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Ranking the Top 10 Italian Racing Drivers in Formula 1 History

Matthew WalthertFeatured ColumnistSeptember 3, 2014

Ranking the Top 10 Italian Racing Drivers in Formula 1 History

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    Alberto Ascari on his way to victory at the 1952 French Grand Prix.
    Alberto Ascari on his way to victory at the 1952 French Grand Prix.LEVY/Associated Press

    France is the birthplace of grand prix racing and Britain is the heartland, but the sport's spiritual home is in Italy. The country has produced two world champions—Alberto Ascari and Nino Farina—and is home to one of the most famous racing circuits in the world: the Autodromo Nazionale Monza.

    Despite that, Formula One is in the midst of its third-straight season without an Italian driver on the grid (and only the fourth since the championship began in 1950). Earlier this year, I examined some of the reasons for the lack of Italian drivers.

    But even with this recent drought, only one country—the United Kingdom—has more grand prix winners than Italy's 15. As the teams arrive in Monza for the Italian Grand Prix, we have ranked the top 10 Italian drivers in F1 history (also check out our previous rankings of the best British and German drivers).

Methodology

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    Mark Baker/Associated Press

    The methodology for this ranking is the same as the one used to rank the top German drivers:

    • Career winning percentage
    • Points per race (using the 10-6-4-3-2-1 system for all drivers, thanks to Mark Wessel's points comparison site)
    • Podium finishes
    • World Drivers' Championships
    • Top-three finishes in the World Drivers' Championship

    The ranking includes all 15 grand prix winners from Italy. They were ranked in each of the five categories, with the top driver in each category receiving 15 points and the bottom driver receiving one. The overall ranking is based on their total scores.

Honourable Mentions

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    Giancarlo Fisichella on the podium at Monza in 2005.
    Giancarlo Fisichella on the podium at Monza in 2005.Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Giancarlo Fisichella, a name very familiar to modern F1 fans, just missed the cutoff for the top 10. Born in Rome, Fisichella won three races in his career. He is the last Italian driver to stand on the podium at Monza, in 2005, when he finished third for Renault.

    Just behind Fisichella in the ranking is a Tuscan driver, Alessandro Nannini. He only raced five seasons in F1 and managed to take his lone victory at the infamous 1989 Japanese Grand Prix, which saw a collision between title rivals Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, followed by Senna's disqualification.

10. Lorenzo Bandini

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    Lorenzo Bandini leads the 1966 US Grand Prix before his engine failed.
    Lorenzo Bandini leads the 1966 US Grand Prix before his engine failed.Associated Press

    Lorenzo Bandini's best season came in 1964, when he won the Austrian Grand Prix and finished fourth in the championship, 17 points behind the winner, John Surtees. Bandini finished second in Monaco in both 1965 and 1966, but he never made it to the top step of the podium again.

    Tragically, he died in 1966 from burns he sustained in an accident at the Monaco Grand Prix.

9. Ludovico Scarfiotti

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    Ludovico Scarfiotti driving for Ferrari.
    Ludovico Scarfiotti driving for Ferrari.Getty Images/Getty Images

    Like Bandini, Ludovico Scarfiotti won one grand prix in the 1960s and was killed in a racing accident. Scarfiotti's triumph came at the 1966 Italian Grand Prix—in a Ferrari!

    Scarfiotti never raced a full F1 season and started only 10 grands prix in his career (his high winning percentage is one of the reasons he made it into this ranking). Like many F1 drivers at the time, Scarfiotti also raced sports cars and won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1963 and the 1,000 kilometre race at the Nurburgring in 1965.

    Scarfiotti died in a hill-climbing race in Germany in 1968, less than a month after taking two fourth-place finishes for Cooper at the Spanish and Monaco Grands Prix.

8. Elio De Angelis

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    Elio de Angelis at the 1986 Brazilian Grand Prix, the last race he finished.
    Elio de Angelis at the 1986 Brazilian Grand Prix, the last race he finished.Mike King/Getty Images

    Another Roman, Elio de Angelis won two grands prix with Lotus: the 1982 Austrian Grand Prix and the 1985 San Marino Grand Prix. His best season, though, came in 1984, when he finished third in the championship, albeit 38 points behind champion Niki Lauda.

    For 1986, De Angelis moved from Lotus to Brabham, but he was killed while testing at the Paul Ricard Circuit in France after only four grands prix with his new team.

7. Luigi Musso

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    Luigi Musso in 1954.
    Luigi Musso in 1954.Mario Torrisi/Associated Press

    Luigi Musso started just 24 grands prix before he was killed at the 1958 French Grand Prix at Reims. In those 24 races, though, he finished on the podium seven times, including five second-place finishes and his lone victory: a shared drive with Juan Manuel Fangio at the 1958 Argentine Grand Prix.

    In 1957, Musso finished third in the championship, 24 points behind Fangio. When he died in 1958, he was also sitting third in the title race, just five points behind the leader, Stirling Moss.

6. Piero Taruffi

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    Piero Taruffi winning the 1951 Carrera Panamericana road race.
    Piero Taruffi winning the 1951 Carrera Panamericana road race.Associated Press

    Piero Taruffi is another driver with a short, but successful, F1 career. He was already 43 years old by the time the F1 world championship began in 1950, but he still started 18 races between 1950 and 1956.

    Taruffi won his only race at the 1952 Swiss Grand Prix, held at the Bremgarten Circuit outside the capital, Bern. That year, Italian drivers dominated the championship and he finished third in the drivers' standings, behind Ascari (who won six of the eight races that season) and Farina.

    Taruffi turned 46 a month after the conclusion of the 1952 season and he never raced a full F1 season again.

5. Michele Alboreto

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    Michele Alboreto racing for Ferrari at the 1985 European Grand Prix.
    Michele Alboreto racing for Ferrari at the 1985 European Grand Prix.Mike King/Getty Images

    Michele Alboreto won five races over his long career. His best seasons came in the mid-1980s with Ferrari. In 1985, he finished second in the championship to Alain Prost. Alboreto was only three points behind the Frenchman with five races remaining, but he failed to finish another grand prix that year and wound up 20 points adrift.

    After several years in uncompetitive cars, Alboreto retired from F1 following the 1994 season. He continued to race in IndyCar and sports cars, and was killed testing for Audi in Germany in 2001.

4. Luigi Fagioli

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    Luigi Fagioli (far right) at the 1935 Monaco Grand Prix.
    Luigi Fagioli (far right) at the 1935 Monaco Grand Prix.Associated Press

    Luigi Fagioli was another star from the interwar years who was already near the end of his career by the time the F1 world championship was organised for the 1950 season. He was 51 when that first season began, but he managed four second-place finishes and one third in six starts that season. Those results left him third in the drivers' standings, just six points behind the champion, Farina.

    In 1951, Fagioli entered only one race, the French Grand Prix, and he shared the win with Fangio. Fagioli still holds the record as the oldest grand prix winner.

    For the next season, he continued racing sports cars, but he was killed after an accident while practicing for a race in Monaco.

3. Riccardo Patrese

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    Riccardo Patrese driving for Williams in 1990.
    Riccardo Patrese driving for Williams in 1990.Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images

    Riccardo Patrese, who started 256 races, was the most experienced F1 driver in history when he retired in 1993 (he has since been passed by Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher).

    Patrese won six races over his long career and finished third in the 1989 and 1991 championships. In 1992, his penultimate season, he finished a distant second to his team-mate, Nigel Mansell, winning the Japanese Grand Prix, more than 11 years after his first victory.

2. Nino Farina

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    Nino Farina in a Ferrari at the 1952 French Grand Prix.
    Nino Farina in a Ferrari at the 1952 French Grand Prix.Jean Jacques Levy/Associated Press

    Giuseppe "Nino" Farina was the first F1 world champion in 1950. He won the final race of that season, at Monza, to clinch the title from Fangio and Fagioli.

    Farina raced just three more full seasons in F1 after his triumph, finishing second in the 1952 championship. That year, he did not win a race but finished second to the champion, Ascari, four times in seven starts.

    Although Farina survived the early, deadly years of F1, he was killed in a car accident in 1966 on his way to watch the French Grand Prix.

1. Alberto Ascari

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    Alberto Ascari at the 1953 Belgian Grand Prix.
    Alberto Ascari at the 1953 Belgian Grand Prix.Associated Press

    It should be no surprise that Ascari ranks first on this list. He is not only the best Italian driver ever, he is one of the best F1 drivers in history.

    In his 1952 and 1953 championship seasons, he won 11 of 17 races (although he did not even enter two of those 17). For his career, he won more than 40 percent of the races he entered and could have added to his total, had he not been killed testing a Ferrari sports car at Monza in 1955.

     

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