Alberto Ascari, Formula One World Champion, was one of the best racing drivers in history, winning consecutive titles in 1952 and 1953 for Ferrari. Born in Milan, Alberto was the son of Antonio Ascari, a Gran Prix motor racing star. Tragically, two weeks before Alberto’s seventh birthday, Antonio was killed during a race at the Autodrome de Linas-Montlhery. Regardless, Alberto followed in his father’s footsteps, chasing his passion for motorsport.
In his early years, Alberto raced motorcycles and at just 19, was selected to ride for the famous Bianchi team. He switched to car racing in 1940, when a friend of his father, Enzo Ferrari, supplied him with an Auto Avio Costruzioni 815 to race in the famous Mille Miglia. In the same year, Alberto married his wife, Mietta.
Throughout his career, Alberto was renowned for his caution. He drove with great precision and accuracy which made him one of the safest competitors in a time notorious for its dangers . Additionally, Alberto was famously superstitious, taking pains to keep himself safe. It is thought the reason behind his caution was the tragic death of his father.
During World War II, Alberto was conscripted to service. He did not fight as a soldier, however, instead servicing and maintaining vehicles used by the Italian military. During this period, he established a thriving transport business, providing fuel to military depots in Africa. On one boat crossing, there was an accident and their ship capsized, but Alberto his business partner, Luigi Villoresi survived without serious injury.
After the war, Alberto began his career in the Grand Prix, racing in a Maserati 4CLT with his teammate Villoresi. After success on circuits in Northern Italy, Alberto was given the nickname Ciccio, or 'Tubby'. For the next few years, Alberto won a plethora of events across Europe, winning his first Grand Prix in 1948.
His biggest success arrived when he and Villoresi signed a contract with Scuderia Ferrari, building a strong relationship. In 1952, Alberto won the World Championship, despite missing the first race of the season, and scored the maximum number of points a driver could earn. He went on to win three more races, giving Alberto nine consecutive championship wins.
Alberto continued to build a strong career and reputation until 26th May 1955. On this fated day, Alberto travelled to Monza to watch his friend, Eugenio Castellotti, drive a Ferrari 750 Monza racing car. Although not having planned to drive that day, Alberto opted to test the car out. Wearing his jacket and tie, and Castellotti’s helmet, he set off around the track. As he came out of a quick bend on the final lap, the Monza skidded, turning on its nose and somersaulting. Alberto was thrown onto the track, suffering extensive injuries and dying just minutes later.
Alberto left a huge legacy, with streets in Rome named in his honour, as motor racing fans from across the world mourned his death. Alberto was laid to rest beside his father’s grave in the Cimitero Monumentale in Milan. He is remembered as one of the greatest motorcar racers of all time.