Alberto Ascari: the best double world champion we have ever seen?
And yet, when you think of great drivers, I don’t think Ascari ranks high. He has won one less race in six seasons than Jack Brabham in 16 or Graham Hill in 18. He has won more than Mario Andretti or James Hunt despite far fewer opportunities to do so. He scored twice as much as John Surtees or Jochen Rindt.
He seems to have everything. He is not only the only Italian to win the title in a Ferrari, incredibly he is the only Italian to win the title, Andretti being a naturalized American at the time of his 1978 triumph, but his reputation is not not what she is. his record would suggest.
Maybe he was just a big guy, a specialist, inexpert in other areas? Maybe not. He only did Le Mans twice, in 1952 and 1953, retiring from both but not before breaking the lap record on each outing. He took part only once in the 12 Hours of Sebring and, once again, set the fastest lap in the race before being disappointed again, this time by a Lancia. And he won the only Mille Miglia he has completed.
Fangio gave him his money’s worth in 1953 and Ascari still won
So why isn’t he more revered? Maybe it’s just me. Maybe you’re sitting there wondering what I’m talking about. Yours Alberto is up there with Jimmy, Graham, Mika, Fernando and Max, the other double world champions. Or maybe he isn’t. And that may be because he died a very long time ago, as he was the very first world champion to die, some 67 years ago in 1955.
But I wonder if it’s not actually because he was famous for other things, like being the son of another incredibly capable driver who also died in a race car at some point in his life. if coincidentally similar to that of Alberto’s accident. Not being naturally superstitious (as Ascari was) nor finding violent death a subject I choose to dwell on, I’ll leave that to others. Or maybe it was because of his dive in the port of Monaco during his last grand prix, from which he emerged unscathed, albeit just four days before his death in Monza. Or could it be that his 1952 title was won without opposition from Juan Manuel Fangio all season and is somehow considered devalued as a result? I’m sure El Chueco would have given him more for his money than anyone else, but he was back in 1953 and Ascari still won.