The Ferrari 375 F1 is the car with which the Scuderia Ferrari took part in the Formula 1 World Championship of 1951. It represented the final stage in the development of the naturally aspirated 4.500 cubic centimeters V12, after the 275 F1 and the 340 F1.
We owe the 375 F1 the first victory for Scuderia Ferrari in a points-giving race for the Formula 1 World Championship by José Froilán González, in the 1951 British Grand Prix.
Proceeding in forced stages, the Ferrari engineers succeeded in building the new 4.500 cubic centimeters V12, maximum displacement allowed by the regulations, by the end of the 1950 season, based on the experience gained in the same year with the lower displacement V12s. Mounted on the 375 F1, this would have allowed the team from Maranello to finally compete on par with the Alfa Romeos.
Capable of unleashing 330 horsepower at 7.000 rpm, it would have reached 380 horsepower at 7.500 rpm the following year against the 425 of the new Alfetta 159, which has a volumetric compressor but suffers from more than three times the fuel consumption to the 375 F1 (2.5 km/liter for Ferrari, 0.58 km/liter for Alfa Romeo).
In its first few outings, the 375 F1 shares everything, apart from the engine, with the 340 F1, but just before the start of the 1951 season it undergoes major updates. As mentioned, by changing the compression ratio the new engine is brought to 380 horsepower, as well as being equipped with a new single-magnet double ignition now placed at the front, while previously it was single with two magnets.
The chassis dimensions will also be revised both in the wheelbase and in the track, and new Weber carburetors adopted. The suspension layout remains unchanged and the gearbox always in block with the differential.
In 1952, with the regulatory changes that promote Formula 2 cars to Formula 1 rank, the 375 F1 is prematurely retired but continues to appear in free formula races especially by private drivers, as well as being used in the Indianapolis 500 by Alberto Ascari in the Indy version.
The first iconic victory
The debut of the 375 F1 takes place on the occasion of the 1950 Italian Grand Prix, with two cars entrusted to Alberto Ascari and Dorino Serafini. At the first passage on the finish line Ascari passes second behind the Alfa di Farina. Lap after lap the two leaders make a void behind them and on the fifteenth lap Ascari takes the lead, but during the following lap the Milanese driver is forced to retire due to a broken bearing, thus giving the green light to Flour that will win the race and the world championship.
However, shortly after Ascari takes the wheel again in Serafini's car, who stopped for a tire change, and after a frenzied comeback he will conquer the second final place.
The last appointment of the 1950 season is the Penya Rhin Grand Prix, a race not valid for the world championship. Here Ferrari always shows up with Ascari and Serafini who finish first and second respectively at the wheel of the 375 F1, without Alfa Romeos to oppose them. In fact, the Milanese house, having acquired the title with Farina, has decided to desert the last event of the season. Ferrari has therefore not yet managed to prevail directly over Alfa Romeo, but this possibility would not have been remote and indeed would have materialized the following year.
In minor races there will be a favorable start to the season for the 375 F1, which is imposed in Syracuse and Pau with Villoresi, and in San Remo with Ascari. In this last race the evolution of the engine begins, now equipped with 380 horsepower.
However, the start of the 1951 championship is once again favorable to the Alfa Romeo of Fangio and Farina who win in Switzerland, Belgium and France, while Ascari collects a sixth and two second places.
But the first victory is now close and comes at the British Grand Prix by José Froilán González. The Argentine driver still has the car from the previous year but this does not seem to affect him, as he wins pole in front of Fangio.
The race would be a monologue of the two Argentine drivers: Felice Bonetto has a better start and remains in the lead for one lap, but then he has to give way to the faster González and Fangio. On lap ten, Fangio took the lead, but the Argentinian's Ferrari kept the pace up with Alfa Romeo.
After thirty-nine laps González is back in the lead, but Fangio hangs up and overtakes him again. Ascari, who has retired, decides to let González continue, given the favorable situation of the Argentine.
Ascari is right, given that González manages to pass his compatriot from Alfa by winning the race: it is the first victory for Scuderia Ferrari in Formula 1, and it is the first time that Alfa Romeo has not triumphed. Villoresi ends third, more than two laps from the first two.
When Quaroni, Alfa's general manager, sends a congratulatory telegram to Ferrari, who had been director of the Alfa Romeo racing department from 1929 to 1939, he will reply:
"I still have for our Alfa, rest assured, the adolescent tenderness of my first love, the immaculate affection for my mother".
However, the victory in Great Britain will not represent an isolated case, and will indeed confirm Ferrari as the main rival for Alfa Romeo in winning the title.
In the next two Grand Prix, Ascari wins as many victories in front of González, and will be able to present himself at the Spanish Grand Prix, the last valid appointment for the world championship, fighting for the title with Fangio. In fact, both need a victory to conquer the iris.
In Spain Ascari is in pole position ahead of Fangio, González and Farina.
The Italian driver at the start commands ahead of González but at the end of the first lap the Argentinian is already fifth, overtaken by Farina, Fangio and Bonetto. On the fourth lap Fangio passes Farina and Ascari, who is afflicted with tire problems.
The gap from the Argentine increases lap after lap: Ascari pays for the choice of having less wide tires than in the previous Grand Prix, so that Fangio wins the race and the world championship, while at the finish Ascari is only fourth, preceded by González and Farina.
The 375 F1 thus conquers seven podiums and three victories, for a total of 64 championship points in eight races disputed in the 1951 season.