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Ferrari 625 F1, the heir to the victorious 500 F2

2021-04-13 00:00

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Ferrari 625 F1, the heir to the victorious 500 F2

The Ferrari 625 F1 is the car fielded by Scuderia Ferrari in the 1954 Formula 1 World Championship, and part of the 1955’s. The car, strictly derived

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The Ferrari 625 F1 is the car fielded by Scuderia Ferrari in the 1954 Formula 1 World Championship, and part of the 1955’s. The car, closely derived from the 500 F2 world championship, has the arduous task of continue the winning streak of the previous model, and is joined by the 553 F1 in 1954 and replaced by the 555 F1 during the 1955 season.

 

The car's name, identified with the acronym 625, represents the volume of the cylinder of 625 cubic centimeters, which make up an engine with a total size of 2.500 cubic centimeters in total.

 

After the parenthesis of Formula 2 in 1952-53, in 1954 the world championship started again with fully-fledged Formula 1 cars. Compared to 1951, the new regulation of the maximum formula provides for a maximum displacement of 2.500 cubic centimeters for naturally aspirated engines, and 750 cubic centimeters for supercharged engines. However, this novelty is welcomed with many reservations by critics, given the displacement gap with the previous world championship single-seaters.

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As early as 1951, Ferrari began the development of the new type of engine, and the first prototype of the 625 F1 saw the light in the same year, thanks to the disclosure of the 1954 regulations by the Federation well in advance.

 

The engine is of the same architecture as the one used by the Ferrari 500 F2, of which the only substantial variation concerns the displacement per single cylinder, increased from 500 to 625 cubic centimeters. The number of cylinders is chosen by Enzo Ferrari himself in agreement with Aurelio Lampredi, since both consider the 2.500 cubic centimeter in-line four-cylinder as the most suitable configuration for the new displacements imposed by the regulation.

 

The first bench tests, carried out in the spring of 1951, reveal, as in the case of the 500 F2 engine, greater efficiency compared to a twelve-cylinder of the same displacement, greater torque, forty-five kilos of weight less, an improved power-to-weight ratio by fifteen percent, and a sixty-five percent reduction in moving parts.

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The engine boasts  210 horses, at 7,000 rpm, but by changing the compression ratio, already at the beginning of 1954 the power rises to 230 horses at the same rpm, subsequently reaching 245 horses at the end of the same year.

 

Overall, the 625 F1 proves to be the logical evolution of the glorious 500 F2.

 

In addition to the engine, which we have already talked about, and the chassis with side members and cross members, shares with its progenitor the general setting of the car, which features the classic Houdaille shock absorbers flanked by a De Dion bridge at the rear, the four-speed gearbox in block with the differential, and a double ignition with two magnets.

 

However, between 1954 and 1955 the car underwent various modifications aimed at improving its performance. In fact, the 625 F1 turns out to be not very powerful and with trim and balance problems, when compared to the more performing Mercedes W196 and Maserati 250F.

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The engine is revised several times, adopting parts deriving from the 553 F1 engine, even using the crankcase of the 735 S on some occasions. The gearbox is also replaced, preferring a five-speed one.

 

In search of the best set-up, the rear leaf spring is also moved, more precisely from below to above the differential, and helical springs are adopted at the front to replace the leaf springs.

 

The 625 F1 also stands out for the first aerodynamic studies carried out by the Maranello team on a Formula 1. In fact, compared to the 500 F2, the car is slightly more enveloping and some mechanical parts, such as the arms of the rear suspension, are now completely faired.

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The nose is also modified, adopting a more flattened solution, in order to guarantee greater aerodynamic penetration in the fastest circuits. On the occasion of the 1955 Argentine Grand Prix, a particular version with a faired headrest was used for testing but it did not get much success, so much so that it was only used by Umberto Maglioli.

 

However, the comparison with the much more modern and advanced Mercedes W 196, driven by Juan Manuel Fangio, can only work to the advantage of the German car. The 625 F1 is in fact the mirror of a technical potential that is not comparable to that of the Stuttgart car manufacturer, but as a whole it is a competitive single-seater both on the grid and against the 553 and 555 F1 of the Prancing Horse team.

 

Season

 

The debut of the 625 F1 took place at the 1951 Bari Grand Prix, a race not valid for the world title, with Piero Taruffi at the wheel, but the car's debut in the international field took place on the occasion of the Buenos Aires Grand Prix, in a free formula race in 1953, where Farina, Villoresi, and Hawthorn finished in the first three places. A few months later Giuseppe Farina is repeated in Rouen, followed by Hawthorn in second place.

 

However, 1954 was not kind for the 625 F1, which fails to repeat the exploits of the 500 F2 also due to the competition that fielded formidable cars.

 

The first race of the 1954 season takes place on the Buenos Aires circuit, in the rain, and sees the victory of the Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio in the new Maserati 250F. However, the Ferraris do not look bad, placing Farina second, González third, and Trintignant in fourth position, while Hawthorn is disqualified for an early start.

 

In the second round of the season in Belgium, Fangio, about to switch to Mercedes, repeats himself once again with his Maserati, followed by Trintignant and Moss, also on Maserati.

 

It is therefore at the French Grand Prix that the powerful Mercedes W196 debuts, on the occasion of which they easily win a double with Fangio and the rookie Karl Kling. Ferrari had to settle for Robert Manzon's third place after all 625s in the race were forced to retire.

 

At the British Grand Prix, however, things turn in the right direction for the team from Maranello, who wins with González, followed by Hawthorn second and Trintignant fifth.

 

Starting from the German Grand Prix, the whole season will be a monologue by Fangio who, aboard his Mercedes, will prove to be unbeatable. The 625, and also the 553 that in the meantime had made their debut, will have to settle for the placings and bow to the superiority of the Argentine driver, who at the end of the season will prove to be the added value of the Stuttgart house.

 

On the occasion of the 1954 Italian Grand Prix, Alberto Ascari returns to drive a Ferrari thanks to the permission of Gianni Lancia, who, unable to field the D50s, decides to give the Milanese driver the opportunity to return to the wheel of a Ferrari. After a great duel with Fangio, however, Ascari was forced to retire due to technical problems with the engine of his Ferrari.

 

In 1955 the Ferrari 555 F1 was presented, making its debut during the current season. The 625 F1, however, manages to take one last satisfaction from its drivers, allowing Maurice Trintigant to take victory on the Monaco street circuit.

 

The last official race of the 625 F1 is the British Grand Prix, where, however, it takes only a sixth place, three laps behind Stirling Moss in a Mercedes.

 

The 625 F1 closed its racing career by collecting less than hoped. Despite Mercedes' hegemony, the 625 F1 took two victories at Silverstone in 1954, and Monaco in 1955, one double, thirteen podiums, three pole positions and three fastest laps out of eleven official races disputed, to which are added the two victories not valid for the world championship, obtained by Farina in Bari and Rouen.

 

Andrea Rasponi

Team

 

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