A partnership spanning 70 years
11th May 1947. A team bound to become the most famous team in the world made their debut on the circuit of Piacenza: the Scuderia Ferrari.
The single-seater on the track was a Ferrari 125 with a 12-cylinder engine; the driver was Franco Cortese. The car was manufactured at the Ferrari factory, a tradition which is still part of its trademark. On that first car, however, there were parts from a supplier which has been with the "Rosse di Maranello" since that very first day; after 70 years, it is still a technical partner and, as an Official Supplier, its logo is on Vettel’s and Raikkonen’s cars.
Today this technical partner is known as SKF, a multinational corporation from Sweden specialized in the manufacturing of ball bearings; but at the beginning of their partnership with Ferrari its name was RIV, one of the companies making up the Fiat Group which was finally sold to the Swedish corporation in 1988, after over twenty years of collaboration.
But let’s go back to the origins: from 1947 until the end of the ‘60s, Ferrari made their single-seaters taking lots of mechanical parts from the catalogues of external suppliers: among them there was RIV - later known as RIV SKF and, today, SKF -, which produces the ball and roller bearings used in many parts of the engine as well as the clutch and gearbox. They are invisible but indispensable components: in plain English, they eliminate friction and they are an essential part of any mechanical device with rotating parts such as aircrafts, trains, bicycles, washing machines. Of course, the ones we find on F1 cars are extremely sophisticated and, through the years, they have developed enormously: from the small steel balls to the last generation of ceramic ones, which are even more resistant and “sliding”; parts which were ordered from a catalogue and then adapted to those which are now designed jointly by the Ferrari and SKF technical teams.
The cooperation is not merely technical, but it also involves the planning to produce these components, given that nowadays research moves faster than production: tests and races never stop from February to December. A demanding challenge which takes place behind the scene of GPs, and SKF has been accustomed to it for over 70 years!