Record updated 15-Feb-23
Arturo Francesco "Art" Merzario is a racing driver from Italy who participated in 85 Formula One World Championship Grands Prix, debuting at the 1972 British Grand Prix. He scored 11 championship points. He enjoyed great success in sports cars winning the Targa Florio twice and the European 2-litre championship in 1973.
Merzario was born in Civenna, Como, Italy, the son of a wealthy Italian contractor. His real name was actually Arturio but a mistake on his registration consigned him to being know without the 'i'. He began racing in 1963 with an Alfa Romeo Giulietta SZ but first came to prominence in the late sixties driving the works Fiat Abarths in both GT and European hillclimb events.
Arturo with his trademark Marlboro cowboy hat.
If one race in particular advanced his career prospects, then it was the Mugello GP in 1969, which he won after a superb drive in the Abarth 2-litre, beating the likes of Vaccarella and de Adamich. This brought an invitation to join the Ferrari sports car team for 1970 and the start of a three-year association with the Scuderia. Over the next few years he won some minor races for both Ferrari and Abarth.
1971 did not start well when his co-driver, Ignazio Giunti, was killed in a Ferrari 312 PB during the Buenos Aires 1000 km race. Merzario tried single seaters that year, driving a Tecno in Formula 2 but without success. In sportscars he took victory at Vallelunga for Abarth and also won an Interseries event with a Ferrari 512 in Imola.
His best season was probably 1972, Merzario making a sparkling Grand Prix debut at Brands Hatch, winning the Spa 1000 Km with Redman, the Targa Florio with Munari and the Rand 9 Hours with Regazzoni in the 312P. In addition, racing for Abarth, he was crowned European 2-litre champion.
He won the Spa 1000 Km with Redman early in May and the Targa Florio with Sandro Munari at the end of the month. This led to a call up by the GP team for Arturo to drive in the British Grand Prix, deputising for Regazzoni who was out of action with a broken arm sustained playing football. He made an impressive debut driving the Ferrari 312B2 qualifying in 9th, and finishing a creditable 6th in the race.
Back in sportscars he won the 500 km at Imola and the Kyalami 9 hour race with Regazzoni in the 312P. That year he also won the European 2-litre championship for Abarth. As a direct result of his good form, he was given a full time Grand Prix drive alongside Ickx for 1973.
Unfortunately 1973 was not a good year for Ferrari and though Arturo stuck to the task, finishing 4th in Brazil and South Africa, Ickx gave up and left the team before the end of the season. Arturo did take pole at Le Mans, finishing the race in 2nd however he was dropped by Ferrari at the end of the year.
However his feisty spirit appealed to Frank Williams, who signed him for 1974 to drive the Iso-Marlboro. Not much was expected of him but he still managed a few good qualifying performances and did finished third in a non-Championship race in the Medici GP at Brasilia, Brazil however once the serious business began, success was elusive.
The Iso-Marlboro was in fact an early Williams. In those days Frank preferred to use his sponsors’ names to identify his cars. Apparently because he didn’t think that the name Williams was suitably “swoopy” for a racing car. The first car to carry the Williams name appeared the following year, when a lack of title sponsor left him without a better name for it.
The 1974 Spanish GP at Jarama with Arturo considering his options amid an interesting lack of concern from the assembled by-standers.
Not much was expected of him but he still managed a few good qualifying performances and did finished third in a non-Championship race in Brazil. However in the World Championship things were not going well. 1975 was no better and Merzario quit during the season. In sports cars with Alfa Romeo things were better, winning four races as well at taking the Targa Florio for a second time.
1975 was no better and Merzario quit during the season. In sports cars with Alfa Romeo things were better, winning four races as well at taking the Targa Florio for a second time.
He returned to Formula One in 1976, first with March, then with an old Hesketh for Frank Williams. During 1976 he was one of the drivers, along with Guy Edwards, Brett Lunger and Harald Ertl who saved Niki Lauda from his burning car during the German Grand Prix. Without competetive machinery he set up his own team for 1977 and struggled in Formula One for three years. Initially he drove a March 761, out performing the works cars on a number of occasions before deciding to build his own chassis for 1978.
The car was based on the old March 761 which was not the best starting point and it was downhill from there. The car was revised for 1979 but only managed to go slower! For reasons best known to himself he then bought the remains of the Kauhsen team, which was even worse than his own team. At the end of the season he quit F1 deciding to go back to F2 for 1980. However with the demise of F2 in 1984, Merzario's single seater career was over.
However it was not the end of his racing. He concentrated on Italian sports car racing, starting in 1985 and enjoyed considerable success for many years. He also took part in the Italian GT championship between 1994 and 1996. He won the inaugural MaseratiBi Turbo cup in Imola in 1995, and raced in the Porsche Super Cup.
He entered the new European Sports Car championship in 1997 and won at Brno with a Centenari Alfa Romeo. He also finished 2nd at Jarama, in front of much faster machinery. He was back with the Centenari in 1998 finishing 4th at Paul Ricard however after a few appearances in the European Championship in 1999 he stepped down from International competition.
Artuto Merzario in his Centenari M1-Alfa Romeo at Donington Park on 5th July 1997. Photo courtesy of Tony Harrison
Arturo is nothing if not a racer and so he continued to race in local Italian events.