So how often have all the elements for domination been in place at Ferrari?
The 126C3 didn’t have the power of the BMW engines, nor did it have Prost in the cockpit. The 246 Dino had the grunt and driver talent, but fell behind the times because its drivers were behind the engine. The 641 had superior handling to its rivals, but its V12 lacked the poke of the Honda V10 in the McLaren, which allowed someone as gifted as Senna back in the ballpark.
The Ferrari 312T was on the next level of brilliance, and wanted for nothing. The sticking point is how much of its dominance was down to Lauda. On pace, he had equals, even a couple of superiors. Would the 312T in, say, Ronnie Peterson’s hands have had the crushing superiority of the F2002? Possibly. But with Ronnie at the helm, doing the testing, it would never have been the car it was, nor would the team have been kicked into shape. Lauda was the best.
Did the 156 ‘Sharknose’ have as great an advantage as the F2002? Perhaps. And yet it didn’t have Stirling Moss, a driver as far ahead of the next best as Schumacher is today, at its wheel. Instead, in Phil Hill, von Trips and Ginther, it had the Ralf Schumacher, David Coulthard and Giancarlo Fisichella of its day — sufficient talent for it to win all but two of the grands prix it entered in 1961.
Similarly, the 500 had the legs of its rivals by a clear margin. But unlike the ‘Sharknose’, it also had a genius behind the wheel: Ascari. The Italian was arguably superior to Fangio at that point in their careers. Farina wasn’t, though, nor was Hawthorn, and yet their 500s beat Juan Manuel’s Maserati, too.
The F2002 is a technical tour de force, but it is easy to be blinded by the gizmos. At its core motor racing is as simple as it ever was: first past the post (team orders notwithstanding). And even in the harsh, cold light of the current winning-is-everything era, the 500’s performance during 1952-53 stacks up as at least the equal to that of the F2002.
Half a century and a ‘world’ apart, but inseparable in success.