Formula 1 Insight

Sharknose Ferrari 156
Big news this morning (in fact, just about the only news in F1, judging by the websites) is Jean Todt's interesting statement regarding the WMSC's ruling on the Ferrari documents affair. I could very easily go along with the trend and dissect the statement but am determined not to. Quite frankly, I'm tired of the matter and feel that the truth of both sides' arguments will be decided eventually in the Italian and British courts; until then, it is pointless to try to decide between such opposed viewpoints and everyone would be much better occupied if they were to return to the central business of motor racing. For those who want to know, the full statement can be found on Pitpass.

Sharknose Ferrari courtesy of Rob Ijbema

My problem then becomes one of choosing something to write about today. Testing is over now until later in the year, so we don't even have timesheets to pore over in an attempt to see pointers for the future. It is too early to start getting excited about next weekend's Hungarian GP and I have already written so often about the Scott Speed eruption that my readers must be heartily sick of the sound of his name.

So what to write about? History suggests itself but that is a huge subject with countless possibilities. Then, on a visit to Rob Ijbema's blog, Car-a-Day, I saw the above sketch and it brought the memories flooding back. The old Ferrari 156 Sharknose, a creature of legend and the dreams of 13-year-old boys in the sixties...

It's that unusual construction at the nose that does it, of course. It looks as though it makes the car faster, although it's unlikely that it achieved much, apart from a slight impediment to the airflow to the radiator. Combine it with the tubular body that extends beyond the gearbox at the tail and you have a car that resembles a shark more than anything else. Looking like that, it really couldn't lose.

And it didn't, allowing Phil Hill to notch up the first American victory in the Driver's World Championship in its first season, 1961. The British teams were in disarray that year, still arguing about the sudden introduction of the 1.5 liter formula while Ferrari simply got on with the job. Their Carlo Chiti-designed V6 was lighter, more powerful and had a lower center of gravity than the British solution, a four cylinder Coventry Climax engine, and on only two occasions was Sterling Moss able to outfox the Ferraris in his box-like Lotus.

Phil Hill
Phil Hill in the Ferrari 156

The 156 Ferrari continued for two years after that but its glory days, as well as its shark nose, were gone. With the introduction of a Climax V8, Ferrari no longer had a power advantage and Colin Chapman's innovations on the Lotus soon made the 156 obsolete. But the Sharknose will always be remembered as Ferrari's first venture into the rear-engine revolution inspired by John Cooper's funny little cars.

It's still the car's looks that make it stand out, however. No doubt the double air intake was the result of a desire to bring the car into line with Ferrari sportscar practice of the time but, inadvertently, the team created a car that became a classic as a result.


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