holding and braking.
In 1953, the 500 F2 won the Grand Prix of Nederlands, Belgium, Great Britain and Switzerland with Alberto Ascari, and the French Grand Prix with Mike Hawthorn from England.
The only official appointment that does not see the victory of the 500 F2 is the Italian Grand Prix, held as usual in Monza, as Ascari and Farina are involved in an accident at the parabolic curve on the last lap, due to a backmarker.
Farina still ends the race in second position, ahead of Villoresi and Hawthorn, both aboard the 500 F2, behind Juan Manuel Fangio.
At the end of the season, Ascari became world champion for the second consecutive year, ahead of Fangio, the only non-Ferrari driver in the top five in the world championship.
Starting in 1954, the Ferrari 500 F2 was replaced by the 625 F1, effectively retiring after having won fifteen victories, of which fourteen valid for the Formula 1 world championship, eight one-two wins, seventeen podiums, nine fastest laps, thirteen pole positions, two drivers' world titles and 118.5 world championship points out of seventeen races, of which sixteen valid for the Formula 1 world championship.