|1954||Maserati, Ferrari, Lancia||4||4||0||0||0||-||1||3||1||2||0||1.14||25|
|First race||Monaco Grand Prix||Monaco||May 21, 1950||Race results|
|Last race||Monaco Grand Prix||Monaco||May 22, 1955||Race results|
Alberto Ascari was one of the dominant figures of post-war racing, just as his father had been immediately after World War One. Ascari junior led the Ferrari team in the inaugural FIA World Championship in 1950 and was world champion himself in 1952 and 1953.
With motor racing in his blood, he started racing with motorcycles before the war brought an end to his activities. After the interruption of the Second World War, Ascari had his first taste of grand prix racing in 1947. In 1949 he joined the Ferrari team - Enzo Ferrari had been a close friend of his father - and was soon a hugely popular personality, largely because of his skill on the track and charm off it.
In 1952, although he missed the first race, he won the Belgian, French, British, German, Dutch and Italian Grands Prix and duly took the title. He kept this winning streak going into 1953, taking the first three races and then two more later in the year as he motored to his second consecutive world title.
In 1954 he moved to Lancia for more money than Ferrari were willing to pay but found himself sidelined as the promised cars were not ready. As he kicked his heels, Juan Manuel Fangio began his four-year domination.
In 1955 Ascari crashed into the harbour during the Monaco Grand Prix but swam to safety with minor injuries. And yet four days later he was dead.
His father was killed while leading the French Grand Prix in 1924 and that helped fuel Ascari's deeply superstitious nature. He avoided black cats and refused to allow anyone to touch the briefcase containing his racing apparel: the lucky blue helmet and T-shirt, the goggles and gloves. He was also fastidious about unlucky numbers and rather eerily he was killed on the 26th of the month - like his father had been - and was the same age as well - 36.
His death was odd because Ascari, a driver who was renowned for his attention to safety, took a Ferrari out testing at Monza without a helmet - he had left his at home. He reasoned that after Monaco it was best to get back behind the wheel and drive as soon as possible. On the third lap his car crashed - the reasons and circumstances have never come to light - and was killed.
More than a million people lined the streets in Milan for his funeral. Fangio lamented: "I have lost my greatest opponent." So distraught was his friend Gianni Lancia that he decided he had had enough and handed his team, including spares, drivers and monocoques, to Ferrari.
Three days before he died Ascari had told a friend. "I never want my children to become too fond of me because one day I might not come back and they will suffer less if I don't come back."
Strengths and weaknesses
Popular with colleagues and crowds because of his modesty and eagerness to praise others' ability, there were few harder drivers to pass when he was out in front, but critics noted he lacked the complete focus needed when he was chasing the lead
After cruising to the 1952 title, Ascari was faced with a returning Juan Manuel Fangio for the opening race of the 1953 season, and what's more in front of Fangio's fawning crowd in Buenos Aires. Allied to that Ferrari was expected to be challenged by a resurgent Maserati. But Ascari took pole and stormed to victory in intense heat, setting him on course for a second consecutive drivers' championship.
His decision to move to Lancia in 1954 came with the promise of a new car and more money. But the car failed to materialise until near the end of the season - while waiting he was forced to take guest drives for Maserati and Ferrari - and by the time it was ready Fangio was unassailable. Ascari finished the season without completing any of the four grands prix he entered.
"Certainly Ascari was wonderfully good... he was rather better than good, he was very good indeed. He may have been as fast as Fangio... but he had not got the polish that so distinguished Fangio" - Stirling Moss
"When he had to follow and pass an opponent, he evidently suffered, not from an inferiority complex, but from a nervousness that did not let him express his true class" - Enzo Ferrari
Ascari holds the record for the most consecutive wins - nine - between 1952 and 1953 assuming the Indianapolis 500 is excluded. He also holds the record for the most consecutive races where he set the fastest lap (7)
He has the least grand prix starts of any champion - 32