Alberto AscariAlberto Ascari (July 13, 1918 - May 26, 1955) was one of Formula One's first stars and the first great Ferrari driver.
Born in Milan, Italy, Ascari had racing in his blood, as his father Antonio Ascari was a talented Grand Prix motor racing star in the 1920's racing Alfa Romeos. Antonio was killed while leading the French Grand Prix in 1925 but the younger Ascari had interest in racing in spite of it. He raced motorcycles in his earlier years until he entered the prestigous Mille Miglia in a Ferrari sports car that he eventually started racing on 4 wheels regularly.
His racing career was interrupted by World War II, after which he began racing in Grands Prix with Maserati with teammate Luigi Villoresi, whom would become a mentor and friend of Alberto's. He won his first Grand Prix race in San Remo, Italy in 1948 and won another race with the team the following year, but his biggest success came after he joined Villoresi on the Ferrari team, and he won 3 more races that year with them.
The first official Formula One season took place in 1950, and the Ferrari team made its debut at Monte Carlo with Ascari, Villoresi, and popular French driver Raymond Sommer driving with the team. Ascari finished 2nd in that race and later in the year shared a 2nd place at F1's first race in Monza. He was only 5th in the championship standings however. He would win his first Formula 1 race the following season on the Nurburgring circuit and added a win at Monza to boot, finishing runner up to Juan Manuel Fangio.
With success in Europe, Enzo Ferrari supplied a car for Alberto in the Indianapolis 500, at the time an F1 event, in 1952. Ascari was the only European driver to race at Indy in its 11 years on the Formula One schedule, but his day ended after 40 laps with internal favors. As it would turn out, that would be the only time he would not win an F1 race that season. Ascari's Ferrari dominated 1952, winning all 6 races in Europe that season and recording the fastest lap in each race. He nearly scored the maximum amount of points a driver could earn, but drivers were given points for fastest laps at the time, and he had to share a half point with another driver in one race.
He won 3 more consecutive races to start 1953, giving him 9 straight wins (not couting Indy) before his streak was snapped after finishing 4th in France, although it was a close 4th as the race was highly competitive. He earned 2 more wins later in the year to give himself a second consecutive World Championship. Ascari would not continue his dominance in 1954 as he would fail to finish a race in his 4 attempts at F1 that year, although he made up for it by winning the Mille Miglia.
His 1955 started similarly, retiring twice more, the latter of which was a spectacular incident in Monaco where he would crash into a harbor after missing a chicane. A week later, on May 26th, he went to Monza to test a Ferrari sportscar and crashed hard on one of the track's tight corners. He would be killed from the accident, a death which is still somewhat mysterious. That corner now bears his name, the Variante Ascari.