Formula 1 is sometimes a world where people are “here today, gone tomorrow”. There are some who stay for years on end, but many do not. And some come, have an important role for a short time, and then depart. Peter Schetty, the Ferrari F1 team manager, was one of these.
The Schetty family founded a dyeing company in Basel in the 1850s and built it into one of the biggest in the country. The family diversified into plastic manufacturing as well, so money was never short when Peter, the heir to the family business, was growing up. Born in 1942 in Basel, he studied for a degree in economics at St-Gallen and then a doctorate in political science in Vienna. While he was growing up he was passionate about skiing and was a top class competitor until he broke his ankle badly and switched to his other passion – car racing.
During his teenage years he had often “borrowed” the family car when his parents were out for the evening and had driven on the country roads in the region. When he was 19, he competed with a Volvo on the Freiburg hillclimb. His father Rudolf was none too pleased as he wanted his son to concentrate on his studies but in late 1965 a friend called Karl Foitek, a young Zurich garage owner who had competed in the 1950s and 1960s before building up a string of dealerships, originally with Alfa Romeo, Jaguar and Lotus, and later with Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati, loaned him a Lotus Elan and Schetty impressed everyone by finishing second in class on the Marchairuz hillclimb. Peter then purchased a Shelby Mustang 350 GT, and raced with Squadra Foitek in the European Hill Climb Championship, finishing second in the GT category.
This led to him being hired by Carlo Abarth to compete in hillclimbs in a factory car. In addition to driving, he soon became the team manager as well and won a string of victories, including the Nürburgring 500km in 1968. For 1969 he was hired to race for Ferrari, driving the unique Ferrari 212 E Montagna, a one-off spyder built on a Dino 206S chassis and powered by a 2-litre flat-12 engine, which had been developed from the 1512 F1 engine of 1964. Schetty dominated the 1969 European Hillclimb Championship, winning every race in which he took part. His course record on the Cote de Cesana-Sestriere would remain unbroken for 13 years. This led to Ferrari making Schetty a member of the Ferrari sports car team in 1970, racing alongside Jacky Ickx and John Surtees in 512s. He then became the development driver for the new 312 sports car and was named as Ferrari team manager in sports car and in Formula 1. He held the job for years, 1971 nd 1972, during which time the F1 team won three victories: with Mario Andretti in South Africa in 1971, Jacky Icky in Holland later that year and Ickx in Germany in 1972.
At the end of 1972 his father, who was nearing retirement, called him back to the family business and Schetty disappeared as quickly as he had arrived. The family dye business were sold in 1984 and Schetty moved into finance, although today he continues to run a large company manufacturing glassfibre reinforced polyester pipes.
And if the name Foitek sounds familiar, it is because Karl’s son Gregor was an F1 driver, without much success, in 1989 and 1990 with Eurobrun, Rial, Brabham and Onyx. The best result of his seven starts (from 22 entries) was seventh place in Monaco in 1990, when Eric Bernard grabbed sixth (and his first F1 point) by driving Foitek into the wall in the final laps of the race.