Few sports like a landmark to the same extent as motor racing, so the S&G raises a glass to Shell and Scuderia Ferrari on the occasion of their 170th victory in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship. Sebastian Vettel’s victory in Monaco has given his title prospects a shot in the arm – and pushed both Ferrari and Shell further ahead in the history books.
When looked at in detail, these sorts of claims are always hard to pin down without a bit of leg-work. Atop this little piece, for example, is a picture of the ‘odd man out’: Giancarlo Baghetti, who famously took victory in the 1961 French Grand Prix at Reims.
This was the first of just 21 world championship appearances that Baghetti made between 1961 and 1967 – a record that is unlikely to ever be beaten. At least not until Formula 1 can go cold turkey on hiring newcomers based on their bank balance rather than their raw pace.
The car was a red Ferrari and it was prepared by Italians affiliated to Maranello… but it was not a Scuderia Ferrari entry. Rather, it was entered under the name of Federazione Italiana Scuderie Automobilistiche, which was a conglomerate of Italian teams such as Scuderia Dolomiti, Scuderia de Tomaso, Scuderia Pescara, Scuderia Settecoli, Scuderia Montegrappa, Scuderia Serenissima, Scuderia Sant’Ambroeus and one or two others (depending upon whom you’re asking).
Their aim was to promote a young Italian driver – and in this they duly succeeded with Baghetti’s record result at Reims.
So, with Baghetti’s victory aside, today’s result for Sebastian Vettel stands as the 170th time that Shell and Scuderia Ferrari have taken the honours in a points-scoring round of the world championship. And it’s Ferrari’s 70th year as a constructor… which has a nice symmetry to it.
Of course, the history of Scuderia Ferrari dates back to the end of 1929 – as does Shell’s relationship with the team. Shell had partnered Alfa Romeo throughout the glory years of the 1920s and when Enzo Ferrari decided to establish a secondary team for customer drivers to compete using Alfa Romeo cars, Shell was an early investor. As a result, a Shell fuel pump was placed outside the Scuderia’s original workshops in Modena.
The partnership between Shell and Ferrari has only been broken twice ever since – once during World War 2 and again in 1973, when Shell decided to focus on sports car racing with Porsche, and its Formula 1 programme became something of a patchwork until returning with a wallop at the start of McLaren’s glory years with TAG-Porsche power.
In 1996, Shell and Ferrari were reunited – which was rather timely, for this was also when Michael Schumacher arrived at Maranello. Between 1951 and 1973, Shell and Ferrari had achieved 48 wins together. During the 11 seasons that the German maestro was in command, they took the total up to a thumping 135.
The 35 wins that have come after Schumacher have been spread across seasons of feast and famine, bringing two constructors’ titles, Kimi Räikkönen’s drivers’ title and Felipe Massa’s moral victory in 2008.
The 2017 season looks like being the first in which the Scuderia can string together a convincing title campaign since Massa’s final corner anguish in Sao Paulo. Of course, Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes will have a thing or two to say about it – but who knows, maybe Ferrari and Shell will celebrate ‘175 not out’ before the end of the year?
At least hitting the Shell partnership’s 170th points-scoring F1 win could hardly have been in a more fitting location than the storied streets of Monaco. One imagines that there will be a celebratory flute or two raised in hospitality to toast this landmark before the day is out.
One thing is for certain: very soon Shell will have achieved 300 wins in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, to sit alongside the 60 wins in 84 runnings of the Le Mans 24 Hours to date (and virtually every world championship sports car race ever).
These are among the most significant landmarks to be found in Shell’s trophy cabinet, which is too often hidden away behind the other stuff: a unique legacy that should be jealously guarded.