The Ferrari 312 F1 is the single-seater with which Ferrari participates in the Formula 1 World Championships between 1966 and 1969.
Since its debut this car has proved more unfortunate than competitive, so much so that in four years of activity it will win only three Grands Prix, two of which in 1966 and one in 1968. Although it started in the top positions in most races, it rarely will be able to finish the race; 1968 will however be a historic year, as it will see the introduction of the rear wing in the world of Formula 1 with the Ferrari 312 F1.
The first 312 of 1966 has an engine derived from the Sport 275P of 1965, a close descendant of the 250TR engines of 1959-1960. The choice is obviously of an economic nature, given that the regulations require a return to 3000 cubic centimeters, and Ferrari decides to resume an old engine revised for the occasion. This is associated with an indirect Lucas fuel system, as Bosh asks for financial support from Ferrari to continue its research and development studies, which the Maranello manufacturer cannot do.
Despite the high nominal power, equal to about 360 horsepower, the car is however penalized by a high minimum weight set at 600 kilograms, which reduces the overall potential of the car.
The first evolution will take place at the 1966 Italian Grand Prix, when the engine will be equipped with a 36-valve cylinder head, with three valves per cylinder: two for the intake and one dedicated to the exhaust valve, and the power will pass at 375 horsepower, as requested by Enzo Ferrari from the technical office headed by engineer Mauro Forghieri.
In addition, the change in tire supply will lead Ferrari to actively engage on the Brands Hatch circuit with Chris Amon to carry out numerous development tests.
Three specimens were built in 1966:
- Chassis 010, used in seven Grands Prix, is the car with which Surtees won the 1966 Belgian Grand Prix, as well as, on his debut, the untitled 1966 Syracuse Grand Prix. Lorenzo Bandini raced with it in the second part of the season.
- Chassis 011, used by Scarfiotti in the victorious 1966 Italian Grand Prix. He played only other races not valid for the title in 1967.
- Chassis 012, also used in some 1967 races by Mike Parkes with it, won the 1967 International Trophy.
Four specimens (all with odd numbers) for this car which made its debut in the 1967 Race of Champions and which did not take any victory in 1967 or 1968:
- Chassis 001, this is the car with which Lorenzo Bandini was killed in Monte Carlo.
- Chassis 003, used by Chris Amon in 1967, Jonathan Williams in the Mexican Grand Prix and Jackie Ickx in four races in 1968.
- Chassis 005, used first by Scarfiotti (two races), then by Amon, finally by Andrea De Adamich (1967 Spanish Grand Prix (not titled), 1968 South African Grand Prix and 1968 Race of Champions.
- Chassis 007, the car used by Chris Amon in late 1967 and early 1968, then by Derek Bell in the 1968 Gold Cup and 1968 United States Grand Prix.
- Three specimens of this car:
- Chassis 009, it is the car with which Ferrari returned to victory with Jacky Ickx in the 1968 French Grand Prix, it was then used by Bell, Amon and Pedro Rodríguez in 1968-69.
- Chassis 011, car used exclusively by Chris Amon in 1968 (two second places).
- Chassis 015, used by Jackie Ickx in three races in the 1968 season finale.
Only two specimens of this car built, in a very troubled year:
- Chassis 017, used first by Amon and then by Rodriguez.
- Chassis 019, in addition to the two drivers mentioned, it is the car on which Ernesto Brambilla should have raced in the 1969 Italian Grand Prix.
Ferrari was given as the favorite from the start of the season, despite the previous year's performance not being satisfactory. The 1966 championship did not open in the best way for Ferrari, which was forced to have its car stationary on lap 16 during the Monaco Grand Prix.
Things are better in Spa, as John Surtees manages to take pole position and victory already at the second Grand Prix disputed with the new Ferrari 312 F1. Subsequently, however, the Englishman left the team due to some disagreements, therefore in Reims, France, the new car was entrusted to Lorenzo Bandini, who won the pole position but did not finish the race.
Having skipped the English trip, Ferrari took part in the Dutch Grand Prix and the German Grand Prix with Mike Parkes and Lorenzo Bandini, who will finish sixth on both occasions. Meanwhile, mid-season the team will also change tire supplier from Dunlop to Firestone.
On the occasion of the Grand Prix of Italy in Monza, the Parkes-Bandini duo is joined by Ludovico Scarfiotti, who in qualifying marks the second time and is positioned behind his English teammate, who takes the pole, and in the race leads Ferrari in triumph.
This result would reopen a faint hope for Ferrari to win at least the world championship dedicated to constructors, but at Watkins Glen the engine failure prevents Bandini from defending the national colors, and the title is assigned to Brabham-Repco. With nothing more to prove, Ferrari withdraws its cars and does not participate in the last seasonal Grand Prix in Mexico. This will however be the year in which the 312 F1 will report the greatest successes, with a second final place in the constructors' standings.
For the 1967 season the 312 F1 is profoundly modified: the five-spoke magnesium alloy wheels of Campagnolo will be adopted, and using the fiberglass bodywork the minimum weight will drop to 530 kilograms, while the engine power will be raised to 390 horses.
Having skipped the first South African Grand Prix, Ferrari took part in the Monegasque race, where the unfortunate Lorenzo Bandini lost his life in a tragic accident. Chris Amon made his debut at the wheel of a Ferrari in this Grand Prix, finishing third at the finish.
At the next Dutch Grand Prix, Chris Amon, Mike Parkes and Ludovico Scarfiotti finish fourth, fifth and sixth respectively. The season continues with ups and downs, and in Spa the only Ferrari driver who manages to score points thanks to fifth place is Chris Amon. After a setback in France, Chris Amon always wins a point at the British Grand Prix.
After an unlucky race at the Nurburgring circuit, Ferrari collected another point at the Mosport circuit in Canada, thanks to Chris Amon's sixth place. This is the last start of Ferrari in the 1967 season, given that in Monza, Watkins Glen and on the Hermanos Rodríguez circuit it fails to collect further points, ending the season in fourth place.
The 312 F1 will be used again in 1968, and the updates will involve the greater profiling of the nose and the body, but the big problem of the 312 F1 remains the excessive weight of the engine and a cooling system that brings a lot of water into circulation, despite the Rocchi engineer has made numerous changes bringing the power to 410 horsepower at almost 11.000 rpm.
The big news will be the introduction of the aerodynamic appendages starting from the Belgian Grand Prix: in particular the rear wing will be equipped with a hydraulic control, which allows the driver to vary the incidence according to the section of track covered.
In South Africa, Ferrari collects three points thanks to Chris Amon alone, who reaches the finish line in fourth place, but already in Mexico, thanks to the pole position won by the New Zealand driver, the goodness of the project can be glimpsed, which with Ickx will almost win the championship.
Having skipped the Monaco Grand Prix, Ferrari arrived in Belgium with an innovative wing mounted on the car, and obtained pole with Chris Amon. In the race, however, it will be Ickx who will get an excellent third place.
After obtaining an encouraging pole position with Amon in the Netherlands and a fourth place with jacky Ickx, the Belgian driver manages to take his first victory in Formula 1 at the French Grand Prix.
At the Rouen circuit, Ickx set the third time in qualifying and could therefore start from the front row, but he was not completely satisfied with the car's set-up. The crystal clear talent of the Belgian driver can be admired on race day.
An hour before the start of the race, there will be a lap of the circuit aboard Ligier micro cars, to allow the drivers to greet the public, but Jacky is not interested in the fans, preferring instead to scrutinize the sky which in the meantime is gathering clouds.
Despite weather forecasts claiming that there will be no rain showers, Ickx is struggling to have the wet tires fitted (the hand-sculpted Firestone R125s). Both the technical director Mauro Forghieri, and Franco Gozzi, Ferrari's sporting director in this circumstance, try to dissuade Ickx, who however remains of his idea even when, before the start, he is mocked by the rival competitors.
But a few moments before the start of the race, it rains: Ickx was right, and won his first Grand Prix ahead of John Surtees and Jackie Stewart, bringing the first success in two years to the team from Maranello: on the occasion , at twenty-three years, six months and six days, he becomes the youngest driver to triumph at the wheel of a Ferrari single-seater, a record that will last for the next fifty-one years before being snatched from him by Charles Leclerc.
At the time of the subsequent third place in Great Britain, preceded by Chris Amon, Ickx will gain the place of honor in the drivers' classification. But that's not all: at the German Grand Prix he will hit his first pole position, setting the best time when it is raining on the Nürburgring, improving by one minute the performance obtained by Jim Clark in 1967.
With fourth place finish, Ickx is now only seven points behind the top.
A victory in the World Championship is therefore not to be excluded, were it not for the fact that in Monza, slowed down by problems with the fuel system, Jacky will make a mistake in operating the wing, which can be maneuvered manually. Once on the straight, Ickx does not open the wing, therefore the friction slows the car.
From the pits, Giulio Borsari, his mechanic, shows him the sign with the words aileron (in Italian) and volet (in French) to try to point out the problem, but the Belgian driver does not understand the indication and only comes third in the finish line.
With only three races left to go, Ickx has only three points less than Graham Hill in the championship, but his dreams of glory die out in Canada, where he competes in good practice, but is forced to give up participation in the race due to an accident caused by blocking the accelerator, which causes him to break his leg.
Initially blamed by the team for his aggressive driving style, he will later be cleared by Giulio Borsari, who will confirm the accelerator problem that Ickx himself had already reported previously, not being believed.
Jacky will return to drive for the Mexican Grand Prix, but will retire on lap three due to a problem with the ignition system, and will finish his first World Championship in fourth place, scoring more than double the points of the unlucky Chris Amon, who only gets a podium and numerous retirements.
The latest evolution of 1969 is characterized by the increase in power to 436 horsepower at 11.000 rpm, and after the Spanish Grand Prix, the fixed and smaller rear wing. Having passed Jacky Ickx to Brabham, the fate of the team is entrusted to Chris Amon, but the latter will leave mid-season, fed up with the lack of competitiveness of his Ferrari, and will be replaced by Pedro Rodriguez.
1969 is in the records as the worst year for the 312, as only seven points will be won in the whole season, a negative record for Ferrari, which will not win any victory and will very often be the victim of mechanical problems, the most important of which will occur in Spain where Amon, who started second, will find himself in command of the Grand Prix thanks to the accidents of the two Lotus, but will have to retire on the fifty-sixth lap due to engine problems. The best result will be a third place obtained with Chris Amon, in the Netherlands.
In Maranello, however, the development of the car has already stopped to focus better on the next car, the Ferrari 312B. Therefore, the car ends its long career with thirty-eight races under its belt, seven poles and four fastest laps, and 95 world championship points, before giving way to the new Ferrai 312 B2.