Mercedes-Benz, however, would be one of the few manufacturers that would not take part in any of the non-championship grand prix. The year before, the team had made an appearance at Avus in Berlin. It would be an incredible sight as the three W196s would come sweeping down off the steep banking of the north curve to cross the line in a staggered formation.
With the exception of Juan Manuel Fangio who would not take part in many non-championship races, the break in between the 6th, and final, rounds of the World Championship would allow drivers, like Stirling Moss, to be seen in their future roles after the departure of Mercedes-Benz.
In the case of Stirling Moss, it was evident before coming to drive for Mercedes who he would return to drive with come the 1956 season. There had been a big question surrounding his commitments to the Maserati factory and contracts signed with sponsors. But, unlike this day and age of firm contracts, Moss would be released from such obligations in order to chase after the incredible offer placed before him by Mercedes.
Even though the Mercedes drivers had already started to seek out future employment, there was still one more round of the World Championship to complete. And, with the German Grand Prix off the calendar, it seemed fitting that that final round should be the Italian Grand Prix.
The 1954 season had seen Mercedes dominate, but it also revealed some signs of weakness such as at Silverstone and Pedralbes. One year later, and with Silverstone and Pedralbes off the schedule, Mercedes was literally unbeatable; the only mark on its 1955 record being Monaco. Therefore, if Mercedes was to bow out of Formula One, nothing would be better than one more indomitable performance. And, the Autodromo Nazionale Monza served as the perfect venue.
Initially built during the early 1920s in the Royal Villa of Monza, the Autodromo Nazionale Monza would be one of the first purpose-built racetracks in the world. When the track made its debut in September of 1922 it would boast of a rather unique design. Not only would the circuit have a road course for its use, but it would also boast of oval track that could be incorporated into the road course to make a much longer road course.
The 6.2 mile circuit would see its share of fatal accidents during its early years. And, by the 1930s, the layout of the circuit would change many times until, by the end of World War II, just the 3.91 mile road course would be used. The oval portion of the circuit would lay abandoned and decaying.
It would be decided, following the 1954 Italian Grand Prix, to rehab the oval portion of the circuit in order to make use of it once again. Therefore, during the winter months, the oval circuit would undergo refurbishment and an important evolution. The original oval circuit had some rather shallow banking in each of its corners. Monza already had a reputation for being an ultra-fast circuit. Therefore, a great deal of focus would be put into the oval evolution in order to maintain the circuit's already high average speeds. Thus, it would be decided to make both ends of the oval steeply-banked. This would ensure drivers would be able to keep their foot firmly to the floor going around the banked ends of the circuit. So, heading into the 1955 edition of the Italian Grand Prix, teams and drivers would find the old 6.2 mile beast ready and waiting.
Aware of the changes to the circuit, Mercedes would still pull out all of the stops and would model an evolution of the previous season's streamlined W196. Just one would be produced and it would be Juan Manuel Fangio that would be given the honor of taking to the wheel. Stirling Moss would also be handed a streamlined W196; it was just one of the older models used during the 1954 season. Intent on going out on top, Mercedes would bring four cars to Italy. Besides Fangio and Moss, Karl Kling would take to the wheel of one of the open-wheeled W196s as would Piero Taruffi.
Upon arriving at Monza, Mercedes would find a renewed threat from Scuderia Ferrari. Lancia's financial woes would make the potent D50s available for sale. Enzo Ferrari would move on the opportunity and the D50s would be rebranded Lancia-Ferraris. On home turf, and with the presence of the other major Italian grand prix manufacturer, Maserati, Mercedes could expect one tough fight during the 1955 Italian Grand Prix.
But, even with the purchase of the Lancias by Ferrari, and the presence of Maserati, Mercedes would appear unbeatable throughout practice. Behind the wheel of the updated streamlined W196, Fangio would turn the fastest lap of the 6.2 mile circuit. Completing a lap in 2:46.5 at an average speed of 134 mph, Fangio power his way to yet another pole. Not surprisingly, Moss would start right alongside his colleague having posted a time just three-tenths of a second slower.
If Mercedes-Benz was intent on going out of motor racing on top, then the team's performance in practice would only add to everyone's confidence. While a perfect performance would have included a Mercedes in each of the first four positions on the grid, the team's performance in practice would be close to perfect. Karl Kling would make sure there would be at least one more clean sweep of the front row by grabbing the final starting spot on the front row. Piero Taruffi would struggle, compared to his fellow teammates, but still, would perform well putting his Mercedes on the fourth row in the 9th position.
Though already a bittersweet proposition, the Mercedes Silver Arrows would take to the grid for the final time in Formula One. Still, the usual Italian sunshine and warmth would make it a truly memorable occasion for just about everyone involved, including teams, drivers and spectators.
The excitement would begin to build amongst the passionate Italian fans. Eager to cheer on their Italian machines against the German might, the Italian threat would be muted to a fair degree with the unfortunate when tire problems on the two Lancias would lead to Farina crashing heavily during practice. Similar problems would visit Villoresi. As a result, the Lancias would not take part in the race. Therefore, despite having a large number of Maseratis and Ferraris in the field, it seemed like an almost impossible proposition to snatch victory away from the four Mercedes. And that is just how Mercedes wanted it.
The three Silver Arrows would come to life, ready to lead the field from the front row of the grid. At the start, it would be Stirling that would get the better jump off the line. Moss may have gained the advantage off the line, but by the end of the first lap it would be Fangio in the lead just ahead of Moss. Piero Taruffi would start the race much further down in the field than the rest of his teammates. However, right from the start of the race, Taruffi would be on the move. And, by the end of the first lap, it would be Taruffi right behind Moss with Kling making it a Mercedes one-two-three-four.
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