On the occasion of his 80th birthday, Arturo Merzario gave an interesting interview to Italian daily newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport. During the chat, the former Ferrari driver was asked to look back at his Formula One racing career.
He replied that he felt lucky to still be alive unlike many other drivers who tragically died in racing accidents. However, referring to his overall results in the series, he also wanted to underline that he found himself in the right place at the wrong time several times. In this regard, he brought up current Scuderia Ferrari Monegasque driver Charle Leclerc
The comments of Arturo Merzario
“My first car? I didn’t even have a driving licence, I used my brother’s”, Arturo Merzario admitted in the interview for La Gazzetta dello Sport – “Then my parents gave me a Giulietta Spider 1300, luxury stuff. In 1962 I ran my first race there for Scuderia Lario, in Monza. It was the Fisa Cup: out of 32 starters I finished eighth with the car with the radio on. I liked racing and I liked … women. It worked, eh. Just imagine: the others went by bike…”, he says.
Arturo Marzario then explains what his first steps into the racing world were: “When did I realize I could be a professional? At the Nurburgring in 1963. It didn’t seem true that I could drive on the left, without fear of a bus arriving. I beat all the its drivers, and then Abarth hired me. Only that there was the military. I only started in 1967”.
A few years later, in 1969, Arturo Merzario won the European Tourism Championship. A victory that earned him a call to Scuderia Ferrari: “In 1969: it seemed like an unattainable goal. Instead, thanks to my ignorant right foot, I was there. I was a Formula 1 driver, test driver, postman, everything: as was the custom at the time” .
At the time motor racing was not as safe a sport as it is today. When asked if he has ever been afraid behind the wheel of a car, Merzario replies: “Yes, always. Even on the motorway from Milan to here, in Carate Brianza. Let alone in the race. Not afraid of dying. Because if you moeret you moeret, if you die, you die. I was and am afraid of being disabled. The driver who says he’s not afraid is talking nonsense” – he added.
In 1976, at the Nurburgring, Merzario made a heroic gesture: he rescued Niki Lauda from the burning car, saving his life. In this regard he states: “It was one of the moments that mark a life. Mine and his. If Niki lived another forty years it is thanks to Arturo’s madness. Because you had to be crazy to do what I did. I’m a believer, not a practitioner: but I think something told me to stop. Then that Ron Howard made us a completely wrong novel in that film.”
Finally, on his recent commitments: “The last race? In September, at Goodwood. But last year I also did a real race, at the Nurburgring, for the 50th anniversary of BMW motorsport, with the M2. Two laps from the end I was third, I could have gone on the podium at 79. The safety car came out, at the restart they passed me in two… Now I race for the health insurance company, with prototypes and historic F.1s. I have the great fortune of driving the Ferrari of Phil Hill from 1961, Jim Clark’s Lotus 21. What more do I want?”.
The words of Arturo Merzario on Charles Leclerc
“I’ve had it all and more, in my career and in my life. I’m super lucky, just to still be here. From my generation we’re left with Andretti, Stewart and me.” Then he brings up the current Ferrari driver, underlining: “Many times it happened to me to be in the right place at the wrong time. I’m afraid it’s like this for Charles Leclerc too…”.