Lewis Hamilton’s arrival at Ferrari next year will make him only the 11th British driver to race for the Scuderia. How did the others fare?
Throughout the 74-year history of the official Formula 1 championship, Ferrari has only called upon British drivers on a mere 10 occasions prior to Lewis Hamilton’s sensational signing ahead of the 2025 season.
In a historical context, have British drivers fared well racing in red for the Scuderia?
Eddie Irvine – 1996 to 1999
Irvine was signed by Ferrari in late 1995, with the Northern Irishman snapped up to race alongside Michael Schumacher after impressing during his tenure at Jordan.
Irvine proved worthy support for Schumacher’s title bids in 1997 and ’98, before finding himself taking part in the championship battle directly in 1999.
With Michael Schumacher sidelined with a broken leg following a technical failure on the opening lap at Silverstone, Irvine found himself thrust into the position of leading the team’s aspirations for a title challenge.
Irvine struggled to impress, though, and had to rely on some gifts from teammates to keep his title fight alive. First, stand-in Mika Salo helped by giving him the win in Germany, and Schumacher toyed with the McLarens at will in Malaysia to aid Irvine to victory in his very first race back.
It led to the awkward scenario of Irvine being in title contention at the finale at Suzuka, but with Schumacher doing his best to stop Mika Hakkinen – rather than Irvine himself.
Irvine couldn’t make an impression on the race and, with Schumacher powerless to halt Hakkinen’s charge to the win, lost out in the title fight. He moved to Jaguar for 2000, having decided during the summer of ’99 to end his time with Ferrari.
Nigel Mansell – 1989 to 1990
A dismal 1988 season, in which Williams’ non-turbo Judd proved uncompetitive, had Mansell scrambling for options elsewhere.
The British driver ended up being the last driver Enzo Ferrari would select and approve before his death in the summer of ’88, and Mansell’s time in red was greeted with jubilation by the tifosi.
Dubbing him ‘Il Leone’, ‘The Lion’, Mansell won his very first race for the Scuderia as he utilised the new semi-automatic gearbox on the Ferrari to win the Brazilian Grand Prix.
But that proved one of very few highs for the Ferrari/Mansell combination, with retirements aplenty due to technical problems. Over the two seasons he raced for Maranello, Mansell scored a total of three wins and 11 podiums.
Added to that was the fact that Alain Prost mounted a comprehensive title challenge in 1990, scoring five wins that season, and only narrowly losing out to Ayrton Senna.
Following that humiliation, Mansell opted to retire – only to be coaxed back by Williams after being promised number-one status over Riccardo Patrese. Mansell won the title with Williams in 1992.
Derek Bell – 1968 to 1969
Derek Bell made his name as a hugely successful sportscar legend, but put in a smattering of championship and non-championship appearances for Scuderia Ferrari in the late 1960s.
Impressing Enzo Ferrari in a Brabham BT23C in European Formula Two in 1968, Bell was called up to race for Ferrari for five outings in Formula Two. Finishing third in Hockenheim got him the nod for a championship outing in Formula 1, at the team’s home race at Monza.
Bell remained on for another handful of Formula Two and F1 races with Ferrari in 1969 but his opportunities with the Scuderia dried up. Bell’s first appearance at the Le Mans 24 Hours came with the works Ferrari team in 1970, where he and his teammates failed to finish, but Bell would go on to win the famed endurance race five times over the next 25 years.
Jonathan Williams – 1967
Egyptian-born British racer Jonathan Williams found his way into a Ferrari F1 car by happenstance more so than by dint of being highly desired by Enzo Ferrari.
Carving out a career in junior categories, Ferrari signed him to race in sportscars for 1967. But, with Ferrari losing Lorenzo Bandini in a horrific accident at the Monaco Grand Prix, Williams was offered a drive after his sportscar co-driver Gunter Klass was killed in a crash at Mugello.
Williams drove in the 1967 Mexican Grand Prix, qualifying 16th and racing to eighth.
He didn’t get another chance in F1, with his hopes of a linked Abarth project failing to pan out. He continued racing in some junior categories for another five years, before retiring to become a pilot. He died in 2014.
John Surtees 1963 – 1966
Having established a name for himself even before his switch to car racing by winning multiple motorbike world titles, Surtees got the call to join Ferrari for 1963 after initially racing for British teams.
The partnership yielded near instant success as he won his first F1 Grand Prix at the German Grand Prix that season. Winning two races in 1964, Surtees became the first -and so far, only – competitor to win world titles on two and four wheels as he was crowned F1 World Champion.
No wins came in 1965, and Surtees was fortunate to survive a crash at Mosport Park while testing a Lola sportscar.
A win in Belgium in early 1966 set him and Ferrari up for another title fight, but Surtees and the team fell out at that year’s Le Mans 24 Hours.
With Ferrari only entering two cars for the race, Surtees found himself at the heart of the drama – although there are conflicting reports as to what actually happened.
According to Ferrari, each car was permitted two drivers, with Surtees omitted entirely from the line-up – the reason given by Ferrari team manager Eugenio Dragoni as Surtees not being judged as being fully fit following his crash in late 1965.
According to Surtees, he was placed alongside Luovico Scarfiotto in one of the Ferraris, and argued he should be given the first stint of the race as he felt he was the faster of the pairing.
Dragoni denied this request, with Scarfiotto given the start stint – possibly to try keeping Fiat chairman Gianna Agnelli, his uncle, happy as he attended as a spectator.
Either way, Surtees wasn’t happy and immediately quit the team – likely costing him and Ferrari the title in 1966. Surtees passed away in 2017.
Mike Parkes – 1966 to 1967
Having been one of the main thorns in the side for Surtees in sportscar racing in the early 1960s, Parkes was given a second chance in F1 having initially made his debut in 1959.
Seven years on from trying to qualify a David Fry machine at Silverstone, Parkes was called up to replace Surtees – immediately finishing second place in France.
Staying with Ferrari for 1967, Parkes finished fifth in the Dutch Grand Prix, and won two consecutive non-championship races at Silverstone and Syracuse.
But a leg-breaking crash at the Belgian Grand Prix curtailed his career and, even after recovering, Ferrari was reluctant to let him race due to the value Parkes brought to the manufacturer as an engineer.
Alongside some sportscar racing, Parkes concentrated on engineering over the next decade – including a lead role on the Lancia Stratos. He was killed in a road traffic accident in Italy in 1977.
Tony Brooks – 1959
The last surviving Grand Prix winner from the 1950s until his death in 2022, Brooks was the first driver (together with Stirling Moss) to win a world championship race at the wheel of a British-made chassis as he won the 1957 British Grand Prix with Vanwall.
Brooks and Moss had the measure of Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins at Ferrari throughout 1958; Brooks was called upon by Ferrari as both Hawthorn and Collins died in crashes.
A strong title challenge was pulled together as he won at Reims and the Nurburgring but, having been understandably frightened of racing in cars that were in questionable mechanical health following crashes in 1956 and ’57, Brooks pitted for checks following a collision in the season finale.
Having been hit by Wolfgang von Trips in the race at Sebring, Brooks pitted for over two minutes for checks. The car was fine, and Brooks’ caution – which he never regretted – ended up costing him any chance of the title.
Cliff Allison – 1959
Allison had impressed Ferrari during a short period in sportscars in which he showed tremendous speed.
Signed by Ferrari for 1959, Allison’s career was curtailed almost immediately after suffering injuries in a crash at Monaco that saw him hurled from the cockpit.
Knocked unconscious in the crash, he suffered a broken left arm, broken ribs, cuts to his face, and a concussion.
Returning to F1 with a privateer Lotus in 1961, he broke both of his knees and his pelvis in another crash during practice for the 1961 Belgian Grand Prix.
Allison opted to retire to the village garage his family operated, including local bus services for the community – he died in 2005.
Peter Collins – 1956 to 1958
Like so many drivers of his time, Collins joined Ferrari off the back of a strong showing in sportscars – having partnered Stirling Moss in the Targa Florio in 1955.
In his maiden season with the Scuderia in 1956, Collins won the Belgian and French Grands Prix, but gave up his own chance at the title by handing over his car willingly to Juan Manuel Fangio after a mechanical failure on the Argentine’s car at Monza.
Collins was demoted to third in the championship, but earned him respect and loyalty from Ferrari.
An overweight and underpowered Ferrari in 1957 prevented Collins, or close friend Mike Hawthorn, from challenging for the title – although the pair amused themselves by entering into a rivalry with Ferrari teammate Luigi Musso, in which the British drivers would share the prize money gleaned from either of them beating Musso.
The last few weeks of Collins’ life read like something from a novel. Having deliberately damaged the clutch on his Ferrari, which was shared with Hawthorn during the 1958 Le Mans 24 Hours, Ferrari sacked Collins after he was found drinking in a pub in the UK even before the race had ended.
But Ferrari backed down and allowed Collins to race an F2 car until the end of the season – until Hawthorn, close friends with Collins, refused to drive unless Collins was given an F1 car.
Collins raced the F1 car he was given to fifth, and was promptly sacked again – leading to Hawthorn flying to Italy and smashing down locked doors to find Enzo to tell him he would not race again until Collins was reinstated.
Collins’ remaining career was saved after Luigi Musso died at Reims, with Collins racing to the win at Silverstone. While desiring to help Hawthorn win the title, Collins was not slowed down by Ferrari and he took the win. However, just a few short weeks later, Collins died in a crash at the Nurburgring.
Mike Hawthorn – 1953 to 1958
Hawthorn joined Ferrari in 1953 and, despite winning a race in his first year with the Scuderia, took until 1958 to launch a proper title challenge.
A spirited season-long fight with Stirling Moss went down to the season finale in Morocco, in which Hawthorn won.
The British driver opted for retirement immediately, having been distraught following the death of close friend Collins a few weeks earlier. Just three months into his retirement, having begun writing a series of children’s books, Hawthorn died in a road traffic accident in the UK while racing a friend along the motorway.
Hawthorn’s death, coming so soon after his Ferrari teammate Collins, led Luigi Musso’s girlfriend to make the following remarks – Musso himself having died in an accident a few weeks prior.
“I had hated them both”, Fiamma Breschi said after saying goodbye to her mortally wounded boyfriend in the hospital.
“First because I was aware of certain facts that were not right, and also because when I came out of the hospital and went back to the hotel, I found them in the square outside the hotel, laughing and playing a game of football with an empty beer can.
Honourable mention: Peter Whitehead
Star of pre and post-war Grand Prix racing, Welshman Peter Whitehead and co-driver Dudley Folland were the first people to whom Enzo Ferrari ever sold an F1 car, purchasing a Ferrari 125 from the Italian in 1949.
The following year, Whitehead attempted to qualify the 125 at Monaco, but failed to do so.
He won a handful of non-championship races as a privateer with the Ferrari 125, but his greatest success came in sportscars as he won the 1951 Le Mans 24 Hours as well as the 1953 and ’54 Reims 12 Hours.
He died in a crash at the 1958 Tour de France when he and half-brother Graham flew off a bridge into a ravine, shortly after the duo had raced to second in that year’s Le Mans race.