The Argentine Grand Prix would be a very early race on the calendar. Held in the later-half of the summer months in the southern hemisphere, the January 16th date for the race meant the off-season would be quite short. This meant car reliability problems were always a factor to take into account. But, for the 1955 edition of the race there would be something more for teams to take into account that would affect the drivers, as well as, the cars—heat.
The whole area around Buenos Aires is nothing more than a flat plain situated right along the coast. This flat ground near sea-level meant the heat during the summer months could be absolutely unbearable. And as the teams prepared for the 96 lap race, that day, the 16th of January, would be a perfect example of just how hot the area could become during the summer months. Incredibly dry and excruciatingly hot, the Autodromo 17 de Octubre would be a veritable oven and this would pose an incredible challenge and danger to drivers and cars as they lined up on the grid in preparation for the start of the race.
The weather conditions would certainly be a factor to the Maserati drivers spread all throughout the grid. Those up near the front would really feel the strain of the heat if they were challenging for a victory. The pressure to remain in the car could prove to be very detrimental, even lethal. Jean Behra would be one of those that would need to be mindful of his condition all throughout the race, let alone what was happening with the car and out on the circuit. Behra would start from the front row in the 4th position along with Fangio in 3rd place, Alberto Ascari in 2nd and Jose Froilan Gonzalez on pole. Harry Schell would be another that would need to be mindful throughout the race. He would start from the second row of the grid in the 7th position.
Carlos Menditeguy would get a drive with the Maserati team and he would start down on the fourth row of the grid in the 13th position overall. The fifth row of the grid would see two Maserati drivers lined up, prepared for the start of the race. Roberto Mieres would start in 16th place while Luigi Musso would be 18th. The final two Maserati team drivers would be found in the 6th, and final, row of the grid. Sergio Mantovani would be starting in 19th place while Clemar Bucci would be 20th.
An incredible crowd would still be present, bearing the stifling heat, waiting to see if Fangio could repeat as victor. The flag would drop and the race would get underway. Almost immediately trouble would rear its ugly head. Fangio would lead the way into the first corner with Ascari following just ahead of Moss in 3rd place. As the field was snaking its way through the first lap contact would be made. Jean Behra and Carlos Menditeguy would be a couple of those that would make contact. Menditeguy would go no further and would retire without having completed a single lap. Behra would continue on to the 2nd lap of the race but would retire before completing it. And so, before even two laps were complete, the seven-car Maserati fleet would be down to five while all four of the Mercedes remained in the race.
Before the 10th lap of the race, six cars would be out of the running. Fangio would have the lead of the race and it would soon come to be apparent that the real racing was taking place in the pits, not out on the race track.
The heat would be absolutely terrible. While a number of drivers that had early exits would take over for those still in the race, there would be a number of changes at driver just because of the intense heat. Mantovani would come in to hand his car over to Behra just prior to the 30th lap of the race. However, around the 35th lap of the race, Behra would hand the car back to Mantovani. About 15 laps later, Schell would come into the pits and would hand his car over to Behra. Bucci had already come in to hand his car over to Menditeguy.
This revolving driver situation wouldn't just take place with the Maserati factory team. Scuderia Ferrari would also do the same thing, as would Mercedes-Benz. The heat would exact a terrible toll on drivers and cars. While 21 cars would start the race, there would be seven cars still running toward the last part of the event.
There would be a couple of drivers that would not get out of their cars the entire 96 laps. Fangio would be one of them. The other would be Roberto Mieres. As a result of this, Fangio would hold onto a commanding lead. Mieres too would be enjoying a rewarding drive.
Maserati would need all seven cars just to ensure they would have at least one finish the race. Where the original tactic may have been to get everyone into a war of attrition and come out on top because of sheer numbers, the intense heat would not allow the team to conduct the race on their terms. And, heading into the final stages of the race, there would be just three of the factory cars still in the race, and neither of them would anywhere near Fangio on the circuit, unless Fangio was coming by to put them another lap down.
It would be an incredible performance by Fangio. Despite burns to his leg, the Argentinean would delight the fans and would bring home back-to-back victories in the Argentine Grand Prix. Posting the fastest lap of the race, Fangio would come across the line with a clear advantage over the remainder of the field. The Ferrari driven by Jose Froilan Gonzalez, Giuseppe Farina and Maurice Trintignant would finish in 2nd place about a minute and a half behind. More than 2 laps further back would be the car driven by Farina, Trintignant and Umberto Maglioli. Roberto Mieres' perseverance would turn into a 5th place result earning him 2 points toward the championship. However, the fact he finished more than 5 laps behind denoted just how far off the pace he well and truly was. Harry Schell and Jean Behra would combine to earn a 6th place result for Maserati. Unfortunately, the partnership would end in them finishing the race more than 8 laps behind.
The weather conditions would dictate the race in Argentina. And, as a result, Maseratis seven-car fleet was almost reduced to ruins while the other teams in the field managed to bring home a majority of its cars. The year before, Maserati had come out on top because it managed to out-last everyone else in the given conditions. One year later, the weather conditions would prove to get the better of the Maserati team and would leave the factory effort pleased to come away with the results it did manage to achieve.
After a Formula Libre race held a little later on in the month, Officine Alfieri Maserati would make its way back across the Atlantic to begin preparations for the European Formula One season. The second round of the Formula One World Championship would not be for a few months after the Argentine Grand Prix. However, there would be a number of non-championship races held throughout Europe. One of the first of these non-championship races would be held on the 27th of March at the temporary Valentino Park Circuit in Turin, Italy. The race was the 7th Gran Premio del Valentino.
Situated along the bank of the Po River, Turin had always been a center for business and culture in northern Italy. Filled with rich history, art, architecture and scenery, Turin has always been an important and influential city within Italy's history and politics. Home to the headquarters for Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo, Turin would also play an integral part in Italy's motor racing scene.
Called the 'Automobile Capital of Italy', it would be of little surprise then that the city's most famous park would be the site for major motor racing in the post World War II years. Overlooking the Po, Valentino Park would surround the former Residences of the Royal House of Savoy, Castle of Valentino. The roads running around the park would serve as the ideal setting for a motor race. The circuit, however, would change over the years in which the venue would be used. And, in 1955, the circuit layout would change again. Instead of a portion of the circuit that wound back and forth upon itself, the updated layout would keep the same length but would abandon the tighter layout for a much faster, oval-shaped design.
Previous | Next