Being an Italian driver in F-1 in the early 70's was not an easy thing. At least Arturo Merzario got to drive for Ferrari in 1972 and 1973, although the latter year was the worst season in record for the Cavallino Rampante, bar the disastrous 1980 season. His most extraordinary feats in Formula 1 were during the 1974 season, when he took the weak Iso Marlboro to a third grid place in South Africa, plus drove in the top ten for most of the season, often qualifying in front of fancier machinery. Fourth place in Italy was a good prize for a job well done.
Merzario is one of the few drivers to have scored a point in his Formula 1 debut for Ferrari in Brands Hatch, in 1972, and in spite of showing quite a turn of speed in sports cars, his Grand Prix career fizzled after 1975. He only drove quite uncompetitive machinery from that point on, except for a good handling March in Brands Hatch in 1976 and the Shadow for a one-off appearance in Austria, 1977.
He also took the foolhardy step of building his own car, soldiering on for two years, before downgrading to Formula 2. One might consider Merzario a madman for this, but he must have been one of the very last true sportsmen in the GP paddocks. Diminutive Merzario was one of the men who saved Niki Lauda in the 1976 fiery crash at the Nurburgring, a fact that has been acknowledged by Lauda, who meet him in 2006 to "celebrate" the 30th anniversary of his second shot at life. Plus, Arturo, in spite of being in his 60's, still loves racing, and races here and there.
Born on 3/11/1943, Civenna, Como, Italy
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Merzario is the son of a wealthy Italian contractor who began racing in 1963. By the late 60’s, he became well know for his exploits in the race Circuito di Mugello, winning the race in 1969 and attracting Ferrari, who hired him for his 1970 Sports Car team. Although Merzario was paired with such luminaries as Chris Amon, he did not fare badly and continued on the works team in the next year. In 1970 and 1971 Merzario won some minor races for both Ferrari and Abarth, and by 1972 was ready for the big time. Having won two World Makes races, Merzario was called to race for Ferrari in the British GP. He did splendidly by finishing 6th, as a result of which, he was paired with Ickx for the 1973 GP season. The beginning of the year was good: although he did not qualify well, Art earned two 4th places, in Brazil and South Africa, that netted him 6 points, leaving him well ahead of the tables for a while. But this was a terrible year for Ferrari, a transition year, and Merzario ended up not racing the full season. Before the end of the year, Ickx left the team, and Merzario represented the team well in some final races, but no more points came his way. He was not to be called for the next season, among other things, due to his lack of team spirit in the Nurburgring 1000. Dropped by Ferrari, Merzario was hired by Frank Williams, who fielded the Iso Marlboros. These were the laughing stock of the field in 1973, so not much was expected of Merzario in this mount. He did surprise quite a few people, often qualifying in the top 10, including a stupendous 3rd place grid slot in South Africa. He raced forcefully, and won points on two occasions for Frank’s outfit, in South Africa and a popular 4th in Italy. In 75, Merzario was back in Williams’ cars, which performance level dropped tremendously. The year was very good in sports cars, driving for Alfa Romeo, but not so in F-1. Before the end of the year Merzario left Williams, allegedly due to disagreements over money, and was a guest in the Fittipaldi team at Monza. For 1976 Merzario raced a 4th March works car, and did well in a couple of races, running in the points in Brands Hatch before dropping out. Eventually he was rehired by Williams to replace Ickx, but the old Hesketh cars were just as bad as the Iso Marlboros of 1973. Henceforth, Merzario would no longer be competitive in F-1. For 1977, Merzario decided to field his own March 761, and did relatively well enough to place better than both works cars on many occasions. He was also invited to race for Shadow in Austria, run well but was overshadowed (no pun intended) by Alan Jones’ debut win for the Anglo-American team. Merzario’ car was by far the fastest of an armada of Marches filling the entry sheets that year, and maybe this gave Merzario the notion that he should built his own car, which he did for 1978. This was the beginning of the end for Merzario in F-1. His F-1 effort was at best naïve, the car’s appearance tatty, and worse of all the thing was based on the old March 761, which itself was an evolution of the old Marches of 1971! Art actually managed to qualify for a few races this first year, but nothing close to points paying positions or finishes came his way. For 1979, the undersponsored Merzario lingered on. He tried to build a wing car, changed the appearance of the car for the better, but it went slower! In an uncanny move, he bought the remains of the Kauhsen team, which managed to perform even worse than his team. By the end of the season the writing was on the wall. Technology was becoming ever more complicated in F-1, and simply putting together a Cosworth/Hewland special was not sufficient to even make the fields. Merzario decided F-1 was way above his means, and decided to enter F-2 racing, which he did for many years.
Auto racing books about the career of Arturo Merzario
Among our offerings are several books about or discussing the career of Arturo Merzario
MERZARIO OUT OF F-1
Born in Civenna, Como, 11/3/1943
Merzario started his career in hill climbs in Italy, mostly driving Abarths, and he featured as a starter in world championship events as early as 1963, racing an Alfa Romeo Giulietta SZ to 12th in the Coppa Inter Europa Race. He also drove Abarths in the European Touring Car championships, with good class placings to his credit, mostly with Abarth 1000’s. By 1969, Merzario was making a name for himself as a Sports cars driver, still with Abarth, and a win in Mugello propitiated his hiring by Ferrari in 1970. Driving a 512 with Amon, Merzario got a best 4th place in Brands Hatch. Merzario also took part in the inaugural European 2 year championship, with an Abarth, of course, and won in Mugello, was 2nd in Enna and Nurburgring. In 1971, Merzario added single seaters to his menu, driving a Tecno in F-2 events, without success. He shared the Ferrari works prototype in which Giunti lost his life in Buenos Aires, but spent most of the year in Scuderia Montjuich 512’s, without success. He continued to take part in 2 liter events, with Abarths, earning a victory in Vallelunga. He also won an Interseries event with a Ferrari 512 in Imola. In 1972, Merzario won his first two Makes events, both with Ferrari, SPA with Redman, and the Targa Florio, with rally driver Sandro Munari, not before embarrassing many 3-liter machines with astounding drives in early season events with a 2 liter Abarth. He continued his run of success in 2-liters, this time winning three races and the European championship outright. In 1973 Merzario continued to be a works Ferrari driver in Makes, but a 2nd place in Le Mans (with pole position) was the best he could do. He was back in the Abarth, in the liter championship, winning at the Nurburgring again. Let go by Ferrari, Merzario began 1974 in the best possible fashion: he won Monza, with Andretti, aboard an Alfa Romeo, a 1-2-3 sweep. Merzario was the fastest Alfa driver all year, but unfortunately, things went downhill from Monza on. The Alfa was also raced in the Can Am event, but it was no match for the larger engined Can Am cars. Arturo also raced the Abarths in 2 liters, which by now had been renamed Osellas: this was not a succesful year in 2 liters, a category that was utterly dominated by Alpine Renaults. Merzario continued with the Alfas in 75, then run by WKRT, and in fact, won four races, mostly partnered by Jacques Laffite, and also resumed his activities in F-2, racing for Osella. His best result in the category was 2nd in Misano, in a non-championship event. Alfa mostly took a sabbatical in 1976, but ended up doing a few events, earning Merzario a 2nd in Imola with Brambilla. He also raced an Osella 2 liter in Monza, to no great effect. In Group 5, Merzario did Daytona in a Nascar Dodge Charger, and a few events in a Swedish entered Camaro. He was slated to share a BMW 2002 with Pal Joe, in Vallelunga, a DNS. He continued to race the Osella in F-2, occasionally, and had a 2nd place in Santa Monica, only behind Stuck in the factory March. Arturo was back with Autodelta, in 1977, and had a successful season winning four races of the World Sports Car championship. However his only real opposition was teammate Brambilla. He did the Mugello race in a Porsche 934, co driving with Bianco, and was also 3rd, in the Monza ETCC event, driving and Alfa GTV with Amerigo Bigliazzi, only behind two much more powerful BMWs. Merzario returned to F-2 in 1978, driving for the Fred Opert team on occasion, obtaining a 5th place in Misano. In 1979, Merzario took part in the Procar BMW championship, but this was not a successful venture. In 1980, Arturo had changed his team to F-2, and continued to try to make the thing work – well it didn’t. Sometimes he drove, sometimes he was manager/designer, but by 1984, with the demise of F-2, thus ended the international Merzario racing team. From 1985 on, Arturo concentrated on Italian sports car racing, with good success for many years, with machines such as Symbol, Lucchini, and others. He also took part in the 1994 Italian GT championship, driving a Ferrari again, an F40! In 1995 he changed his mount to a Maserati Ghibli, with a best 5th place. He continued with the Maserati in 1996, fihinishing a best 3rd place in Magione. He also won the inaugural MaseratiBi Turbo cup in Imola, 1995, and raced in the Porsche Super Cup. With the death of the world championship in 1992, European Sports Car racing was a in state of disarray, and the few existing sports car races accepted entries of small bore local machinery, and an European Sports Car championship was created. Thus, rising like a Phoenix, Merzario was back in big time racing, in fact winning a race in BRNO, in 1997, aboard a Centenari Alfa Romeo, also finishing 2nd in Jarama, in front of much faster machinery, such as a couple of Kremer Porsches and a Courage Porsche. He was back with the Centenari in 1998, finishing 4th in Paul Ricard, and racing a Gaiero-Al;fa Romeo in Misano. and Donington. By Anderstorp, his mount was a Picchio-BMW, the same car raced in Nurburgring. In 1999, Merzario was seen aboard the Tampoli-Alfa Romeo, with a best of 5th in Monza. He also drove a Debora BMW in Kyalamy, but this was a DNF. The years had caught up by 2000, and Arturo was not back for more in the European Sports Car Championship. He continued to race GTs, including a Ferrari F355 in 2002, a Porsche 996 in local Italian events, and the variety continued, including a BMW Z3 in the Belcar championship, raced in Most, Czech Republic. But he is slated to drive in the 2005 FIA GT Championship, racing a Ferrari 360 Modena!!!! One can say many things about Arturo, but not that he does not love racing!
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