The Ferrari 246 F1 took part in the 1958 Formula 1 world championship, winning the title with Mike Hawthorn and finishing second in the constructors' standings. The 1958 season will be full of fundamental changes for the top world championship category: in the regulatory field, in fact, super-fuels and driver changes will be abolished at the wheel of the same car of the same team. The most important changes, however, will mainly concern the technical aspect, with the abolition of the drum architecture brakes in favor of disc brakes, and the introduction of the rear-engined Cooper-Climax that would have revolutionized the way of understanding the next generation of Formula 1 cars. After the parenthesis of the Ferrari-Lancia D50, Ferrari returns to designing its own car, the 246 F1, a new project entirely conceived in the factory. As happened in the past, the first step towards the creation of the single-seater is a Formula 2 called Dino 156 F2.
As happened for the 375 F1, which became such through the 275 F1 and 340 F1, the engine displacement of the 156 F2 is increased by degrees, taking it first to 1,800 cm³, then to 2.195 cm³, and finally to 2.417 cm³, before being mounted on the 246 F1. The 1.800 cm³ engine will be used in the race at the Modena Grand Prix in 1957, and the 2.195 cm³ and 2.417 cm³ at the Moroccan Grand Prix of the same year. The 2.417 cm³ version delivers 285 horsepower, at a rotation of 8.500 rpm. The designer Vittorio Jano will be fundamental for the development of the engine, who will greatly help engineer Franco Rocchi and engineer Andrea Fraschetti.
The distribution is double shaft, with two valves per cylinder inclined to each other at 60°. The angle between the two banks is 65°, and six staggered crank pins are used to obtain the equidistance between the useful phases, while the main pins are four. The two overhead camshafts are driven by duplex chains mounted at the front of the engine, with the valves having a diameter of 52 millimeters in the intake section and 46 millimeters in the exhaust section. The 246 F1 also features a tubular trellis frame, first introduced on the 553 F1, and newly designed suspension on both the front and rear axles. As for the brakes, the self-ventilated drum type solution is used on the four wheels, but being a technologically outdated solution, starting from the Italian Grand Prix they will be replaced with the new Dunlop disc brakes. The front section of the car has independent suspension, while the rear uses a De Dion bridge solution.
The Ferrari 256 F1 represents what Formula 1 is experiencing in the late 1950s: a real technological revolution, which sees all the cars of the 1958 season age very quickly. A version of the V6 with a displacement of 2474 cm³ was already available from 1958, but it was not adopted until 1959, giving life to the 256 F1. This engine is capable of delivering 290 horsepower at 8.600 rpm. The 256 F1 does not have the only novelty in the engine compared to its older sister, as it is equipped with an updated braking system and new Dunlop disc brakes, to which are added new Koni telescopic shock absorbers, Dunlop tires replacing the Engleberts, and a new fully independent suspension system on the rear axle. The bodywork, now more profiled, is taken care of by Fantuzzi.
Formula 1 is experiencing days of constant and fast transformation, and the presence of the new rear-engined cars make the 256 F1 completely obsolete, even if it will manage to achieve some success; this same model will also be used in 1960, pending the new rear-engined Ferrari, the 256 P. Upgrades for the 1960 season include the adoption of two side fuel tanks and a rear oil reserve in an attempt to improve the car's dynamic behavior. The engine is then advanced by twenty five centimeters and offset in the opposite direction, i.e. oriented from left to right, so as to pass the transmission to the side of the driver's seat and lower the driver's seat.
At the 1960 Monaco Grand Prix, the first rear-engined Ferrari Formula 1, the 256 P, will make its debut, equipped with the 2.474 cm³ V6 of the previous 256 F1, with the two tanks positioned laterally. In terms of performance, the car approaches the best performing Climax-Cooper, but is still far from the performance of the agile British cars, being still too heavy and lacking proper tuning. Subsequently, the 246 P will no longer be used in the race, but will continue to be tested for studies on the dynamics on rear-engined cars.
The 1958 season
The 246 F1 is a pretty successful single-seater, even if it will have to work hard to express itself at its best due to fiercely fierce competition. The new Vanwall, which had come to the fore the year before, will prove to be a tough opponent, and the presence of the new rear-engined Cooper-Climax will make life difficult for all front-engined Formula 1 cars. The decision to put the engine behind the driver will immediately prove to be a winner, and the Cooper-Climax of the Rob Walker Racing Team will win the first two races of the season, in Argentina with Moss, and in Monaco with Trintignant. The 246 F1, however, will not be out of place, as it will be able to take second and third places in Argentina with Musso and Hawthorn, and a further second and third place in Monaco with Musso and Collins.
The Dutch Grand Prix recorded another triumph for Stirling Moss, who in the meantime passed to Vanwall, and Hawthorn's fifth place. Vanwall's dominance also continues in Belgium thanks to the victory taken by Tony Brooks, but Hawthorn manages to conquer a very precious second place, ahead of Stuart Lewis-Evans' Vanwall. At the following French Grand Prix, Ferrari collects its first success of the season with Mike Hawthorn, who crosses the finish line in front of Moss 'Vanwall and von Trips' other Ferrari, and in Great Britain will triumph again thanks to Peter Collins, who will precede Hawthorn.
The last five races of the season will all be won by the Vanwalls of Brooks and Moss, but at the end of the season the world championship will go to the Ferrari driver Hawthorn: this is because the British Ferrari driver will have more places on his side, five second places, and five fast laps that are worth the equivalent of five points in the standings, unlike Moss who wins on four occasions, but also runs into five retirements. Vanwall will still be able to console itself with the victory of the first constructors' title in the history of Formula 1.
Ferrari's return to the top will, however, be marked by two painful disappearances: in fact, Luigi Musso will pass away in Reims following the injuries sustained in an accident at the Curve du Calvaire, and in Germany the same fate will befall Peter Collins, after that his car overturns several times on itself and then ends up against a tree. A track marshal, who rushes to help him, will hear Collins murmuring...like Musso...because of the similarity of the two tragic accidents.
For 1959, Ferrari hires Tony Brooks, Cliff Allison, Jean Behra, and Dan Gurney. 1959 will also be a turning point for Formula 1, as the rear-engined single-seaters will definitively prove their superiority over the front-engined ones. The latter are certainly more powerful, but they carry a much greater weight which makes them awkward compared to the light Cooper-Climax.
In general, the Ferraris will not disfigure, managing to take the victory in France and in Germany with Tony Brooks, who at the end of the season will finish second behind the World Champion Jack Brabham on Cooper-Climax, while Hill and Gurney will finish the season respectively in fourth and sixth place, winning a total of five podiums. Frenchman Behra, on the other hand, will leave the team after the British Grand Prix after publicly complaining about the car entrusted to him at the French Grand Prix.
1960 will thus become a transitional season: Ferrari, in fact, seriously begins to plan the displacement of the engine in the rear part of the car, having reached the end of certain binding contracts with suppliers that had prevented him from being able to deal with this until then. new engineering challenge, therefore he will face the season with his mind turned to the future. In this regard, the debut of the 246 P, the first rear-engined Ferrari, at the Monaco Grand Prix should be underlined: driven by Richie Ginther, it will start from ninth place and finish the race in sixth position.
The dominance of the light Cooper will consequently become overwhelming, so much so that they will win six of the nine races on the calendar, leaving two victories at the Lotus-Climax and one at Ferrari, at Monza, but only because the British manufacturers will not field their cars as a sign of he protests, deeming the high-speed ring excessively dangerous. The world championship will therefore be awarded for the second consecutive year to the Australian Jack Brabham.