He won the Targa Florio twice, raced for Scuderia Ferrari, had his own grand prix team, created a car that bore his name and saved Niki Lauda’s life among many other highs and lows. He doesn’t do email, speaks very little English and likes to keep a low profile at his home in Milan.
But with the aid of an interpreter, Arturo Francesco Merzario bravely agrees to ‘meet’ over Skype from restaurant Osteria 1927 Enoteca, just a few yards from the Porta Vedano at Autodromo di Monza, the best place for lunch if you’re heading for the Italian Grand Prix. Monza and Merzario, a full-on, passionate, all-Italian affair. What follows is much gesticulation, intense interruptions, laughter and a few unprintable anecdotes.
We start with sports cars and the many victories for which he will be best remembered. And where better to begin than at Spa-Francorchamps – the old circuit, of course – where Arturo excelled for Ferrari, winning the 1000Kms with Brian Redman in 1972. “Fantastic circuit in those days, very dangerous and very fast. The Ferrari 512S was a nice car, great engine, but far too heavy, so physical to drive, five laps and you were already tired. I had driven a Porsche 917 at Imola in 1971 and it was so much easier to handle. The 312 PB was better, lighter, not so demanding on your body.”