By the mid-1950s, Giorgio Scarlatti star was on the rise in the sportscar ranks as his steady driving style would earn him a number of top results in very difficult races. That reputation would help the privateer earn a ride with the factory Maserati team for the 1957 season. Results would be strong. However, with Maserati's withdrawal at the end of the season, Scarlatti would be left with just one proposition—going it alone.
Giorgio Scarlatti was born in late 1921 in Rome, Italy. He would be in his early twenties was the Second World War was really just beginning. This would steal some years from his life. However, when the war came to an end, he wouldn't take too long figuring out what he wanted to do with his time and energy as he would take a Cisitalia and would enter the Coppa della Toscana in 1950—one of his earliest races.
The results would not come right away. But, in 1954, Scarlatti would come through to finish 2nd in class in the Giro di Sicilia in early April of that year. It would be his first major result and it would be just the beginning of a career that would really begin to heat up come 1955 and 1956.
Class victories in races like the Mille Miglia and the Targa Florio would earn him a place within the factory Maserati team in Formula One. Scarlatti would actually make his first appearance in Formula One in 1956 as a privateer entry driving an old Ferrari 500. Unfortunately, he would not qualify in his first race, which was intended to be the Monaco Grand Prix.
However, Scarlatti would earn a ride with Scuderia Centro Sud at the German Grand Prix later that year. And, while he would make it into that race, his Ferrari 500 would again let him down and he would be forced to retire.
Nevertheless, his talents and success in sportscars would be more than enough to earn him a place with Officine Alfieri Maserati for 1957. Following an early retirement in the Monaco Grand Prix, his first effort with the team, he would go on a streak finishing each of his three remaining races. At the German Grand Prix he would come away 10th. He would quickly improve with a 6th place result at Pescara. Then, at the Italian Grand Prix at the end of the year, he and Harry Schell would combine to earn a 5th place result—his first World Championship points.
Unfortunately for Scarlatti, he, like many others, would be left with helmet in hand after Maserati's decision to withdraw from motorsport. Mercedes-Benz had done this a couple of years earlier but there were factory efforts, like Maserati, ready to offer drivers rides. However, the options after Maserati bowed out were fewer in number and increasingly British.
Scarlatti was a known quantity in sportscars. Unfortunately, what was known about him was that he was a solid driver lacking outright speed. This wasn't such a liability in endurance sportscar racing where a steady and reliable pace was as important as going as fast as possible. But, in Formula One, lacking speed was a death knell.
Therefore, it was not at all surprising that Scarlatti would be left on his own heading into the 1958 season. He was certainly a fantastic driver. His results in races like the Mille Miglia, Targa Florio and the Giro di Sicilia were undisputable. But his best result of 5th place in a shared drive with Harry Schell, while his Maserati teammate Fangio was going on to win the World Championship, was also undeniable.
Thankfully for Scarlatti, even though Maserati pulled out of Formula One as a factory effort, they still supplied cars and parts to customers throughout the 1958 season. This meant Scarlatti could get his hands on a Maserati 250F easily enough.
In early 1958, there were a couple of Maserati 250Fs available for Giorgio to purchase. There was one in particular that seemed ideal for Scarlatti if he was to make a go of Formula One by himself again. Back in 1956, he had used a much older Ferrari 500 to make his first forays into Formula One. The car was too outdated to give him much of a shot. He wasn't about to go down that road again, and, thankfully, he would not have to.
There was a 250F that would catch Scarlatti's eye. Not only was it a newer 250F, it was also a rather successful one. In fact, one could say it was a legendary car that should not have been able to race again. The reason for this is simple. It was chassis 2529. It was the same chassis in which Fangio had earned victory in the Argentine and French Grand Prix. However, it was also the same chassis that delivered the historic and legendary German Grand Prix for Fangio. This is the same car that reset the lap record around the Nurburgring lap after lap in an effort to haul in the two leading Ferraris. It would be the same chassis that not only delivered the win, but the fifth, and final, World Championship to Fangio. This was a museum piece. And it would now be in Scarlatti's hands.
It is highly doubtful Giorgio had an illusions concerning the car; thinking that just because he drove a car Fangio had driven and had achieved so much success that he would do the same. However, what certainly had to be on the fore of his mind was the simple fact it was a newer Maserati 250F, a proven one on top of that. This is just what he needed it order to go it alone. He needed a fast and proven car to help his chances.
Armed with his legendary Maserati, Scarlatti would look toward the start of his 1958 Formula One campaign. He had already started his sportscar season, which would include a 10th place result in the infamous Gran Premio de Cuba. But while his sportscar season had already gotten underway, it wouldn't be until the middle of April that his single-seater campaign would begin.
That first race of the season would come on the 13th of April and would come near his native Rome. Though Scarlatti would be in South America at the start of the 1958 season, his Formula One season would begin just across the small stretch of the Mediterranean from Italy. The race was the 8th Gran Premio di Siracusa.
The Syracuse Grand Prix would take place just outside the ancient city amongst the rolling countryside. The circuit would be comprised of public roads and streets. It would be a fast circuit with average speeds at the time reaching upwards of 100mph per lap.
Syracuse had always been an important city in the history of the region. Whether the ancient Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans or more modern protagonists, Syracuse has often been in the center of it all the strife and historical moments of the region's history. Of course, its location right in the heart of the Mediterranean would give ample reason for its place in European history. But when it came to motor racing, Syracuse would be somewhat left out of the story. Its only claim to fame would be its Syracuse Grand Prix, and even that would not have the tradition that either the Mille Miglia, Targa Florio or other races would have.
Still, many teams and drivers would consider the race as one not to be missed. And as Scarlatti arrived to prepare for the upcoming 60 lap, 208 mile, race, he would find a number of mostly privateer entries present as well.
The only factory entry in the field would belong to Luigi Musso. He would arrive with one of Scuderia Ferrari's new Dino 246s and was certainly a favorite to win from the moment he arrived. Musso had finished 2nd to Peter Collins the year before and certainly had the pace to win, even though he may have arrived all by himself.
Having Fangio's famous 250F at his disposal, Scarlatti would also be a favorite heading into the race. And, after practice set the grid, his confidence and belief in his ability to bring home a top result had to be further boosted.
Musso would end up the fastest around the 3.47 mile circuit. His best lap time would be 1:58.4. As it would turn out, he would be the only one that would manage to break the two minute barrier around the circuit. Obviously, he would start on pole.
Even though he was not known for outright speed, Scarlatti would be impressive in practice easily powering his way around the circuit up towards the top of the timesheet. As it would turn out he would post a best lap of 2:01.7. This would end up being two-tenths of a second faster than Jo Bonnier and would result in Scarlatti starting the race from the front row of the grid. He would start from the middle of the front row, 2nd place. It would be a remarkable starting spot. He just needed to convert that strong starting spot into a strong finish.
The new Dino 246 was an obvious step forward for Ferrari and it would show during the race as Musso would lead the way right from the very beginning. Having been the only one to break the two minute barrier, Musso likely knew he had the pace in hand to fend off any challengers. Therefore, he could push, and yet, save the car to ensure it would make it to the end without incident.
That doesn't mean Musso didn't drive the car on its limits. The fact he would set a fastest lap time just seven-tenths of a second slower than his best effort in practice would make that clear. However, because his fastest lap time of 1:59.1 was under the two minute mark, a mark no other car in the field broke in practice, Musso pulled away at the head of the field with ease. In fact, he would destroy the competition over the course of the 60 lap race.
The field was full of Maserati 250Fs and they looked absolutely hopeless when compared to the Dino 246 at the beckon call of Musso. A number of them would fail to finish. Wolfgang Seidel would retire after 18 laps due to fuel issues. Antonio Creus would retire as a result of a crash.
Then there was Scarlatti. He had been the second-fastest man around the circuit in practice. He had reason to be confident of a top result. Even if the victory seemed out of reach there was no reason why he could not end up on the podium. But there would be one very good reason why he wouldn't—unreliability.
Though he would prove himself to be one of the fastest cars over a single lap, finishing the race meant maintaining that speed over 60 laps. Unfortunately, his Maserati would only manage to make it half distance before magneto problems sidelined it for the remainder of the race. So much promise and fizzled so quickly.
Scarlatti's hopes fizzled as quickly as the attacks against Musso for the lead. Musso and the Dino 246 would be in a league of their own on this day. Averaging just over 100mph over the course of the race, Luigi cruised to a very easy victory crossing the finish line more than a lap ahead of 2nd place finisher Jo Bonnier. Francesco Godia-Sales would end up 3rd finishing more than two laps behind Musso.
Scarlatti could have been right in the mix had the car not let him down. It seemed incomprehensible that the very car that delivered victory for Fangio in Germany the year before could be sidelined with problems in Syracuse. But that was the case, and Giorgio needed to recover from it.
The first race of the season had offered Scarlatti a lot of promise. Unfortunately, neither he nor the car could deliver on that promise. He would hope he could turn things around with the second race of his 1958 season. For this race he would have to travel a good distance away from home. He would have to cross the English Channel to England. Upon arriving he would make his way to what would be the sight of the British Grand Prix that year—Silverstone.
It was May and Silverstone. That meant it must have been time for the BRDC International Trophy race. Held on the 3rd of May, the non-championship event would return to its more-usual date in May. The year before the race had been held the week after the Italian Grand Prix in September as a result of the Suez Crisis. With the crisis averted and calmed, events, such as the International Trophy race, could return to some kind of normalcy.
The format of the race would also return to a bit of normalcy. The year before the race had reverted back to its two heats and final format it had long held until after the 1954 running. However, the format of the race would change again in 1958 and would go back to a simple single-race format.
The race would be for both Formula One and Formula 2 cars. The total race distance would be 50 laps, or about 145 miles. For the Formula One cars in the field it would be a great testing session leading up to the British Grand Prix a couple of months away. For the Formula 2 cars in the field, it would be a tougher test as the high speeds and long distance of the race would put serious strain on the Coopers and Lotuses.
Known during the war as RAF Silverstone, the Silverstone Circuit was, very simply, an abandoned Royal Air Force bomber training base. Its three runways and perimeter roads sat amongst the wide-open countryside mere yards from the village from whence it drew its name. The abandoned airfield would host the British Grand Prix for the first time in 1948 and would make use of a couple of runways as part of the course. But then, with the first International Trophy race the year later, the circuit would change to the 2.92 mile perimeter road circuit that would become so iconic with Silverstone.
Unlike the race in Syracuse, the International Trophy race would be replete with Formula 2 cars and the Formula One versions of the mid-engined Coopers. The future of Formula One was all over the entry list and would be at the top of the timesheets at the conclusion of practice.
The fastest-qualifier would be Roy Salvadori in one of the factory Coopers. His lap time of 1:40.8 would be six-tenths of a second quicker than Jack Brabham in another Cooper. Stirling Moss would keep the Cooper train coming as he would end up 3rd on the grid while Peter Collins would provide the first front-engined car in the field when he qualified 4th, the final spot on the front row, with a Ferrari Dino 246.
The pace of the Coopers and the factory cars, like the Ferrari Dino 246, meant trouble for Scarlatti and the other privateers in the field. Despite having a newer generation of 250F, the best Scarlatti could do in practice would be a lap time of 1:51.2. This was nine seconds off of Salvadori's pace and would result in the Italian starting the race from the sixth row of the grid, 20th overall.
A total of 33 cars would prepare for the 50 lap race. The immense field meant plenty of action for the tens of thousands that would assemble to watch the race. It also meant plenty of opportunities for Scarlatti to move forward and backward over the course of the race.
In something of a break from tradition, the conditions for the race would be beautiful as the mighty field formed up on the grid. The flag would wave to start the race, but Moss would be caught off guard. His timing would be off just slightly and when the flag did wave he would end up stalling on the grid. The result would be that he would have to wait until the entire field left before he could be restarted and on his way. Collins, on the other hand, would have a fantastic start and would lead the way over Behra and Flockhart. The Coopers of Brabham and Salvadori had also made terrible getaways and followed even Masten Gregory around for the first lap of the race.
Scarlatti was stuck right in the middle of the field with Moss soon to be coming up fast. Flockhart's fast start would come to a fast end as he would crash out of the race. Maurice Trintignant would suffer from overheating and would also be an early retiree. Tony Brooks and Jo Bonnier would also be early departures from the race.
Meanwhile, up at the front, Collins and Behra would be locked in a tremendous battle. Behra had won the race with the vastly improved BRM the year before and looked just as fast this time around. But there was the matter of the Englishman at the front that Behra would have to contend with.
Scarlatti continued to run in the race, albeit well back of the front-runners. In such an immense crowd, his endurance nature would take over and he would settle in instead of trying to attack each and every lap like Moss was forced to do after his stalled start.
Unfortunately for Moss, the stalled start would put tremendous strain on his Rob Walker Cooper. Not only would the gearbox go through tremendous strain in the balked effort but his pace afterward would only make matters worse. As a result, he would be out of the race after 18 laps with gearbox failure.
By this point in time Behra had made his way by Collins and was pulling away in the lead. The Frenchman had looked tremendous in his dominate performance the year before and it seemed as though nothing could stop him from repeating the performance in 1958. However, perhaps the unlikeliest of events would seriously hinder Behra's chances of a repeat.
Behra was pulling away in the lead when suddenly a rock hit his goggles. The rock had been thrown up by another car he was in the process of lapping at the time. The shattered goggles made it very difficult for Behra to see clearly. As a result, he would enter the pits to receive a new pair of goggles. He would take the goggles off and it would become apparent he had a nasty cut over his eye. However, he would take the new pair of goggles and would set off in the hopes of recapturing what he had once held in his hands.
Collins was now in control of the race. Scarlatti would seemingly be lost in all of the chaos and confusion all around the circuit. Unfortunately a rear suspension failure in the latter-half of the race meant he also departed the scene rather quietly as well. It was his second retirement in a row. He was still without a finish despite having Fangio's famed Maserati for his own personal mount. Being a privateer entry, Scarlatti needed to finish some races and earn some prize money or this going alone was going to come to a swift end.
Speaking of swift, Collins would be in a league of his own once Behra's vision had been hampered. Heading into the final 10 laps of the race, it was the Englishman leading by a large margin in the new Ferrari. Roy Salvadori had overcome his poor start to run in 2nd place. He was running well but could not match the pace of the Ferrari. The best of the Maserati entries would be found in 3rd place with Masten Gregory. He hard started the race from the third row of the grid, but a strong start and a strong pace throughout meant he would be on course for a podium finish if his Maserati could make the distance.
Collins would have no problems going the distance in the Ferrari. Completing the race distance in a little more than one hour and 26 minutes, Collins would ease his way to victory defeating Salvadori by a margin of 23 seconds. Masten Gregory would follow along behind Salvadori another 13 seconds further back.
The sole Ferrari in the field would end up dominating the British presence, but there would be one Italian that would be supremely disappointed as he packed up his broken car and prepared to head back across to the continent.
Scarlatti needed to finish a race. At least he needed to finish one in Formula One that was for sure. He wouldn't be having too many difficulties in sportscars, except for going fast enough. Just a week removed from his disappointing end at Silverstone, Scarlatti would be partnered with Jean Behra in a Porsche 718 RSK in the arduous Targa Florio.
Behra was certainly known for his speed and was looking strong to repeat his victory in the International Trophy race just a week prior until the incident with a rock striking his goggles. But now that French speed would be partnered with Italian temperance in the Targa Florio.
It would be an incredible performance by the two men in the Porsche. Events would unfold that would leave them 2nd place overall though they were at the wheel of a 1.5-liter Porsche. The two men would charge on and would end up finishing first in their class and 2nd overall. This would be a tremendous result for any driver. It would be great for Scarlatti no doubt. However, Behra wouldn't be all that enthused about the whole thing. Though he would relate it privately, it was clear the Frenchman believed he could have won overall had Scarlatti been a little faster. It would be hard to believe that a French would have liked an Italian to drive faster, but then again, Scarlatti was known for his steady hand behind the wheel, not his willingness to flirt with the edge of the envelope.
While Behra would leave the Targa Florio somewhat deflated, the result would be very important for Scarlatti and would certainly build up his confidence. This was good because the month of May would turn into a very busy month of racing for the Italian.
Following the race at Silverstone, and then back on the island of Sicily, Scarlatti would travel the short distance west down the southern coast of Europe into the heart of the French Riviera. Ultimately he would cross over into the tiny principality known the world-over as Monaco. It would be here, amidst the tight and windy streets, the Monaco Grand Prix would be held on the 18th of May.
The Monaco Grand Prix would be one of the most important races in all of Europe prior to the Second World War. The race would then make a very brief appearance on the new Formula One World Championship before it disappeared from view for a couple of years. Then, in 1955, the race would return in memorable fashion with the Mercedes-Benz falling out and Alberto Ascari falling in the harbor. Ultimately, a surprise winner, that of Maurice Trintignant, would come through all the chaos to earn his first Formula One victory, a win in Monaco no less.
Following that surprise victory, Trintignant would achieve relatively little. As far as Scarlatti was concerned, if a victory in the Monaco Grand Prix was all he earned it would be good enough. Of course Scarlatti, along with many others, would have to be concerned with just making into the race first. That, in and of itself, was no small victory.
The Monaco Grand Prix only allowed 16 cars to start the race, so the competition for those few places would be fierce. The battle would take place around a circuit known to be just as fierce.
Measuring 1.95 miles, the Monte Carlo would be quickly becoming an oxymoron in the world of grand prix racing. While many circuits were becoming purpose-built or would take place on public roads and streets in relatively wide-open areas where average speeds would be quite high, the Monaco circuit would stay within a couple hundred yards of the harbor front at all times. It would feature a number of elevation changes, but given the surroundings, it meant a circuit that twisted back and forth upon itself making for slow speeds and a number of gear changes per lap.
Inspite of the opulent surroundings, the circuit itself would be relatively 'low-budget' for the teams and competitors. The pits would be nothing more than an area of boulevard sectioned off for use during the race. There would be no run-off areas and plenty of places to end up with an abandoned high-priced piece of machinery. The tight nature of the circuit also made it difficult for passing and getting around slower traffic. Therefore, grid position would be very important for those intent on battling for a win. Even those merely thinking about finishing the race would have to take care throughout as there would be plenty of opportunity to make a mistake or get caught up in someone else's mistakes.
While most every other race on the calendar would be shortened a good deal, the Monaco Grand Prix would remain one of the longer races of the season. At 100 laps, it was more than likely the race would three hours and this provided ample opportunities for car and driver to suffer a problem over the course of the race.
Scarlatti would be a lone entry. Most of the other factory teams, with the exception of Scuderia Ferrari, would come with three cars. This meant very spots remaining on the grid for the privately-entered cars.
The fight for grid positions would be tight throughout the whole of the grid. Tony Brooks would end up the fastest around the circuit and would take pole beating out Jean Behra by one second. Jack Brabham would play to the strengths of the mid-engined Cooper and would take the 3rd spot on the grid, the final spot on the front row.
In total, there would be no less than 12 cars that would fail to qualify for the race. Giorgio Scarlatti's best effort around the circuit would be a lap time of 1:44.7. This time was nearly five seconds slower than Brooks' pole-winning effort and did not bode well for the Italian. However, the time would prove to be better than Graham Hill and Jo Bonnier by about three-tenths of a second. As a result, Scarlatti would make it onto the sixth row of the grid in the 14th position overall. He was at the back of the grid but at least he was in the race.
Another beautiful day would greet the teams, drivers and spectators leading up to the start of the race. The scene of the Mediterranean in the background and the mountains to the north would give cause for reflection and nostalgia. Then, at last, the prince would make his entrance clearing the circuit. A short time later the cars would be wheeled out to their grid positions and the drivers readied to take their places behind the wheel.
All cars ready to go, engines roaring, the flag would finally wave to start the race. The field would stream towards the tight Gazometre hairpin for the first time. With the field plowing its way into the tight first turn it was unlikely there was not going to be some kind of incident. Sure enough Salvadori would find himself in trouble in the first couple of hundred yards as he would drive deep into the corner but would end up going too deep and would contact another car bending his suspension. This left him at the back of the pack while the rest of the field powered its way toward Sainte Devote for the first time. Behra would be in the lead with Brooks, Brabham and Moss following along not far behind. Starting at the back of the grid, Scarlatti would take care to avoid any first corner problems but would be up a position already as a result of Salvadori's troubles.
At the completion of the first lap Scarlatti would be in good position in 13th position while Behra would hold onto the lead over Brooks and Brabham. Brabham would start out strongly but would begin to fade quickly. This enabled Moss to come up to 3rd place by the end of the second lap while Scarlatti would make a mistake and would lose out a couple of positions to end the third lap right around 15th.
Behra maintained the lead of the race while Brooks followed. Moss would be in 3rd place but would come under fire from Hawthorn in one of the Ferraris. These two fast Brits would battle it out with Hawthorn taking the position and maintaining it over Moss for more than a quarter of the race.
Scarlatti's early slip-up would cost him and it would put him a bit on the back-foot compared to his competitors. He would try and recover and would end up getting back by Graham Hill, the future Mr. Monaco, to run in 14th place. He would receive a little help up the leaderboard when Stuart Lewis-Evans retired early in the race. Brabham would also continue to suffer terrible woes and would fall well behind Scarlatti. Scarlatti would be running just outside the top ten through the first quarter of the race.
Up at the front, meanwhile, Behra would soon run into trouble as the Achilles of the BRM, its brakes, would erupt causing the fast-flying Frenchman to retire after leading the first 30 laps of the race. Hawthorn would now take over the lead with Moss doing what he could to maintain contact in 2nd place.
The drama was just beginning. Eight more laps would pass after Behra retired and suddenly Moss would be in trouble with engine problems. Hawthorn would be all alone in the lead of the race. His pace was such that he could carry on carefully through the last half of the race and still come out the victor. However, nine laps later, a fuel pump failure would cause the victory to slip through his hands. The potential victory would be snatched from Hawthorn's hands and given to the man providence had given the race to before—Trintignant.
Unfortunately for Scarlatti, he was both too far back, and out of the race, by the time Behra, Moss and Hawthorn ran into trouble. Giorgio had been settling in, albeit at the back of the pack. He had managed to make it up to 13th and 12th position before his engine began to give him signs its day was done. Once again, the famous Maserati that had carried Fangio through his incredible storm back to the front at the Nurburgring would fail Scarlatti before a race had even reached halfway. It would seem to answer why it was Fangio had five titles when the very same car he had driven so beautifully wouldn't even last half a race for anyone else.
Trintignant was again handed the lead in the Monaco Grand Prix. However, there was plenty of time for things to go wrong with his Cooper. Maurice would take over the lead of the race with half of the race distance still left to travel. It would seem like the longest half a race of his life. He would be chased by the very talented and capable Luigi Musso in one of the powerful Ferrari Dino 246s. It was a car perfectly capable of challenging for and holding onto the lead if it ever gained control.
However, around the tight streets of Monaco the tiny mid-engined Cooper would be showing its mettle, doing more than what was needed to hold onto the position and fend off any attack from any of the other drivers following along behind. If there was any question as to the advantage of such a car it was being answered by Trintignant this day.
It was an interesting story. Trintignant was a very capable driver, but not the fastest. He was driving for Rob Walker, a talented privateer team, but not the factory Cooper effort. However, it would be Walker's team that would earn the Cooper its first World Championship victory when it won the Argentine Grand Prix earlier in the year and it was the same outfit leading the Monaco Grand Prix as it headed into its final quarter distance.
Throughout the first half of the race Musso could not really challenge the Coopers up the road ahead of him. Now, when the remaining laps were waning down, he still could not do much as Trintignant controlled the pace and the distance back to the Ferrari quite well.
It was quite remarkable as Trintignant continued to hold onto the lead. Musso, try as he would, just could not reel in the Walker Cooper. Fortune shined on the Frenchman once again around the streets of Monte Carlo and he would just smile back and say 'thank you' as he carried on around the circuit for the final time.
It was undoubtedly a beautiful day in Monaco, at least for Rob Walker and Maurice Trintignant. The victory in Argentina had certainly been something of a surprise. But to win two in a row, and at Monaco at that, was something Walker likely would have never imaged.
Trintignant, averaging nearly 68mph over the course of the race, would take his second World Championship victory, both coming at Monaco. Musso would finish in 2nd place 20 seconds behind. Peter Collins would make it two Ferraris finishing in the top three as he finished about 18 seconds further behind Musso.
It would be a great day for Trintignant as his consistent racing style would be rewarded in the biggest way imaginable. Scarlatti, on the other hand, would continue to have his faith in the Maserati 250F destroyed by unreliability. He had taken part in three races with the car to that point in the season and was yet to see the checkered flag. In all reality, he hadn't even come close to seeing the checkered flag in any of those races. He needed things to turn around soon, or else, he had to seriously consider his Formula One ventures, at least in 1958.
The future would have to wait as there would be very little time between races for Scarlatti. Leaving Monaco, Giorgio would quickly have to shift his focus to the next race, and it was just a week away on the 26th of May.
Leaving Monaco for a new venue, Scarlatti wouldn't just be leaving for a new venue. He would be leaving one style of circuit for another that was vastly different. The next race on the calendar would be the third round of the Formula One World Championship for 1958, the Dutch Grand Prix.
The Grote Prijs van Nederland had last made an appearance as part of the World Championship back in 1955. There would be some controversy surrounding that race as it would take place just a week after the terrible events of Le Mans. Many other races would be cancelled over the course of the season but the Dutch Grand Prix would go on. However, the race would not appear on the calendar throughout 1956. It was to make another appearance in 1957. However, disagreements about money and other issues would lead to it, and the Belgian Grand Prix, being abandoned.
The Dutch Grand Prix would be back in 1958 and the Zandvoort Circuit would be worlds apart from Monaco even if both circuits are located right along coastlines. Situated right on the coast of the North Sea, not only would be climate be a change from Monaco, but the circuit itself would be vastly different.
Measuring 2.60 miles to the lap, each lap around the Zandvoort Circuit was a rapid affair. There was no hanging about, not with such corners as Tarzanbocht, Tunnel Oost and Pulleveld. Surrounded many numerous sand dunes, the circuit would be slippery and difficult on even the best of days, especially with the winds coming off the North Sea. Combine this with the high average speeds and the terribly fast corners and the Zandvoort Circuit, as it was then, was by no means an easy endeavor for even the most talented driver and car.
Zandvoort would seem like the last place Scarlatti would go to find his elusive first checkered flag of the season, but it was the next race on the calendar and the next opportunity. And so, he would arrive and would set about with the Maserati mechanics preparing the car for the 75 lap race on the 26th.
Scarlatti would climb behind the wheel of his Maserati in practice and would set about trying to right his Formula One season. While Scarlatti would still find things difficult, the Vanwalls would have things well in order. Though the junior member of the team, Stuart Lewis-Evans would allow his pace to come through taking the pole with a lap time of 1:37.1. Stirling Moss would put another of the Vanwalls 2nd on the grid with a lap time nine-tenths slower and Tony Brooks would make it three Vanwalls along the front row with a lap time just a tenth slower than Moss.
Scarlatti would not have to worry about making it into the field for the Dutch Grand Prix. However, he would also not have to worry about whether or not he would miss out on the front row. In fact, he would end up fighting for the wrong end of the grid. Posting a sedate lap time of 1:44.6, Scarlatti would miss out on the last spot of the grid by just a tenth of a second. As it turned out, Giorgio would end up on the sixth row of the grid in the 16th position.
At this point in time, where Scarlatti started out a race mattered not at all. All he wanted to do would be to finish a race, and after the season he had been experiencing, if that meant last place it likely didn't matter.
The race would take place on a Monday, which was a holiday. This drew a large crowd to the track for the race. The large crowd would watch as Moss took the lead at the start of the race. He would be followed by Lewis-Evans and Harry Schell, who would make a fantastic start from the third row of the grid.
The field would be tightly-packed through the first couple of corners as it headed inland. Scarlatti would try hard to fight for position amongst the crowd but would also have one eye toward the end goal. Therefore he remained toward the end of the train as it began to spread out over the course of the first lap.
At the end of the first lap it would be Moss in the lead by a few car lengths over Lewis-Evans and Harry Schell. Scarlatti would have the advantage on Godin de Beaufort at the backend of the field and would cross the line at the end of the first lap in 16th.
Despite looking absolutely dominant heading into the race, the Vanwalls would begin to suffer during it. Tony Brooks would end up out of the race after 13 laps with a rear axle failure. Lewis-Evans would make a fast start but would end up losing out to Schell after nearly a dozen laps. This would be just the beginning of Lewis-Evans' fall from grace until he ultimately retired after 46 laps with engine trouble.
But there was one Vanwall driver that was not suffering from any kind of trouble and that would be Moss. Though Schell would give chase in the ever-improved BRM, he just would not be able to keep pace with the Vanwall driver.
Scarlatti would certainly be unable to keep pace with just about the whole field as he remained at the back of the field locked in a battle with Godin de Beaufort. Giorgio would be running well despite being at the back and, finally, a race finish seemed to be in his future. However…
Moss continued to lead the way and only stretched further away from Schell in 2nd place. A little ways behind Schell, Jean Behra, Schell's BRM teammate, would come up after running 6th in the early part of the race to get by Hawthorn and Salvadori to make it two BRMs in the top three.
Unfortunately, about the same time Behra was promoted to 3rd place after Lewis-Evans' retirement, Scarlatti's chances at a race finish would take yet another blow. The fast nature of the undulating Zandvoort circuit made it tough on a car's suspension. The compression and going light only worked the suspension members all that much harder as the race wore on. Sadly, after 52 laps, just a little less than 23 laps from the end of the race, the rear axle on the Maserati would fail leaving Giorgio out of his fourth-straight Formula One race of the 1958 season. A year before he suffered a retirement in his first World Championship race of the season and then went on to finish three-straight, each of them top ten results. One year later and he would have to count making it past the halfway mark in a race as a race finish and a victory.
Moss, on the other hand, was on cruise control. He would run out the final 20 laps of the race in comfortable fashion. Averaging almost 94mph, Moss would fly home to victory crossing the line nearly 48 seconds ahead of Schell in 2nd place. Jean Behra would give way to his teammate and would finish in 3rd place nearly a minute further behind.
Scarlatti faced some seriously important decisions. The costs to go racing were not being offset by the rewards of having done so. The failure to even finish one of the four races in which he had contested was coming back to haunt him. He could decide to leave Formula One for the rest of the season. He had been doing well in sportscars and could have focused on that for the remainder of the season.
However, there would be one other option available to him to try out and this could buy him some time before he had to make a final answer. This other possible solution would actually share the pits with him at Monaco.
Following the Dutch Grand Prix, the next round of the World Championship would be in the Indianapolis 500. Fangio would actually go to Indy to attempt to take part in the race. None of the other Formula One drivers would do so. They would wait to take part in the fifth round of the championship, the Belgian Grand Prix.
In the case of Scarlatti, his next attempt to have his Formula One season turn around would come at the 6th round of the championship—the French Grand Prix. The race would take place at the usual site of the French round of the World Championship—Reims. Scarlatti would arrive with his Maserati. However, he would not be listed as the driver for the race on the 6th of July.
At the Monaco Grand Prix back in May, the Maserati factory had sent engineers and crews to help support Scarlatti and his 250F. The factory would also look after another 250F in the field, the one belonging to Jo Bonnier. Bonnier's race would last longer than that of Scarlatti's and it certainly appeared as though Bonnier had the superior pace. Therefore, for the French Grand Prix Scarlatti would turn into a team owner overnight having Bonnier as his driver.
Reims was the perfect place for someone like Bonnier to take over the drive from Scarlatti. Giorgio was known for being a steady and mistake-free driver, but that usually came at the price of speed. At 5.15 miles and being almost nothing but straights, Reims was not a circuit a driver could not drive flat-out. There could be no hesitation or holding back. The driver had to fully commit. Bonnier was certainly much more willing to commit to that level than what Scarlatti.
The Reims circuit would be comprised of public roads literally just to the west of the famous French city. Overrun with farmland, the circuit would be wide-open and fast. The lap would begin with a sprint down the long start/finish straight utilizing the D27 stretching from the village of Thillois to Gueux. The circuit used to extend into the village of Gueux but would actually sweep around a fast right-hand bend named for the village it bypassed. Another fast sweeping right-hander known as Hovette would then lead to some fast esses that eventually spilled out to the Muizon hairpin. The circuit then turned onto Route Nationale 31, a long straight with a rather impressive incline and descent before reaching another tight hairpin known as Thillois. Powering back up the long start/finish straight completed a lap of the circuit. The circuit was fast, demanding and certainly quite dangerous.
The cars would take to the circuit for practice and it would become immediately apparent who the strong contenders would be. The redesigned suspension on the Ferrari 246 Dino meant Mike Hawthorn was quite comfortable behind the wheel. He would end up going fastest around the circuit and would take the pole with a time of 2:21.7. Luigi Musso, driving another Dino 246, would end up 2nd, just seven-tenths slower than Hawthorn. The final spot on the front row would go to Harry Schell in one of the BRMs. This would be very poignant as it had been the Vanwalls that showed the greatest straight-line speed over the previous couple of years. However, there would be just one Vanwall, that belonging to Tony Brooks, found in the first two rows of the grid.
Fangio would be back for one more race. This too would be poignant as he would be back behind the wheel of a Maserati 250F. He would end up on the third row of the grid along with Maurice Trintignant in a BRM and Stirling Moss in another of the Vanwalls. So it was clear the 250F still had the speed to be up close near the front of the field.
Of course a lot would have to do with the driver behind the wheel. And Bonnier, as talented as he was, was no Fangio. This would become self-evident when he posted a best lap time of 2:30.9, a time more than six just slower of just Fangio, let alone those occupying the front row of the field. Again, however, the season had been a terrible one for Scarlatti and it was likely he made Bonnier well aware of the need to finish a race, not worry so much about where he started.
Bonnier would not be too concerned with where he started, not with a lap time like that which he put together in practice. As it turned out, Scarlatti's Maserati would end up on the seventh row of the grid in the 16th position overall.
The focus heading into the race was clear. Finishing was all that mattered. The day of the race would be beautiful. The grandstands, and all around the circuit, would be filled with enthusiastic crowds waiting for what had the potential of being a very memorable race. Back in 1953 an incredible battle developed between more than half a dozen cars and lasted almost the entire race distance. It was one of the most dramatic races in Formula One history, yet, heading into the 1958 edition of the race, there was the potential for something even more special. There were many teams with fast cars. Less than two seconds separated the first seven cars on the grid. And with slipstreaming, the cars could stay locked together all day long. The potential was huge. For Scarlatti, he hoped the potential would just result in a result.
The cars would be assembled on the grid along what was normally a busy road between Thillois and Gueux. Fangio was back and many believed there could be one last victory for the Argentinean. But then there were the Ferraris, BRMs and Vanwalls. It was going to be a great race.
Hawthorn's race would get off to a poor start as it would be Harry Schell that powered his way to the front off the line. From the second row back the field would be rather slow off the line and would be packed-up. Bonnier would avoid the trouble and would get underway still at the back of the field.
Heading through the fast right-hander for the first time it would be Schell holding the advantage over Hawthorn and Musso. However, over the course of the first lap Hawthorn would recover and would be challenging Schell for the lead. The power in Hawthorn's Ferrari would enable him to catch and pass Schell for the lead. Musso, who would lead a small train of cars, would also gain on the lonely Schell.
At the completion of the first lap it would be Hawthorn in the lead. Schell would be in 2nd place, but would be coming under attack from Musso and a fleet of cars that included Moss, Brooks, Fangio and Collins.
Bonnier's start would be okay but his performance over the course of the first lap of the race would be fantastic. Though not as good as Roy Salvadori's launch, Bonnier would manage to complete the first lap two positions higher than where he started. He was just outside the top ten after just the first lap of the race. He just needed to make it to the end though.
Hawthorn would be in the lead with Musso and Collins having dispatched Schell for 2nd place. Behind Hawthorn, Musso was again leading a train of cars that battled back and forth as they slipstreamed down the long straights at Reims. The battle would be thoroughly enthralling as Moss, Collins, Brooks, Fangio, Behra and Schell would all swap positions over a number of laps.
The man with the most pressure would be Musso. A personal life in crisis and the pressure of all Italy would see Musso push harder and harder in his 246. He would manage to break away from the gaggle of cars and would be running on his own in an effort to track down Hawthorn. Musso, in many ways, was driving beyond himself. And, as Fangio would later comment, he would 'leave himself no room'. Around one of the fast, sweeping bends Musso would drift wide and would clip the edge with his front wheel. This caused his Ferrari to overturn a number of times quite violently. Luigi would be eventually thrown from the car into one of the many fields around the circuit. He would be lifted and taken by helicopter to the hospital but would be declared dead almost immediately as a result of a fractured skull.
The race would go on but it was clear the drivers knew Musso's accident was fatal. Hawthorn continued to lead the way but the cars behind him would continue to fight back and forth changing positions a number of times, even over the course of a single lap.
Bonnier, on the other hand, would not be involved in so much drama. Scarlatti would certainly like that. Jo continued to make his way forward, especially when Musso tragically died in his accident and then when Tony Brooks retired as a result of a gearbox failure. Besides a brief tussle with Peter Collins after the Ferrari driver made an early mistake, Bonnier was driving a clean and unbothered race. He was pulling away from those that had started in the middle of the pack, but he also could not keep up with those that started toward the front either. By the halfway mark he was 9th. If the car could stay together over the last half of the race he likely would finish even higher.
Moss had come charging up through the field. He would manage to break away from the group staying together and sliptstreaming everywhere. Hawthorn was still on his own at the front of the field but he too was pushing hard to maintain his advantage over the cars working together. The fighting continued. Fangio remained right at the heart of the group that even included the two BRMs of Behra and Schell. However, both of them would suffer a failure with just 9 laps remaining. Schell would suffer from overheating while Behra would be forced to retire with a fuel pump problem.
Prior to their retirements, Behra and Schell had managed to hold Fangio at bay with his slower 250F. However, with just a few laps remaining in the race he was back up to 4th place. The retirement of the two BRMs also meant Bonnier moved up as the Scarlatti Maserati was within reach of its first race finish of the season.
Hawthorn would never be in reach over the course of the race. His advantage would be such that he would even slow over the final lap of the race to ensure that he would not lap Fangio in what everyone knew would be his final race. Hawthorn would cruise to victory. Posting the fastest lap and enjoying an average speed of 125mph, Mike would earn his third Formula One World Championship victory of his career and second in the French Grand Prix. His first had come in that wild 1953 edition that saw him out-duel Fangio to the checkered flag. Some five years later, he would ease his way to victory, slowing just to help Fangio save face in his last race.
Moss' late charge meant he would finish in 2nd place some 24 seconds behind. Wolfgang von Trips would also put in a late charge to finish in 3rd place almost exactly a minute behind Hawthorn.
Scarlatti would care less who would win the race or who ended up on the podium with Hawthorn. Bonnier had managed to bring his Maserati home for the first time all season long. It seemed impossible but it happed. Though two laps down, Bonnier would finish a splendid 8th and would look strong doing it. It would be a big moment of relief and a big moment of letting-go for Scarlatti.
The result in the French Grand Prix signaled to Scarlatti that it was the right time to let go of Formula One, at least in 1958. He would, therefore, decide, right then and there following the race, to sell the Maserati to Bonnier for his use the remainder of the season.
The year, at least for Formula One, had come to an end for Giorgio Scarlatti. The relief he would experience at the end of the French Grand Prix would, undoubtedly, be matched by the relief he would have after he sold the car after the race. The Italian would switch his focus back to sportscars for the remainder of the season. However, he wasn't done with Formula One. Scarlatti would be back.
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