After two years of dominating the World Championship it would be hard to imagine Scuderia Ferrari to not be considered amongst the favorites to produce a world champion, but while other manufacturers, like Mercedes-Benz and Maserati would be well positioned for the return of Formula One, the record-setting Modena-based team would quickly become an overlooked afterthought.
Heading into the Formula 2 era of the World Championship, Scuderia Ferrari had already built its 625 chassis. Then, when the regulations switched to Formula 2, the 625 would become the 500 and Ferrari would have on its hands an unexpected diamond that would be almost unbeatable for a period of two years.
As Formula One regulations returned to the World Championship in 1954 Scuderia Ferrari already had a car to use—the 625. However, the simple reality was the car was now more than a couple of years old. Other manufacturers like Maserati and Mercedes-Benz would come on the scene with brand new designs specifically designed around the new Formula One regulations. Ferrari was also designing and building a new car specifically for the new Formula One regulations. Known as the 553 Squalo, Ferrari's new design held a lot of promise but would ultimately prove to lack the performance of that of the Mercedes W196 and the Maserati 250F. As a result of the 553's short-comings there would be a number of races in which Ferrari's drivers would prefer to race with the older 625 than the newer chassis.
Scuderia Ferrari had been ready to maximize the switch to Formula 2 regulations, but, as is the fear with many designers, other teams would be better prepared for the return of Formula One. This lack of preparedness would have a greater impact than in just race results. The seemingly floundering position the Modena-based company appeared to be in would ultimately lead to Alberto Ascari and Luigi Villoresi departing the scene before the start of the 1954 season. By the end of the season, Mike Hawthorn would be another casualty of the waywardness. Therefore, by the end of the 1954 season, Scuderia Ferrari's main drivers would be Giuseppe Farina, Jose Froilan Gonzalez and Maurice Trintignant.
Enzo Ferrari had grown accustomed to his team dominating the World Championship stage and demanded his company do so each and every year. While this would certainly be the goal of the whole of the team it would put tremendous amounts of pressure on all, but none more so than on designer Aurelio Lampredi. And, even before the start of the season, tensions were really beginning to mount within the team.
The 553 Squalo was not the success Ferrari expected. Though it would win the final round of the 1954 Formula One World Championship, it was still a car incapable of routinely battling with the mighty Mercedes and the Maserati chassis. Therefore, Lampredi would set to work designing an updated and evolved version of the Squalo. Lampredi obviously believed in the design and believed it merely needed to be tweaked to make it into a consistent race winner.
The problem the team had then, heading into the 1955 season, was that it did not have that consistent race winner. The team did not have that new car capable of fighting with the other major manufacturers. Therefore, as the team prepared to head out to the first race of the season they would be busy doing so with the aged 625s as the chassis of choice. This meant Ferrari would be at a disadvantage before it even headed out the door.
The team would certainly have to make do. The first race of the season wouldn't take place on the European continent so there was no way a brand new car, even if it had been built and tested, which it hadn't really, would have been able to make it to the circuit in time. The reason for this was simple. The first race of the 1955 season would be all the way across the Atlantic Ocean in South America. This was no small trip in 1955. Therefore, the team would be heading to the Argentine Grand Prix with the hopes of receiving some help during the race.
The Argentine Grand Prix was set to take place on the 16th of January, which was really just the start of the later-half of the summer months in the southern hemisphere. This reality would quickly dawn on every one of the teams as they unloaded their cars and prepared for practice and the race.
Located within the city of Buenos Aires, the Autodromo 17 de Octubre would be the host site for the 9th Gran Premio de la Republica Argentina. Buenos Aires itself is nestled amongst a flat plain overlooking the Rio de la Plata. And, in the summer months, this flat plain, which is practically at sea level, had the ability to produce some searing heat that would remain trapped right over the region. This would be the case when the Formula One teams arrived for the first round of the 1955 Formula One World Championship.
Scuderia Ferrari would arrive with a veteran car, in the 625, and veteran drivers as well. Altogether, the team would bring four cars to the race. Giuseppe Farina, Jose Froilan Gonzalez and Maurice Trintignant would each be given a mount. The fourth car would go to Umberto Maglioli. In each case, the car of choice would be the older 625 with the 2.5-liter Lampredi four-cylinder. The thing the drivers liked about the 625 over the Squalo was that it handled much more precisely. However, going up against competitors with eight and six cylinder engines would also not help all that much.
Despite the short-comings of the 625, the 2.42 mile circuit would help to level the playing field a bit. Sure enough, in practice, Gonzalez would post the fastest time with a lap of 1:43.1. Beating Alberto Ascari by half a second, Gonzalez would take the pole for the race. Gonzalez, however, would prove to be the only Ferrari on the four-wide front row. The rest of the positions would be taken by Ascari in 2nd for Lancia, Juan Manuel Fangio in 3rd for Mercedes-Benz and Jean Behra in 4th for Maserati. All of the major manufacturers would be right along the front row of the grid. The remainder of the Scuderia Ferrari pilots would be relatively scattered amongst the rest of the field.
Giuseppe Farina would be in the second row of the grid in the 5th position. He posted a time just mere hundredths of a second slower than Behra, and therefore, would just miss out on the front row. Maurice Trintignant would be the next-fastest Ferrari driver in the field. He would be found all the way down in the fourth row of the grid in the 14th starting spot. And, although Maglioli was present, he would not take part in practice but would be on hand in case he was needed. And he certainly would be.
Tens of thousands would descend upon the circuit in preparation for the start of what was to be a 96 lap, 233 mile, race. However, the race was to become a battle against the oppressive heat that clouded the circuit more than the number of laps itself. The heat would be stifling. Temperatures touching well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the race would remain the hottest in Formula One history.
In spite of the heat, the crowd would swell with excitement with two Argentineans starting on the front row. The engines coming up to full song; the flag dropped to start the race. Fangio would get a great start and would lead the way at the start of the first lap. Alberto Ascari would follow along behind Fangio while Moss would be right behind Ascari after making an incredible start from the third row of the grid. Gonzalez would make a terrible start from off the grid, which would also hold up Farina. Therefore, the two Ferraris would be much further down at the completion of the first lap. Still, they would actually make it through the first lap, and that was something to be thankful. Jean Behra and Carlos Menditeguy would suffer accidents. Menditeguy would be immediately out of the running while Behra would retire one lap later. Things would only get worse from then on.
More competitors, including Villoresi and Kling, would fall out within in the first 10 laps of the race. However, as the race wore on, the problems would not be as much mechanical as much as physical.
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