Osella is an Italian racing car manufacturer and former Formula One team. They participated in 132 Grands Prix between 1980 and 1990. They achieved two points finishes and scored 5 championship points.
Early years[edit | edit source]
While the FA2 was entered on one occasion in 1980 by the Italian privateer Marco Rocca, Osella Squadra Corse appeared in the world of Grand Prix racing with its first Formula One machine, the FA1. The car was designed by Giorgio Stirano. Powered by Ford Cosworth DFV, it was overweight and aerodynamically inefficient. The car was presented in a blue and white livery with large Denim branding on the sidepods. Many components were manufactured in-house which meant that they were cheap to produce but not always state-of-the-art. The driver was again Eddie Cheever who was able to finish just one race in whole season. Frequently, he had to suffer from the massive unreliability of his car. In the following seasons, the basic design was changed several times.
In the early years, most of the work was done by interim designers like Giorgio Valentini or Tony Southgate, but frequently Enzo Osella himself also worked on the cars. Most of these attempts brought no improvement as high-tech solutions could not be financed. Jean-Pierre Jarier finished fourth at Imola in 1982 (where only 14 cars started) and scored the first Championship points for the young team in a car that was by now dubbed Osella FA1C.
Despite this result, neither the financial nor the technical situation improved. Few sponsors were attracted by the tiny Italian team. Denim only stayed for the first two seasons, Kelemata was no more reliable, and others like Landis & Gyr vanished as quickly as they had come. Most of the other sponsors were small or mid-size companies from Turin or the region of Piemont.
Driver changes[edit | edit source]
The lack of funding led to frequent driver changes as the team demanded that their drivers bring significant sponsorship to keep the team afloat. Some drivers started their F1 careers at Osella, such as Alex Caffi and Gabriele Tarquini , while Piercarlo Ghinzani had four stints with the team. Others disappeared as quickly as they had come, such as Allen Berg and Franco Forini. Enzo Osella gave the young Austrian Jo Gartner his one and only chance to drive a Formula One car in 1984. Riccardo Paletti also had high hopes, but was killed in a start-line accident at the 1982 Canadian Grand Prix .
None of these drivers were able to push the team forward. Finally, Osella continued to live hand-to-mouth each year, with little or no improvement in competitiveness.
Alfa-Romeo derived FA1F at the 1984 Dallas Grand Prix, where Ghinzani achieved Osella's second and last points finish.
In the mid-1980s, Osella was the beneficiary of factory Alfa Romeo engines, both in naturally-aspirated (1983–84) and turbo (1984–88) forms. On one hand, the Alfa engine program helped the team to survive the increasingly professional turbo era; on the other hand, the heavy, unreliable and thirsty machines contributed to the team's lack of competitiveness. At least at first, Alfa offered some technical input to the team; the 1984 Osella FA1F was based on the 1983 works Alfa Romeo 183T, which had been loaned to the team for "design assistance" purposes. All the following Osella models up to the FA1L in 1988 had their origins in the initial Alfa design.
The Alfa turbo engine, the 890T, was not reliable. Chargers blew off regularly and power output had to be reduced down to the level of the non-turbo cars just to achieve the necessary reliability. On more than one occasion, Osella tried to replace the 890T with more up-to-date Motori Moderni turbos (which Minardi did not support) or with Cosworth engines. In the end, both were too expensive, so Osella had to stick with the increasingly outdated but cheap 890T.
For 1988 – the last year before turbos were banned – the team re-branded the 890T as the "Osella V8". This came about after Alfa's parent company, Fiat, grew tired of the negative publicity the team had given the 890T and, while allowing them to continue using the engine, refused to allow the Alfa Romeo name to be used.
After driver Nicola Larini managed some impressive times in pre-season testing at Monza, the team were quietly confident of a decent showing through 1988, as many teams had switched to naturally-aspirated engines in preparation for 1989. However, the reality was that the FA1L, with its outdated turbo, was not up to the challenge: Larini often failed to qualify or even pre-qualify, and was also excluded from the San Marino Grand Prix before practice after failing to get through scrutineering due to illegal changes made to the chassis. At the end of the season, Enzo Osella was more than happy to be finally rid of the old Alfa engine.
Cosworth power and Fondmetal[edit | edit source]
The 1989 season saw much improvement. The all-new, Cosworth DFR-powered Osella FA1M was a big step ahead, and ultra-sticky qualifying tyres from Pirelli brought some success, at least in the qualifying sessions (most notably in the Japanese Grand Prix, where Larini qualified 10th). The fine qualifying performance brought no results in the races; the Osella cars almost never saw the finish line due to several technical failures. The most tragic race was the Canadian Grand Prix in which Larini was third before the FA1M's electrics failed due to water ingress. Piercarlo Ghinzani re-joined the team for 1989 with limited success, often failing to qualify. He announced his retirement at the season ending Australian Grand Prix. While Larini failed to start the very wet race when his electrics were water-logged on the grid, Ghinzani's race and career came to a violent end when a high-speed collision with the Lotus of Nelson Piquet left Ghinzani with an injured ankle.
In 1990, after ten years in Formula One and still without any meaningful sponsorship, Enzo Osella sold shares in his team to metalwork magnate Gabriele Rumi, as part of a sponsorship deal with Rumi's Fondmetal company. During 1990, the team entered a single car for French driver Olivier Grouillard, who gained a reputation in F1 for being a "blocker", holding up faster cars and ignoring his mirrors. At the end of 1990, Rumi took over the remainder of the team and renamed it Fondmetal.