It happened today – 14 February

It happened today – 14 February

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

On 14th February 1942, Ricardo Valentin Rodriguez de la Vega was born in Mexico City. He was two years younger than his brother Pedro and made his Formula 1 debut before him, actually at the wheel of a Ferrari in the 1961 Italian Grand Prix. At the time he was the youngest ever Formula 1 driver. He qualified second and was in the hunt for the win right up until he retired with a reliability problem. Ricardo had got himself noticed plying his trade with NART, the American team which ran the Ferraris in races in the United States, where his elder brother was racing. At the wheel of a 250 TR-59, he came second in the 1960 Le Mans 24 Hours, paired with Andre Pilette, while the following year, he came third in the Sebring 12 Hours and second in the Daytona 3 Hours.

In 1962, he became a works driver, but in Formula 1 he was hampered by a less than competitive car, while he had some great results in endurance racing, winning the Targa Florio and the Paris 1000 Kilometres. Towards the end of the season, he wanted to take part in the first Mexican Grand Prix, although it didn’t count for the World Championship: Ferrari didn’t take part, so Rodriguez raced a Lotus. On 1st November, in practice, the will to do be the best in front of his home crowd got the better of him: he went off the track at the banked Peraltada corner and suffered injuries which would prove fatal.

“He’s a wild guy who races with a frightening lack of restraint and an excess of physical energy without compare. I think that if this youngster learns to contain his impetuosity and refines his driving style, he can be very successful,” had said Enzo Ferrari when talking to a journalist about him, as he recorded in the book “Piloti, che gente…” “I understood that his desire to win devoured him. It was a noble ambition but it laid dangerously in wait for him. And I knew that, in his family he would not find water to put out his fire, but petrol. I had to read in the papers that, because of excess speed, in an attempt to beat a record taken from him moments earlier by another competitor, during practice for the Mexican Grand Pris, he went off the road in a Lotus. This time, fate was not kind to him. He was twenty and was such a good kid, always cheerful, with that innocent face of a naughty child.”

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