Over the course of a two year period between 1952 and 1953 Scuderia Ferrari would absolutely dominate the World Championship. However, new regulations catch the Maranello-based team on the back foot. New designs unable to deliver and other internal troubles would leave the team somewhat debilitated. But, when unable to create a truly competitive machine, Enzo would be left with only one option—to buy success.
At the end of the 1954 season the Scuderia Lancia team would make its presence known in the Spanish Grand Prix with its new and radical D50. All of a sudden it seemed as though Ferrari had gone from the most dominant team in Formula One racing to being just another team in the paddock.
In 1952 and 1953, the Formula 2 era of the World Championship, Scuderia Ferrari and Alberto Ascari could not be beaten. Not counting the Indianapolis 500, Alberto Ascari would score an impressive nine-straight victories and would be unchallenged for the World Championship. However, not all was harmonious in Maranello.
Disagreements would cause Ferrari to lose one of its biggest assets. Alberto Ascari would come to have many disagreements with Enzo about the direction and the future of the team, and therefore, would make the decision to leave the team. He would make a rather unprecedented decision leaving a team he had won two World Championships and going to join a new and unproven team in Scuderia Lancia.
Delay after delay would hinder the D50 project. However, when it finally debuted at the Spanish Grand Prix in 1954 it was more than apparent that the car was quick and had great potential. However, all of that potential would end up thrown into the sea when Alberto Ascari took a dive into the harbor at the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix. Financial troubles and the loss of the team's World Championship winning driver would leave Lancia without much hope.
Hope would be what Scuderia Ferrari needed by the middle of the 1955 season. Ascari was correct in some of his assessment of the team's focus heading into 1954. There were ideas being developed. A couple of those, the 553 Squalo and the 555 Super Squalo, were to be the car of Ferrari's future. However, almost unanimously every Ferrari driver would determine to use the much older 625, which was nothing more than the Formula One version of the Ferrari 500 used between 1952 and 1953. Ferrari had two chassis, and yet, neither one was capable of competing with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz W196 and the Maserati 250F. It seemed Ferrari was out of options.
Though it may not have appeared that way at the time, the 1955 season would be one full of opportunity for Ferrari. Yes, the team appeared impotent for the vast majority of the season, but it would pull out a surprise victory in the Monaco Grand Prix after the failures of Mercedes and the unfortunate dumping of Ascari. Nonetheless, the team needed to find a way to procure the necessary elements to reclaim its position at the top.
Of course, the first opportunity would come as a result of an unfortunate tragedy. Testing for Ferrari in one of their sportscars, Ascari would go off the Monza circuit and would lose his life. This, effectively, brought an end to Lancia in Formula One. Their financial woes and the loss of the World Champion meant the future didn't look at all bright for Lancia. And, while certainly not wanting it to ever happen, Ferrari would stumble upon an opportunity to acquire a truly competitive car.
Lancia was done in Formula One, and yet, they had a couple of complete D50s they were not going to be using anymore. Therefore, through negotiations with Fiat, Ferrari would come to purchase the cars and would end up calling them Lancia-Ferraris.
The other piece in the puzzle would come to be available at the end of the 1955 season. Mercedes-Benz had made it clear they would be withdrawing from Formula One after just two years. This would leave the current World Champion, Juan Manuel Fangio, without a ride for the upcoming season. Having a three-time World Champion available Ferrari would jump at the opportunity and would sign the Argentinean to drive for him in 1956.
Ferrari had its driver and its car. All that needed to happen was to make every effort to be ready by the first round of the 1956 Formula One season. The workers at Ferrari would set to work making some updates to the D50 including a evolved nose and some paneling placed between the pannier tanks to make the car look more as one, and supposedly, more aerodynamic.
There would be more to Scuderia Ferrari than just one D50 and Juan Manuel Fangio. In fact, the team would pack up three D50s and two Super Squalos and would head across the South Atlantic to Argentina for the first round of the Formula One World Championship for 1956. In 1956, Buenos Aires would prepare to host the 10th Gran Premio de la Republica Argentina.
Arriving in his home country, Fangio would be soon joined by Peter Collins, Luigi Musso, Olivier Gendebien and Eugenio Castellotti in preparation for the race that was scheduled to take place on the 22nd of January.
Arriving in Argetina in early 1956 would find the nation still in a bit of turmoil over the events of September the previous year when President Peron was deposed in a violent revolt. Unfortunately, the removal of Peron would do little in a nation so divided. So, it would be amazing the Argentine Grand Prix would go ahead at all considering how soon it followed the tragic and disruptive events. Interestingly, the race was to take place at a circuit having been named after a famous event that helped bring Peron to power. Therefore, the circuit would end up having its name changed in an effort to rid any thoughts of the Perons all together.
Though Argentinean and deeply concerned with the events of the day, Fangio would get right to work with his new team. It would be an interesting change. He had battled against Scuderia Ferrari for a number of years. He had even driven Ferraris. But, he had never driven for the Scuderia Ferrari team until his first practice leading up to the Argentine Grand Prix.
Fangio would get on with it as though he had been a part of the team for a number of years. He would go out and turn the fastest lap in practice with a time of 1:42.5 and would be more than two seconds faster than Eugenio Castellotti to claim the pole for the race. Luigi Musso would make it three Ferraris along the front row when he posted an identical time to Castellotti. The final position on the front row would go to Jean Behra in a factory Maserati. His best effort would be nearly 3 seconds slower than Fangio.
Peter Collins and Olivier Gendebien would be handed an unenviable and daunting and task as they would take to the circuit in the older and disappointing 555 Super Squalo. The disappointment would continue as Collins would struggle to come within 5 seconds of Fangio's best effort. As a result, Collins would start the race from the third row of the grid in the 9th place spot overall. Olivier Gendebien would struggle even more than Collins. His fastest lap in the 555 would be nearly 8 seconds off the pace. Still, the difference in the pace amongst the field would begin to widen right around the third row of the grid. Therefore, Gendebien would be able to start beside Collins in the third row in 10th position.
A great crowd assembled around the 2.42 mile circuit in preparation for the first round of the World Championship. As the crowd and the cars assembled, the race would be conducted a bit different than it had in the past. Instead of a number of laps and a specified distance, the 1956 running of the Argentine Grand Prix would feature a 3 hour limit. This really wasn't much of a change from the past. What was a change, at least to the previous year, would be the much cooler temperatures. The skies would be overcast and threatening, but there would be no rain forecasted.
The flag would wave to start the 3 hour race. Despite starting from pole, Fangio would get away poorly and would be down heading around on the first lap of the race. Jose Froilan Gonzalez, who would not have a steady ride for 1956, would be in a factory Maserati and would make a fast start off the line to take the lead away from Musso and Carlos Menditeguy who had also made a phenomenal start. At the end of the first lap it would be Gonzalez in front with Menditeguy in 2nd place. Castellotti and Musso would be in 3rd and 4th while Fangio and Moss battled for 5th. Collins would manage to move forward a spot at the end of the first lap while Gendebien would remain down in 11th position.
Menditeguy would take over the lead of the race as Gonzalez began to fade. Moss, Fangio, Castellotti, Musso and Jean Behra would all battle it out for 2nd through 4th for much of the first half of the race.
The first to run into trouble in the race would be the favorite coming in. Fangio's Lancia-Ferrari would be suffering from a failing fuel pump and would be forced out of the race after 22 laps. This seemed an ominous start to the season. However, there were plenty of team cars still in the race and it was highly unlikely this Argentinean World Champion was going to sit out the rest of the Argentine Grand Prix. Sure enough, on the 31st lap of the race, Fangio would take over the D50 of Luigi Musso and would reenter the race to the cheers of the Argentinean faithful.
Moss would take over the lead of the race just prior to halfway and would soon find himself in familiar territory as Fangio would be not far behind him having gotten around Jean Behra and Castellotti when his gearbox failed in the Lancia. Menditeguy, who had put on an incredible performance, would be out of the race with a broken half shaft.
The day would not be going well for Peter Collins. While Fangio would be chasing down Moss for the lead of the race, Collins would be struggling in the Super Squalo. However, the struggle would all come to an end when his suspension failed after 58 laps, which led to him suffering an accident, but sustaining little to no injuries.
Soon, to the delight of the Argentinean fans and the Ferrari team, Fangio would take over the lead of the race from Moss, whose engine is only running on 5 cylinders. Once in the lead, Fangio settled into his normal role of pace-setter and enjoyed a very comfortable lead over Jean Behra, who took over 2nd place from the ailing Moss.
In what would turn out to be only about 20 laps remaining in the race, there would be just one other Ferrari in the field beside Fangio. That Ferrari would be the Super Squalo of Gendebien. Despite being well off of Fangio's pace, he was still in the race and helped up the leaderboard by the misfortunes of others.
Aided along by the fastest lap time of the race, Fangio would cross the line just past three hours to take the victory. The fans would be absolutely delighted as Fangio approached the line with his hand in the air. Some 24 seconds later, Behra would come through to finish in 2nd place while former Ferrari teammate Mike Hawthorn would complete the podium by finishing in 3rd place, some 2 laps behind. Gendebien would complete his race. Despite being some 7 laps behind, he would finish the race in 5th place.
While the victory for Fangio at home would be certainly an exciting moment, and the fact that Ferrari started out the season on top would be quite welcome after the past couple of years, the sad reality is that only two of the five cars actually finished. What's more, it was more than obvious the Super Squalo was no longer, as if it ever had been, competitive. Ferrari would have some work to do. Still, at least the season had started out on a bright note and gave everyone within the team hope for the future.
Following the first round of the Formula One World Championship on the 22nd of January, Scuderia Ferrari would not have to travel far to take part in its next race. Instead of having to travel back across the Atlantic, the next race on the calendar would take place in Mendoza at the Parque General San Martin. Interestingly, the non-championship event that would be hosted at the venue would be called the Buenos Aires City Grand Prix and would be held on the 5th of February.
The circuit in Mendoza would open in 1956 just in time to host the non-championship race. Measuring 2.60 miles in length, the circuit would be built just to the west of downtown Mendoza and would feature a couple of different possible layout designs similar to the circuit in Buenos Aires. The mountains looming tall in the near distance, the location of the circuit would be a beautiful setting, and for Fangio, it would be another opportunity for victory before heading back to Europe.
As with the Argentine Grand Prix, Scuderia Ferrari would enter five cars in the 60 lap race. The lineup would be the same with Fangio, Castellotti and Musso behind the wheel of the Lancias while Collins and Gendebien would have to deal with the Super Squalos.
In practice, the D50s would be the class of the field setting the fastest lap times. Fangio would capture the pole while Castellotti would garner the 2nd place spot on the grid. The final position on the front row would be taken by Musso. Peter Collins would be the fastest of the Super Squalo drivers but would be found all the way down on the third row of the grid in the 8th position. Gendebien would be just a little slower than Collins and would end up 9th on the grid but would be forced to start from the fourth row of the grid.
Right from the very start of the race Fangio would be one of those setting the pace. This placed a fair amount of pressure on the rest of the field and his teammates. Musso would end up cracking under the pressure and would crash out of the race after 9 laps. Unfortunately for Ferrari, Castellotti would follow his teammate out of the race after 14 laps because of an oil cooler failure. This left just one D50 in the race, but Fangio was at the wheel of that lone D50 and at least he was known to get the best out of a car without breaking it.
Chased by Stirling Moss and Jean Behra in Maseratis, Ferrari needed Fangio to remain in the race as the Super Squalos just could not keep pace with the Maseratis. Fangio would soldier on without any trouble and would even set the fastest lap of the race, while Collins struggled to stay around the top five. Gendebien would be right behind Collins in the standings but there would be a good deal of track between the two.
Averaging 83 mph and posting the fastest lap of the race, Fangio would have a fair amount of track between himself and Stirling Moss as he streaked to yet another victory. Nearly 40 seconds would be the difference back to Moss in 2nd place. Jean Behra would make it two Maseratis on the podium finishing in 3rd place nearly a full lap behind Fangio.
Collins and Gendebien would be a full lap, or more, behind Fangio by the end of the race. By the end, Collins would be down in 5th place more than 2 laps behind while Gendebien would be a further lap behind but would end up in 6th.
Fangio would prove to have a successful trip to his native land landing two victories. However, with the exception of the easy victory in Mendoza, Fangio would not come away with the two victories without some help. It was clear the Super Squalos had to go and the team had to work some more to ensure that the D50 could go an entire race distance without breaking. The team packed and headed back across the Atlantic. They had had a good start to the season, but they still had work to do. Thankfully, the team would have a couple of months in which to do it.
Following the two victories in South America, Scuderia Ferrari would be headed back to Europe to prepare for the start of the grand prix season on that continent. For drivers like Peter Collins, this was a welcome break as it would provide the factory more time in which to prepare a couple of new D50s. The new versions of the D50, the D50A as it would become known, with the more aerodynamic panel stretching across the pannier tanks and the longer, lower-profile, nose would be made ready. Therefore, in preparation for the team's next race, all of its drivers would now be behind the wheel of a version of the D50.
A couple of months would pass in between races. Once the calendar turned to April, Ferrari had to make its final adjustments and preparations for the first non-championship grand prix of the European season, at least on the mainland.
One of the first grand prix held in Europe would actually come as part of the Easter Monday races held at Goodwood on the 2nd of April. While Ferrari had dispatched cars to the event in the past, the team would wait until the middle of April for a race a little closer to home. That race a little closer to home would be the 6th Gran Premio di Siracusa. It would take place on the 15th of April and would take part on a temporary road circuit located just outside of the ancient city.
Once a major power in the Mediterranean, Syracuse has a history stretching back more than 2,500 years. In fact, it would be difficult to think of a major historical event taking place throughout that region of the world and not find Syracuse somehow involved. A blending of Roman and Greek influence, the city is absolutely filled with rich history, architecture, art and political drama.
Just to the west of this ancient and prominent city another drama was to play out. Utilizing 3.48 miles of public roads traversing the Sicilian countryside, the Syracuse circuit would be a fast circuit that certainly had its elements of danger.
The last time the Gran Premio di Siracusa had been held in the spring of the year Ferrari would come away having lost two cars to fire. Mike Hawthorn's unfortunate crash against the concrete walls lining the circuit had caused his 625 to burst into flames and for the Brit to suffer some burns to his hands and other parts of his body. Jose Froilan Gonzalez would come to his teammates aid and would end up having his car catch on fire as well. Though Giuseppe Farina would go on to win the race, the loss of two cars to fire would certainly be a memory the team would rather forget.
It seemed certain the team would be able to forget when Fangio set the pace in practice. Turning a fastest lap of 1:58.0, Fangio would end up taking the pole for the race by nine-tenths of a second over Castellotti. Once again, Jean Behra would play the role of spoiler, preventing Luigi Musso from taking the final spot on the front row.
Luigi Musso would be in the 4th position on the second row while Ferrari's final entrant, Peter Collins, would find himself a little further down in the order. He would start from the third row of the grid in the 6th position.
If Behra was to play the role of spoiler he would have to out-last and out-pace Fangio and Castellotti. Thankfully for Ferrari, Behra's Maserati wouldn't be up to the challenge and he would drop out of the race after just a lap due to lubrication issues. Another Maserati, one driven by Horace Gould, would be dropped from the field after 2 laps. Ferraris would be leading the way with Fangio heading up the train.
The Ferrari team would look absolutely unstoppable as the teammates ran in lock-step lap after lap. The race was some 80 laps, and yet, lap after lap the teammates would run nose-to-tail, closing up their ranks and leaving the rest of the field behind.
was blitzing its way around the circuit and the fallout would be terrible. Two cars would drop out after just 20 laps. Two more cars wouldn't make it to 25 laps. However, not everything was running like clockwork within the Ferrari camp. Though he started the race from 2nd on the grid, Castellotti would make a mistake after having completed 40 laps. He would crash his D50 and the resulting damage would be too great for him to continue. Still, the other three Ferraris would still be at the head of the field, destroying all comers.
In spite of the fact there were still three Maserati 250Fs in the race, neither could hold a candle to the pace of Fangio and his fellow Ferrari pilots. While little more than a couple of tenths separated the top three, more than a single lap would separate them from the rest of the field.
It would be a Ferrari runaway. The only real question would be who exactly would take the victory? Fangio would make a strong case for himself by posting the fastest lap of the race with a time of 1:59.8 and an average speed of 104 mph. It seemed clear that Fangio could easily take the victory but would determine, instead, to remain right there with his teammates Musso and Collins.
Coming off of two straight victories, Fangio would not be denied in the first grand prix for the team in Europe. Completing the race distance in just under two hours and 49 minutes, Fangio would take yet another victory coming across the line a mere two-tenths of a second ahead of Musso. Just three-tenths of a second would separate Musso and Peter Collins. Therefore, Ferrari would sweep the podium. These three men would be a whole different time zone by the end of the race. The great champion Luigi Villoresi would finish in 4th place but he would be more than 3 laps behind.
No mechanical maladies and a completely dominant victory and sweep of the podium seemed to signal Ferrari had regained its place of prominence. And though it may have only been a non-championship event, the sheer dominance and pace of the D50 would certainly be cause for concern for all of the other teams heading into the grand prix season.
One of the only unknown factors heading into the heart of the grand prix schedule for 1956 would be the condition of the British teams. Throughout the existence of the Formula One World Championship the British efforts had had moments of glory but had mostly failed to pan out. Connaught's invitation to the Gran Premio di Siracusa at the end of the 1955 season had been more motivated of a desire to fill the grid than out of a genuine belief in the strength of the team. However, Tony Brooks' performance against the factory Maseratis would cause all Formula One teams, including Ferrari, to sit up and take the British contingent seriously.
The 1956 season, then, would provide Ferrari with an opportunity. In 1955, Ferrari had intended to take part in the non-championship BRDC International Trophy race held at Silverstone. However, their cars would not be ready in time and, therefore, the team would not make it to the event. This would not be all that detrimental as the British Grand Prix would not be held at Silverstone. One year later, the British Grand Prix would return to Silverstone. Therefore, the 8th BRDC International Trophy race would be a rather important event not to be missed.
It was now May, the Formula One World Championship was about to gear back up. Therefore, the International Trophy race would be the one opportunity Ferrari would have to compete against the British makes in a race of considerable distance in order to judge where they were in relation.
Coming to the 2.90 mile Silverstone Circuit, it certainly seemed as though Ferrari would have the upper hand. Taking place on what had been the perimeter road around the old World War II bomber training base, Silverstone had proven to be fast just like Syracuse. And, at Syracuse Ferrari absolutely dominated.
However, as the cars took to the circuit for practice, a dose of reality would be thrown in to the face of the Italian name. Just two years earlier, Fangio had managed to be the first to circulate around the Silverstone circuit at an average speed greater than 100 mph. However, in practice for the non-championship event, Fangio would find his best effort still not good enough.
Driving for Vandervell Products, Stirling Moss would be close to 104 mph around the circuit and would take the pole with a time of 1:42. Fangio wouldn't even be able to start next to his former teammate as Harry Schell would put the second Vanwall on the front row in the 2nd position with a near identical time to Moss. Fangio would find himself in 3rd place about a second slower. And then there would be the former laughingstock BRM team, now Owen Racing Organization. At the wheel of the BRM 25, Mike Hawthorn would take the 4th, and final, front row starting spot. The only other Ferrari in the field would belong to the Brit Peter Collins. His time would be within a second of Fangio's, but that would still only be good enough for a second row starting spot, 5th on the grid.
Overcast conditions would prevail, as normal, around the Silverstone circuit. This would be something of an allusion as the field roared away. Moss and Schell would not get away particularly well. This would give Fangio an advantage with Hawthorn right there with him. Collins would remain right there as well, looking for a way forward.
Reg Parnell, a former winner of the race, wouldn't even complete a single lap before he would be out of the running. Mike Hawthorn's race would also end early when magneto problems caused his retirement after 13 laps. Fangio, however, would be out front and looking strong.
Moss would recover from his bad start and would soon find himself ahead of Collins and challenging Fangio. Schell would be struggling with car troubles leaving Moss alone to battle with the Ferraris. This would not seem to bother him at all as he seemed to have the upper hand at just about any time he wanted.
Schell would drop out the race with engine failure while the pressure from Moss was beginning to take its toll on Fangio's clutch. Sure enough, one lap after Schell's departure, and only one-third into the race, Fangio would retire with clutch failure. This left Moss would front with Collins struggling a bit further back.
Ferrari had a decision to make. The Brit was still in the race. However, he was proving unable to match the pace of Moss. Therefore, a couple of laps after Fangio retired, Collins would come into the pits to hand his car over to the Argentinean. This was not a flippant decision given that Fangio had won the first three races of the season. However, it would be a decision that would prove not to matter.
Moss would be out front in the Vanwall absolutely leaving everyone behind. Fangio would be out after him but, yet again, a clutch problem would bring about the end of yet another D50. That was it. Ferrari was out of the race. A Vanwall was out front followed by two Connaughts. It seemed clear the British threat was real and a very present danger.
Within the first 8 laps of the 60 lap race Moss had picked up the odor of oil fumes. He would back off. Yet, despite backing off, there would be nobody that would be able to compete with him this day. He would go on to win the race going away. Completing the race in just under one hour and 45 minutes at an average speed of 100.47 mph, Moss would have more than a lap in hand over Archie Scott-Brown in the Connaught and another two laps in hand over Desmond Titterington in one of the other remaining Connaught B-Types.
Like many an invasion, the trip across the English Channel would prove to be the undoing of the Lancia-Ferrari. After looking so dominant in their first three races of the season, Ferrari seemed thoroughly throttled by Vandervell and Moss, and there was even that lingering threat from Connaught out there.
Concerns at Ferrari would really be raised as the bad news just kept rolling in. At the same time Fangio and Collins were across the Channel contending in the International Trophy race, Ferrari would dispatch two other D50s to the south to Naples in order to take part in the 9th Gran Premio di Napoli.
The International Trophy race would take place on the 5th of May whereas the Gran Premio di Napoli would take place the very next day. Positioned on the cliffs and ridges overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Posillipo Circuit would be a tight 2.55 mile circuit that wound its way amongst the residential homes and the picturesque setting that is Naples. A wonderful place for a respite from the worries of life, the roars of the Formula One engines seemed out of place, but still, a fitting location for a race given the Monaco Grand Prix was right around the corner.
Ferrari would dispatch its two remaining D50s to Posillipo along with Eugenio Castellotti and Luigi Musso. Given the planted nature of the D50, the tight and rather slow Posillipo circuit seemed perfectly suited to the car. And, sure enough, both of them would be amongst the fastest right from the very beginning of practice. Soon, both would be at the top of the timesheets with Castellotti earning the honor of being on pole. His best effort of 2:07.7 would be just a tenth of a second faster than Musso but would be more than fast enough against the remainder of the field.
Despite the presence of a number of Maserati 250Fs in the field, the 3rd-fastest driver in practice would end up being Robert Manzon in an aged Gordini T16. Though a remarkable performance for Manzon in the Gordini, the fact he was more than four and a half seconds slower certainly didn't seem to bode well for the race.
As with the International Trophy race, the Gran Premio di Napoli would be 60 laps in length. It seemed almost near certainty that if the Ferraris got off the line well they would absolutely leave the rest of the field behind. However, as the race got underway it would quickly become apparent nothing was a lock.
Castellotti would end up being the first man out of the race when his oil pump failed after just 2 laps. Still, the team had the very capable Musso. And Musso would respond. Though not anywhere near his qualifying effort, he would go on to set what would be the fastest lap of the race with an average speed of a little more than 69 mph. It seemed as though Musso would be able to hold up Ferrari honor, especially since the misfortune at Silverstone was undoubtedly known by this time.
Things seemed perfectly suited to a Musso victory. Luigi Villoresi would have his engine expire, Francisco Godia-Sales would retire after an accident, Horace Gould was unable to match the pace. However, Ferrari would have more pain to endure as, just after 37 laps, the engine would expire in Musso's Lancia leaving him without hope of taking victory.
All of the shake-up would leave Manzon in the lead in the aged Gordini. The slow and tight nature of the circuit, along with Providential attrition, was playing into the hands of the smaller T16 and Manzon was able to hold onto the lead over Gould with just 20 laps remaining in the race.
Manzon's talent in the Gordini would be making up the difference. Although Manzon had left the Gordini team as a result of the notorious unreliability of the cars, on this day, there would be absolutely nothing that could go wrong with the car and he would maintain his advantage over the more powerful machines.
Manzon's talent would be on full display as he would hold together his Gordini and would power his way to a surprising victory crossing the line 11 seconds ahead of Horace Gould in his Maserati. Gerino Gerini would complete the podium finishing in 3rd place but would be a very distant 3 laps behind.
After starting out the season with three-straight victories and sweep of the podium in Syracuse, Ferrari could not have had a more disastrous weekend. The early retirements of Castellotti and Musso certainly had to be disappointing and a little troubling. Still, at least they were non-championship events. This would be little consolation to Enzo and to the team after spending the time and money to attend the races. One thing the team was certain of: they had a lot of work to do before the next race on the calendar.
Following the International Trophy and Gran Premio di Napoli events the cars would be taken back to the factory in Maranello. Immediately, work would begin on the cars to prepare them for the next race on the calendar, which was just a week away. The team would have to work fast cutting away the custom sheet-metal and building the car anew from the frame up.
The work would be important as the team's next race would be the second round of the Formula One World Championship, the famed Monaco Grand Prix. And, besides being the second round of the World Championship, this particular race demanded a focus of attention as it already had earned a special reputation and place of prominence amongst the teams and drivers.
Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and ringed by the mountains on all other sides, Monaco is certainly an exclusive location. And, exclusivity is what Monaco is all about. From the yachts in the harbor to the ornate and illustrious hotels lining the tight city streets of the principality, Monaco is all about affluence and is a playground for the rich and famous. Therefore, this jewel formed a unique and fitting backdrop for the richest and most affluent of teams in motor racing.
Coming from Silverstone, the street circuit at Monaco could not be any different. Instead of high-speed corners and wide open spaces, the Monaco circuit would be an almost never-ending gauntlet of narrow streets and tight hairpin turns that slowed average speeds right down. This would give Ferrari and its drivers an idea of how its cars handled compared to the Maseratis and the British machines, like the Vanwall and BRM.
At Silverstone, Fangio would find himself beaten for the pole by Moss in a factory Maserati. Fangio would have the opportunity to return the favor to his former Silver Arrows teammate as he posted the fastest lap time in practice and took the pole for the 100 lap race on the 13th of May. Fangio's lap of 1:44.0 would be six-tenths of a second faster than Moss. Eugenio Castellotti would complete the front row taking the 3rd spot and giving Ferrari two cars on the front row.
In total, Ferrari would come with four cars to Monaco. Two of them would be found on the front row of the grid. The other two, driven by Peter Collins and Luigi Musso, would be found a little further back. Musso would find his way onto the third row of the grid after posting a time just under three seconds slower than Fangio. This time would enable Musso to start 8th while Collins would be found one row further down in the 9th position.
There would be 100 laps, or about 3 hours, of racing ahead of the drivers as they walked to their cars in preparation for the start of the race. The weather, for this long day of racing, could not have been more perfect. Therefore, the large crowd waited in eager anticipation for an afternoon of exciting motor racing.
The grid would actually be much smaller than intended as a result of problems with the BRMs and the failure of Louis Chiron and Giorgio Scarlatti to qualify for the race. Still, as the flag waved to start the race, it seemed abundantly clear there would be some strong competition up and down the field.
Off the line, the front row would break about equal. However, heading into the tight hairpin it would be Castellotti and Moss side-by-side with Schell and Fangio right behind. Musso and Collins would be right behind Behra. At the end of the first lap, Moss would hold onto a lead of more than 3 seconds over Fangio and Collins. Castellotti would struggle through the first lap and would be in 4th place while Musso would be in 6th place.
The 3rd lap of the race would see the tight racing claim its first couple of victims when Musso and Schell would come together as a result of trying to avoid Fangio who had spun his Ferrari. Musso and Schell would be unable to carry on but Fangio would recover and would set off again, but now down in 6th place. Moss would still be in the lead but would now have Collins and Castellotti giving chase.
The previous year Maurice Trintignant had brought his Ferrari home to a surprising victory on the streets of Monaco. One year later, and now driving for Vandervell, Trintignant would see his race come to an early end when his engine expired after just 13 laps. One lap later, there would be another casualty. This time it would be Castellotti. Castellotti would spin in his Ferrari and in an attempt to rejoin the race would find he had a broken clutch.
By the 20th lap of the race, Moss would still be in the lead of the race while Fangio managed to recover and began a spirited duel with his Ferrari teammate Peter Collins. These two would duel for a number of laps while Moss continued to soldier on in the lead.
While Moss would look nice and relaxed at the head of the field, Fangio would look out of character throwing the Ferrari around the circuit and even brushing and bouncing off some of the walls along the circuit. His D50 was certainly showing signs of being battered to death. Therefore, Fangio would come into the pits and would hand his car over to Castellotti.
Halfway through the race, Moss would still be out front with a comfortable lead in hand. He would be followed by his Maserati teammate Jean Behra and Peter Collins would be fighting hard to hold on to 3rd place. Castellotti would look good driving the badly battered D50 given up by Fangio. Fangio, however, was soon to get another crack at Moss and the victory. Collins would be flagged into the pits to hand his car over to Fangio. Rejoining the race, Fangio would quickly come up to be right behind Behra in a fight for 2nd.
It was clear it was just a matter of time before Fangio would take over 2nd place from Behra. And, with a little less than 40 laps remaining in the race, Fangio would take over 2nd place and would set his sights on the Brit well out in front.
Heading into the final 10 laps of the race the order was Maserati-Ferrari-Maserati-Ferrari. Moss still led the way over Fangio and Behra held onto 3rd place ahead of Castellotti. At this point in the race the final victim would be claimed when the brakes on Manzon's Gordini failed and he crashed out of the race. This left just 8 cars still circulating around the circuit, but all but the first two were well back.
Fangio continued to drive furiously in his attempt to catch and pass Moss for the victory. He would continually chip away at Moss' advantage, but it was so great that Moss could control events from the front and continued to remain relaxed and never under pressure. Still, Fangio would never give up, even while on the final lap of the race.
Instead of conceding victory to Moss, Fangio only went faster. In his vain attempt to catch Moss, Fangio would end up setting the fastest lap of the race on the very last lap. His lap time would end up being just four-tenths of a second off of his pole time. Unfortunately, Moss' advantage was just too great for even the wonderful Fangio to overcome. Moss would come through to take the victory, his second World Championship victory of his career. Fangio's determination would lead to him being the only driver to remain on the lead lap. He would finish in 2nd place just 6 seconds behind. Jean Behra would again be on the podium finishing in 3rd place, a little more than a lap behind. The damaged and war-worn D50 that had been given to Castellotti from Fangio would remain in the race to the very end. Though some 6 laps behind, Castellotti would still manage to bring the car home in 4th place.
Though the podium finish would be important for Fangio when it came to the World Championship, the simple fact of the matter was that Moss absolutely dominated the race and was under very little threat from the Ferrari contingent. If Ferrari had any aspirations of returning to glory it needed to become the dominant player at the party, not the stag.
Following the Monaco Grand Prix there was the Indianapolis 500 at the end of May. However, all of the European teams would look ahead to the third round of the World Championship, which meant there was about a month before the next World Championship race. This gap of about a month meant there was time for one or two non-championship events. One non-championship event was scheduled for the 20th of May in Turin, Italy.
Scuderia Ferrari and the factory Maserati teams all had more than one entry for the Gran Premio del Valentino held at Valentino Park, situated right along the Po River. However, both Ferrari and Maserati would withdraw their entries leaving just a handful of cars, and no big teams, in the field. Therefore, organizers would make the decision to cancel the event altogether.
The cancellation of the non-championship event in Turin, Italy would be a blessing and a disappointment. Obviously the crew at Ferrari had a good deal of work to do before the next race on the Formula One calendar. However, the cancellation of the race meant there would be little chance to further test the D50s and work out any other bugs.
The Ferrari factory at Maranello would be busy repairing and rebuilding some broken D50s. Fangio's car alone needed a lot of work, though Fangio helped the process punching holes in some of the bodywork during the Monaco Grand Prix. Work would continue apace, which was good because the fast Belgian Grand Prix would be the next race and it would come up on the 3rd of June.
The Monaco and Belgian Grand Prix were on opposite ends of the spectrum. While Monaco was a seemingly never-ending array of hairpin turns and tight city streets, the Spa-Francorchamps circuit would be situated amongst the deeply-wooded hills of the Ardennes and would be anything but slow. Measuring 8.77 miles in length, the circuit would blast its way through the countryside and would offer drivers and fans alike a spectacle not readily seen. Barely touching the brakes at any point, the Spa circuit would require a special driver. Bravery and courage would be a must, just like a car with a lot of horsepower.
The Scuderia Ferrari squad would work hard and would end up dispatching four cars to Spa for the Belgian Grand Prix. Other than the factory Maserati team, Ferrari would have the most entries in the race. Although Ferrari would dispatch its somewhat regular fleet of four cars, the driver lineup would be different from previous races. Fangio, Castellotti and Collins would all be a part of the team. However, Belgian Paul Frere would be provided a great opportunity in his home race.
Frere would have a rather difficult task before him coming into the Ferrari team late and not having ever driven the D50 before. Therefore, as he took to the circuit for practice it was not all that surprising to see his lap times off a good deal from the rest of his Ferrari teammates.
One Ferrari driver that wouldn't struggle with pace would be Fangio. Utilizing the power from the 8-cylinder engine, Fangio would turn a lap in 4:09.8 and would take the pole by a comfortable margin. While Moss would dominate the race on the streets of Monaco, he would be hard-pressed to maintain any kind of pace similar to that of Fangio. Moss would end up taking the 2nd spot on the grid but his fastest lap around the circuit would be 5 seconds slower. Peter Collins would end up making it two Ferraris on the front row when he captured the final front row starting spot. His best lap would be under a second slower than Moss. Eugenio Castellotti would find himself down on the second row of the grid in the 5th starting spot after posting a lap nearly a second and a half slower than Collins. Despite his inexperience, Frere would be rather impressive. Using his local knowledge, he would 14 seconds slower than Fangio and would end up 8th on the grid, which meant he would start the race from the third row of the grid.
The day of the race the skies would be overcast and the track wet. This meant anything could happen over the course of the 36 lap race. And this certainly had to excite the Belgian crowd intent on watching their fellow countryman in a car more than capable of taking victory.
Spray flying from the spinning wheels of the cars, the field careened its way toward the fast left-right uphill bend at Eau Rouge. Heading up the hill, Moss would be in front by a couple of seconds while Collins and Castellotti made up the Ferrari challenge. Fangio would get away poorly from the line and would find himself in 5th place as he headed up the hill. By Stavelot, the scene would be quite interesting with Moss leading the way in the Maserati with three Ferraris right there behind him intent on destroying his hopes for a second-straight victory.
At the end of the first lap, Moss would again be in the lead of the race while Castellotti would take over 2nd place from Collins. Fangio would be right there in 4th place while Frere would be finding his legs down in the 8th position.
Fangio may have had a poor start, but he would quickly recover. By the 3rd lap of the race the Argentinean would find himself in the 2nd place position behind Moss while Castellotti and Collins continued to battle it out for 3rd. There was nothing Moss could do against the power of the Lancia D50 and Juan Manuel Fangio. By the 5th lap of the race, Fangio would flash by Moss to take over the lead of the race. Collins and Castellotti remained locked in a battle for 3rd while Frere would be up to the 6th place spot in the order.
Fangio continued to lead the race and began to open up his advantage. His escape would be made a bit easier when Moss lost the wheel flying up the hill at Eau Rouge. Moss wouldn't be done, however, as he would run down the hill and back to his pits to take over Cesare Perdisa's Maserati.
Moss out of the picture, at least momentarily, Ferrari would hold onto 1st and 2nd place in the running order with Fangio leading and Collins in 2nd. Castellotti had been dueling with Collins but gearbox issues would force the Italian out of the race after 10 laps.
Castellotti would be the fifth retirement by the 10th lap of the race. One lap later, Maurice Trintignant would drop out of the race in one of the Vanwalls with a failed engine. This left just 9 cars still in the race and it wasn't even the halfway point in the race. However, as far as Ferrari was concerned, Castellotti's retirement would be heartbreaking, but to be running 1st and 2nd on the circuit would certainly overcome any sensation of disappointment.
The sensation would return, however. Fangio looked unstoppable at the head of the field. Expanding on his lead, it seemed Fangio just had to hold onto his car and another victory was certainly to be his. Proving things made by man were susceptible to breaking, Fangio would find himself just 13 laps from victory when his transmission brought him ill news. Despite his careful hand and reputation for car care, Fangio was not immune to problems and he would find his World Championship take a hit when he was forced out of the race.
Collins would now find himself in the lead. While this was not all that surprising, the man in 2nd place would be. Paul Frere had found his legs and had brought his D50 from 8th on the grid to be running 2nd behind Collins. It was a Ferrari one-two, but with two rather unlikely candidates.
Five laps remaining in the race, Collins and Frere were still in 1st and 2nd. Amazingly, Moss would be right back up there with Perdisa's Maserati. Though Perdisa had been running in the 6th position at the time Moss had taken over the car. However, he wouldn't stay there long as he would get by Harry Schell and Jean Behra to be in 3rd place as the race drew to a close.
It would be hard to tell exactly whose day it really was. Collins would be out front and would go on to take his maiden Formula One World Championship victory completing the race distance in two hours and 40 minutes at an average speed of 118 mph. Following along a minute and 51 seconds behind, Paul Frere would come home to a chorus of cheers and exaltation from the Belgian crowd. Stirling Moss would drive an incredible race and would come through to finish over 3 minutes behind in 3rd place.
It would be a great day for Ferrari! Though Fangio would lose out on almost certain victory, Collins would come away with his first World Championship victory. But the loudest cheers would come for Frere as he took to the podium to accept his prize and adulation. It was clear the D50 had the power for the higher-speed circuits, and this boded well considering the upcoming races on the World Championship calendar.
There would be about a month and just 150 miles between rounds of the World Championship. Just across the border into France, the city of Reims would play host to the French Grand Prix and the fifth round of the World Championship.
Although there would be just 150 miles between Spa-Francorchamps and Reims, the span of a month in between would be more than enough time for Ferrari to head back home and spend some extended time preparing its D50s for the French Grand Prix coming up on the 1st of July.
The Reims Circuit would consist of public roads traversing the countryside just to the west of the city and would measure 5.15 miles in length. Though generally flat all around, the Reims Circuit would be quite similar to Spa in that the average speeds around the circuit would be very high and that there would only be a couple of corners of note, those being the hairpin turns Muizon and Thillois.
The weather, as the teams arrived, would be somewhat gray, but it would be dry. Therefore, the average speeds around the circuit would be high as the cars took to the circuit for practice. Scuderia Ferrari would come to the race with a five car effort. Gendebien would be back with the team while there would be yet another new driver in Alfonso de Portago.
Seeing that there were similarities between Reims and Spa, in terms of outright speed, it seemed a lock the D50s would have the advantage in sheer pace. This would be proven correct as Fangio would post the fastest lap time in practice with a time of 2:23.3. This would earn him the pole for the 61 lap event. Only a little over a second slower, Castellotti would take the 2nd place position on the grid. Peter Collins would ensure an all-Ferrari front row when he was just a second off of Castellotti's lap. Things could only have been better had de Portago grabbed the 4th spot, the first position on the second row. This would not happen as Alfonso would instead start down on the fourth row of the grid in the 9th position. Gendebien would be found one row further down in the 11th starting position after posting a time just over 11 seconds slower than Fangio. Still, to have a sweep of the front row would be a sight in which Ferrari would revel.
While the team would take joy in the fact they swept the front row of the starting grid, their joy would only be truly complete if it translated into victory, especially a sweep of the podium. And, as the drivers walked to their cars in preparation of the start, it seemed entirely possible, as long as, the cars remained trouble-free.
The flag would wave to start the race and the three Lancia-Ferraris would power away from the line toward the fast right-hander at Gueux. Leading the way through the sweeping esses toward the Muizon hairpin it would be Collins in the lead with Castellotti following and Fangio right behind him.
At the end of the first of 61 laps it would be Collins in the lead with Castellotti and Fangio right behind. The other Ferrari pilots, de Portago and Gendebien would make great starts and would be running together in 7th and 8th at the end of the first circulation.
Though Collins would lead the first lap of the race he would drop down to 3rd and Fangio would take over the lead of the race with Castellotti in 2nd. Trouble with Moss would allow de Portago to come up to 6th and within striking distance of others. Gendebien would also benefit from Moss' troubles and would move up to 7th by the end of the 3rd lap.
The order after 10 laps would remain Fangio, Castellotti and Collins. However, Hawthorn would hold onto 4th place, but for just a little while longer as he was not at all well behind the wheel of the Vanwall. Therefore, by the 12th lap of the race the order was an incredible Fangio, Castellotti, Collins, de Portago and Gendebien—a Ferrari sweep of the first five positions!
But then came Harry Schell. Schell would take over for Hawthorn after his own Vanwall suffered an engine failure after just 5 laps. At the wheel of Hawthorn's Vanwall, Schell would be absolutely flying and would quickly recover from lost time taking over the drive of the car. His upward movement would be aided by Moss' retirement due to a broken gear lever.
At the 20 lap mark it was still Fangio in the lead over Castellotti and Collins. However, Schell had managed to get by Gendebien for 5th place and then would be promoted to 4th place following de Portago's retirement from the race with gearbox failure. Just one-third of the way into the race and the first Ferrari retirement would come to strike the team.
The Ferrari team would warn Fangio and the others to go faster as Schell continued to pressure in the Vanwall. By the halfway mark of the race Schell would seize upon his opportunity and would take over 2nd place from Castellotti and Collins. Schell pushed the pace higher and higher until his Vanwall needed a lengthy stop. It had been a glorious few laps, but Fangio and the others soldiered on.
It seemed Ferrari would sweep the podium after all. However, with just a little more than 20 laps remaining in the race the crowd would be in an uproar as Fangio pulled into the pits for some checks. This surprising development would cause the lead of the race to be transferred over to Castellotti who still had Collins right there with him. Fangio would rejoin the race and would immediately set about turning fast lap after fast lap in an attempt to join his teammates and possibly retake the lead and the victory. While all attention would be on Fangio and his rejoining the race, Gendebien would be seen quietly walking back to the pits after parking his D50 as a result of clutch failure. This left just the three D50s for Ferrari, but still, it was enough to sweep the podium. And, as Fangio rejoined the race it would become quite apparent that was the goal the team had in mind.
Collins would see his opportunity as he would really begin to duel with Castellotti for the lead of the race. Jean Behra would be sitting in 3rd place while Fangio would be in 4th place pushing harder than ever.
Collins would come to enjoy the spoils of his teammate's troubles yet again as he would power across the line to take the victory by just three-tenths of a second over Castellotti. Heading into the final couple of laps there were just a few seconds in between Behra and Fangio. Fangio so desperately wanted to give the team the sweep it hoped for that he would push so hard on the final lap of the race that he would end up setting the fastest lap of the race and establishing a new lap record. Unfortunately, it would prove too late as Behra would hold on to finish in the 3rd position while Fangio finished 4t, just 5 seconds behind.
Ferrari had the sweep were it not for the late troubles experienced by Fangio. The retirements of de Portago and Gendebien would also be frustrating and disappointing. However, to take a convincing one-two finish on such a circuit would still be a great result for the team given the slight hiccups the team had experienced over the course of its last couple of races.
There would be little time in between rounds of the World Championship following the French Grand Prix. The next round, the British Grand Prix, which was just across the Channel at Silverstone, would come on the 14th of July, just two weeks after the French Grand Prix. Still, Ferrari had to be confident coming into the race as it would be yet another high-speed venue and the D50 had been dominant at every other similar venue to that point in the season.
Prior to the International Trophy race at Silverstone back in early May, Ferrari had been on an absolute roll wining its first three races of the season. However, it would all go disastrously wrong as both Fangio and Collins would end up out of the race. This poor result would be compounded by the disappointing news from the non-championship event at Naples, Italy. This all would be followed up by Moss taking a convincing victory in the Maserati at Monaco. It seemed things were headed downhill for the team.
But then came Spa. The high speed circuit at Spa allowed the power of the D50's 8-cylinder engine to really come to life. As a result, the D50s would be the class of the field and would eventually lead to victory for Collins. Reims was of the same makeup and it would result in another victory for Collins. Things had turned around for Ferrari it had seemed.
Not everyone was happy, however. While Ferrari seemed to certainly be on the rebound, Fangio's season seemed to be taking a dive, and the most disappointing aspect to the whole thing would be the fact that twice he had been in position to win races until mechanical maladies dropped him from the top step. Still, coming into the British Grand Prix, Fangio would find himself still in the hunt as he only trailed Collins by 6 points. Of course, Collins had reason to be upset as well given the couple of previous drives in which he had handed his car over to Fangio.
The last time the British Grand Prix had been held at Silverstone had been in 1954 and Fangio would be with the Mercedes-Benz team at the team. He would go out and become the first to average greater than 100 mph around the circuit. However, visibility problems during the race would leave him with a battered car and a difficult drive just to finish the race. Coming back in 1956, Fangio would again be behind the wheel of the favored car as the 2.90 mile circuit certainly seemed to suit the power and handling of the D50.
However, as the cars took to the circuit for practice, Fangio and Ferrari would find they could not blow the rest of the competition away. In fact, the fastest man in practice would be Stirling Moss in the Maserati. His fastest lap around the circuit would be 1:41.0 and would be barely quicker than Fangio. Still, it would give the Brit the pole in his home grand prix. Fangio would find himself surrounded by Brits on the front row as Mike Hawthorn would line up 3rd in one of the new BRMs. Peter Collins would make it two Ferraris on the front row as he grabbed the 4th, and final, starting spot.
As with the French Grand Prix, Ferrari would enter five cars in the British Grand Prix. However, the car intended for Gendebien would not be brought to the circuit. Therefore, four red D50s would be unloaded and prepared.
Two of the four D50s, those of Fangio and Collins, were to be found on the front row of the grid. They seemed comfortable and ready to race. One more, that of Castellotti, would be on the third row of the grid in the 8th position. This was a rather low position for him but the strong presence of the British manufacturers would make it understandable. Finally, the fourth would be on the fourth row. Alfonso de Portago would be 6 seconds slower than Fangio and would end up starting 12th.
As usual, the skies would be overcast. However, breaking from recent tradition for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, there was little to no threat of rain at any point during the race. This mean the large crowd could expect some incredibly fast times around the 2.90 mile circuit. A long day awaited. The scheduled race distance was some 101 laps, or about 3 hours of racing.
People in the crowd strained, bobbed and weaved trying to catch a glimpse of the field before the flag flew to start the race. Off the line, the BRMs of Hawthorn and Tony Brooks would get tremendous starts and would be in the lead of the race before heading into Copse. Right there with them heading into the fast right-hander would be Fangio and Harry Schell. Collins would make a poor start and would find himself passed by Castellotti and barely ahead of de Portago.
Coming through to complete the first lap of the race it would be Hawthorn and Brooks leading the way while Fangio sat comfortably in 3rd ahead of Schell. Castellotti would come across the line in 5th place while Collins would follow Roy Salvadori through in 7th. Alfonso de Portago would round out the Ferrari attack by running well in the 9th position at the completion of the first lap.
Hawthorn would stretch out his lead over his teammate as Fangio began to really apply the pressure to the young dental student. Collins would find his way past Schell and would be back up into 4th place while Castellotti made an error and dropped down to 7th. Ferrari's de Portago would also struggle and would drop back down to 9th by the 8th lap of the race.
The Ferrari drivers continued to make mistakes left and right. Surprisingly, the usually faultless Fangio would put a wheel wrong in his pursuit of Brooks and would end up falling all the way down to 6th. Brooks would also falter slightly allowing Moss and Salvadori to move into 2nd and 3rd. It seemed the perfect opportunity for Collins to capitalize once again but he too would be down around the top five unable to move forward.
Despite his early pace, Hawthorn's talent would not be balanced with BRM reliability and he would fade around the 16th lap of the race and would end up out altogether after just 24 laps. This handed the lead to Moss who was followed along by Salvadori. Fangio had recovered and managed to finally get by Brooks for 4th place. Meanwhile the other three Ferraris ran in succession with Collins 6th, Castellotti 7th and de Portago 8th.
The 40th lap would see Moss still leading the way ahead of Salvadori. However, the deck was beginning to stack in Ferrari's favor when Brooks made his fiery exit after crashing at Abbey. This mistake promoted de Portago up into 5th place and gave Ferrari 3rd, 4th and 5th. Castellotti would still be in the running as well but he would be further down in 10th place.
The attrition would be high as usual. Of course, Jose Froilan Gonzalez, a two-time winner of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, in a Ferrari, would come all the way from Argentina for the race and would end up out after just a couple of hundred feet. By about the quarter distance mark there would be some nine cars out of the race. Thankfully for Ferrari, none of those nine would be Lancia-Ferrari D50s.
Moss continued on his dominant way with Salvadori looking quite impressive holding off Fangio and Collins for 2nd. However, just past half distance things would change dramatically. Moss would still be in the lead but Salvadori would have problems with his fuel tank and would be forced to pit to have the issue looked after. This moved Fangio up to 2nd place followed by Collins and de Portago. Castellotti would also begin to prosper from the misfortune of others and would soon find himself up into 6th place.
Unlike Monaco, Fangio would reel Moss in. Engine misfiring would also slow the Brit enabling Fangio to take the lead of the race with a little more than 30 laps remaining. Just prior to Fangio taking the lead the World Championship would be thrown wide open when Collins' Ferrari developed oil pressure problems forcing him out of the race. This meant de Portago would be in 3rd place behind Fangio and Moss, but it wouldn't last for long as, on the 84th lap, he would be called in and would hand the controls of his car over to Collins for the remainder of the race. In an acknowledgement of his fine performance, de Portago would also get another chance as he would take over Castellotti's car.
By this point in the race Fangio was well clear of his competition. Just 7 laps from the finish, Moss would be finished off with gearbox failure. This would enable Peter Collins to take over the 2nd place position in de Portago's car. Castellotti's struggles meant de Portago would not even finish the race ahead of Moss, despite his gearbox problem.
On this day, Fangio would experience absolutely no problems whatsoever. In a race of attrition Fangio would again prove himself a master of speed and reliability as he would cross the line in just under three hours to take the victory. Peter Collins would come to finish the race a little more than a lap behind but he would take the all-important points for the championship battle. Another lap further behind would be Jean Behra. This would be Behra's third 3rd place finish on the season and 4th podium. Alfonso de Portago would struggle once he took over Castellotti's car. He would end the race a little more than 9 laps behind in 11th place and would end up being the second-to-last car still running at the end.
Upon the completion of the British Grand Prix the fight for the World Championship could not have been much tighter and it included two Ferrari drivers in the top two positions. Collins remained on top but Fangio was now just a point behind with two rounds of the championship left. Clearly, Ferrari had purchased its way back to the top and they were enjoying their success. And, thankfully, the success would be coming at a lower cost. The team just needed the high-speed venues to keep coming.
The rounds of the World Championship would just keep coming in rapid succession once the calendar hit the summer months. Following the British Grand Prix at Silverstone there would be just a couple of weeks before the German Grand Prix held on the 5th of August at the infamous Nurburgring.
Over the course of the history of the Formula One World Championship the Nurburgring had been a place in which Ferrari had excelled. Throughout the dominant Formula 2 era of the World Championship the 14 mile long 'Green Hell' as it would later become known would be Alberto Ascari's own personal playground. However, when Mercedes-Benz came into Formula One with Fangio as its driver there was really nobody who stood a chance.
Fangio would fall in love with the arduous circuit the first time he had the opportunity to race on it. This would be fortunate for Ferrari as its drivers, Collins and Fangio headed up the fight for the World Championship.
There would be very few that could ever be considered Ringmeisters. And, just one trip around the circuit would firmly explain why. Never-ending, constantly changing and always dangerous, the Nurburgring preyed upon those that couldn't keep their concentration or upon weak machines. An epic gauntlet for driver and machine, the thousand feet of elevation changes, the more than 170 corners and the seemingly endless array of blind entries and apexes just waited to pounce upon any mistake, any lapse of any kind. Actually a purpose-built circuit completed toward the end of the 1920s, the circuit was intended to replace a public road course that was apparently even more dangerous. Each journey around the circuit seemingly like a whole race, a driver's memory and ability to concentrate would be tested to the uttermost limits. A circuit either loved or hated, the venue easily separated the great from the good and was by no means a respecter of any person.
Ferrari would again dispatch a fleet to Nurburg to take part in the 22 lap German Grand Prix. Considering the circuit and the length of the race this certainly would have seemed a necessary measure for any team capable of fielding so many cars. The only change in the cast for the race, as far as Ferrari was concerned, was the return of Luigi Musso.
Fangio was to have fallen in love with the Nurburgring from the very first moment he got to witness it first hand, and in practice it would show as he would ignore the wet conditions and would take the D50 and would fly around the 14 mile circuit in 9:51.2. Peter Collins would concede the pole to Fangio, but only just as there would be just three-tenths of a second between the two drivers. Castellotti would be right up there in his D50. He would lap the circuit with a time of 9:54.4 and would grab the 3rd place starting spot and would give Ferrari the first three positions on the front row. Moss, however, would go on to prohibit a sweep of the front row as he would outpace Luigi Musso for the final spot on the front row. Luigi Musso would be about 30 seconds adrift of Fangio as he struggled in the conditions slightly and would find himself in 5th place on the second row while Alfonso de Portago would be found well down on the third row of the grid in the 9th position. His fastest effort around the circuit would be a further 17 seconds slower than Musso.
An incredible throng of spectators would assemble around the stadium section of the circuit and all throughout the course running through the Eifel mountains. Engines roaring, the flag waved to get the race underway. Peeling away from the line, Collins would get the better of everybody and would have the lead heading into the first turn. Fangio and Moss would be right there behind him with Castellotti following them. Heading out into the woods, the three Ferraris would be running right together with Moss keeping station in 4th.
At the end of the first lap Fangio's love of the circuit would really come to the fore as he would be in the lead ahead of Collins and Moss and would already look comfortable at the front and amongst the infamous circuit. A little further back, de Portago would be in 6th place at the end of the first lap while Castellotti would be in trouble and would be down in 15th.
One lap around the circuit and the epic journey around the Nurburgring would already be claiming its victims. Robert Manzon and Giorgio Scarlatti wouldn't even manage to complete a lap before they would be out of the running. Roy Salvadori, Horace Gould and Umberto Maglioli wouldn't even make it 4 laps before they too would be out of the race.
Fangio would hold onto the lead ahead of Collins and Moss. This order would remain unchanged through the first 8 laps or so of the race. One change up at the front would include Ferrari's Castellotti. Though he would start on the front row he would be in trouble right from the start of the race. By the end of the first lap he would be all the way down in 15th place and stuck right there. He would continue to circulate, but it was clear his car had issues when he was unable to track down Luigi Villoresi and Louis Rosier. Sure enough, after just 5 laps, Castellotti would be into the pits with magneto troubles. His race would be over, at least at that point.
Fangio continued to lead the race and would gradually open up an advantage on Collins and Moss. Then, just 8 laps into the race, Collins would be out of the running with a broken fuel line. This would hurt the Brit in his chase for the title, but it would certainly help Fangio, if he could carry on to the victory. In fact, Fangio leading the race was proving to be about the only highlight of Ferrari's day as Musso would be struggling with an ailing car and would end up turning over the car to Castellotti on the 9th lap of the race. This would prove to be a moot effort as, on the 12th lap, Castellotti would suffer an accident and would be forced out of the race yet again. This meant just Fangio and de Portago remained in the race for the team from Maranello. It was proving true the team needed all five cars just to ensure it would be able to have one make it to the finish.
Fangio, however, would seem immune to all of the trouble this day as he soldiered on and only increased his lead over Moss and Jean Behra. In fact, just when Peter Collins was finally withdrawing from the race after having crashed de Portago's Lancia-Ferrari, Fangio would push extra hard and would go on to set what would end up being the fastest lap of the race with a time of 9:41.6, nearly 10 seconds faster than his pole time from the day before and a new lap record.
Comfortably in the lead and with Collins out of the running, Fangio would settle into his conservative mode and would look to keep the car all together and on the road throughout the final last half of the race. Up until all of troubles for Collins it had been a spirited battle between Fangio, Collins and Moss with the lap record being destroyed lap after lap. Now, with Collins out and Moss a good deal further back, the pace would settle down. This was actually almost necessary as there would be just 7 cars still running with just 7 laps remaining in the race.
Heading into the final stages of the race Fangio would hold onto a lead of more than a half a minute over Moss who was desperately trying to hold on in a Maserati that wasn't sounding all that good. Amazingly, while the four other Ferraris would be out of the race, either due to mechanical problems or driver error, Fangio would look absolutely bullet-proof and unbeatable and he carried on into the final couple of laps as cool and calm as ever.
And so it was, the Ringmeister had come to the circuit he loved at just the right time. Averaging more than 85 mph throughout the course of the 311 mile race, Fangio would complete the race distance in nearly three hours and 39 minutes and would re-energize his championship hopes with the stellar victory on the infamous Nurburgring. Stirling Moss would keep his Maserati together through the final few laps of the race to come home in 2nd place some 46 seconds behind Fangio. Jean Behra, for the fourth time on the season, would finish the race in 3rd place almost 7 minutes and 40 seconds behind.
The finishing order would be an interesting one with Ferrari heading up the classification and all Maseratis completing the finishing order.
At the end of the race Fangio held onto the lead in the championship over Collins by more than 7 points after coming into the race down. And that is exactly how the Ferrari team could have felt despite the victory—down. To have brought five cars and to have just one finish would be a difficult pill to swallow, even though the sole remaining car came home victorious. The team continued to rack up victories throughout the season, but unlike the dominant years of '52 and '53, it was taking a fleet to do it. And this needed to be rectified, especially with the home grand prix next.
The final race of the season would be, by far, the most important, and for more than one reason. Following the German Grand Prix there would be about a month between the 7th and 8th rounds of the World Championship. This would be plenty of time for Scuderia Ferrari to prepare its fleet of cars for the Italian Grand Prix held at Monza on the 2nd of September.
Ferrari would need a fleet of cars. Not only was it to be the Italian Grand Prix, but the championship was still not over. Therefore, Ferrari had every reason to make the trip from Maranello to Monza with a fighting spirit. And though the Vandervell and Connaught teams would also make the trip, the race would be very much about the battle of the Italian manufacturers.
All throughout the season the Lancia-Ferraris had proven themselves to be the class of the field on high speed venues. And, the Autodromo Nazionale Monza was certainly a circuit that fell into that classification.
Built in the 1920s, the original circuit would measure 6.2 miles and would feature a loop section of track that actually overlapped a road course measuring 3.91 miles. It wouldn't take too long before the average speeds of cars would be such that the circuit would become quite dangerous. Therefore, by the '30s, and certainly when the new Formula One World Championship began in 1950, the circuit would mainly just consist of the road course portion. However, all of that would change in 1955.
Somewhat ironic given the tragedy at Le Mans that year, 1955 would see the oval section of the Monza circuit return to use. Now featuring a steeply-banked oval, Monza continued on its usual high-speed way and seemed to be rather cold considering what had happened at Le Mans that same year. But, the construction had already begun and the organizers were intent of utilizing what it had paid for.
As with 1955, the full 6.2 mile circuit would be on the card for the 1956 Italian Grand Prix. It was to be the 26th running of the Gran Premio d'Italia and Ferrari intended to make one final statement for the 1956 season. Actually, the team needed to make a statement as Jean Behra was still within striking distance of both Fangio and Collins for the title. The German Grand Prix would be a case where Ferrari needed as many cars as possible to ensure that it had at least one car come through to a strong finish. Having Fangio and Collins within reach of the World Championship helped motivate Ferrari to produce another car in order to have as many as possible available for its two main challengers.
Therefore, as the Italian Grand Prix approached the Scuderia Ferrari team would pack up no less than six cars. The lineup for the five would be unchanged with Fangio, Collins, Castellotti, Musso and de Portago. However, the driver for the sixth car would be a young Wolfgang von Trips.
When combined with the six factory Maserati entries, the two Italian teams made up more than one-third of the total entries. The field would have included a couple more privateer Maseratis. However, the cars of Horace Gould and Louis Rosier could not be prepared in time for the race, and therefore, would not arrive.
Taking to the circuit in practice, Ferrari would soon find itself back to just a five-car fleet when the steering broke on von Trips' car leading him to crash the car heavily. There wouldn't be enough time to repair the car, and so, just five cars would make the start of the race.
By the end of practice it seemed as though the team would not need the sixth car as Fangio would set the fastest lap around the 6.2 mile circuit. His time would be 2:42.6. Castellotti would be right there with Fangio, less than a second slower. This would give Eugenio the 2nd place starting position. The final position on the front row would also be occupied by a Ferrari. However, it would be Luigi Musso in the position. The second row of the grid would be entirely Vanwalls and Maseratis. Peter Collins would be three and a half seconds slower than Fangio and would end up on the third row of the grid in the 7th position. Alfonso de Portago would complete the third row of the grid by capturing the 9th starting spot.
The circuit would be surrounded by the enthusiastic Italian crowd. The cars would take to the grid and the drivers would slowly make their way to their mounts. For the first time since the Italian Grand Prix had been a part of the World Championship there was a threat of rain at some point in the race. But, as the drivers climbed into their cars the conditions were still dry, and this meant the speeds at the start of the race could be expected to be very high.
The engines would come to a roar and the race would be held up as the clock failed. However, the situation would be fixed, the flag would drop and the race would get underway. At the start, Alfonso de Portago would be seen inching his way forward, but as the field roared away, he would be slow to get going and would actually lose a few spots right at the start. Castellotti and Musso would get the better start and the two of them would be flying around the circuit nose-to-tail. A little further back would be Schell in one of the Vanwalls followed by Fangio and Collins. Alfonso de Portago would recover from his poor start and would actually end the first lap back in his starting spot of 9th.
The first 4 laps of the race would see the order remain unchanged. However, things were about to dramatically change and the complexion of the race would change from then on.
The incredible pace of the D50s around the Monza circuit would certainly leave the competition behind. The problem was the Englebert tires on the D50 couldn't handle the pace any better than the competition. The treads of the tires would begin to break loose and both Castellotti and Musso would fall way down in the order as a result of having to make a stop for new tires.
Neither Fangio nor Collins could take advantage of the situation as they too were on Englebert tires and had to be concerned about the same thing happening with them. However, Stirling Moss would not be struggling at all and he would come up from 6th place after the first lap of the race to be in the lead by the 5th. Harry Schell would also find his way to the front and would be in 2nd place right behind Moss. Fangio and Collins remained in the race, however, and sat in 3rd and 4th. Ferrari's fifth driver, de Portago, would also be hanging in there and would actually move up a couple of positions when Castellotti and Musso fell out of the running to get new tires.
The situation would get worse for Ferrari. Castellotti and Musso would be back in the race, but well down. Then, after just 6 laps, de Portago would suffer tread separation. However, his condition would be worse as the resulting delaminating tread would cause damage to his suspension. De Portago would limp around the circuit and would end up retiring from the race altogether.
So, Ferrari was now down to four cars left in the race. And, neither of them could really make much of an effort to set the pace for fear that the tire issue would come to haunt. This left Moss and Schell to set the pace at the front. While Taruffi and Trintignant struggled and ended up out of the race before 15 laps were gone due to suspension failures, Schell seemed to find the touch with the Vanwall and seemingly floated over the bumpy concrete banking to remain in 2nd place behind Moss.
Many would find the bumpy concrete and the pace more than their cars could handle. Before 20 laps would be complete there would be nine cars that would be out of the race. Unfortunately, de Portago would be one of them. This would limit Ferrari's use of their cars for either Fangio or Collins if they ran into trouble. And, given the tire troubles, it seemed likely they would need the help at some point during the race.
And then it would start. While Moss remained in the lead, Castellotti would throw another tread and would finally end up out of the race. Collins would also lose time and places having thrown a tread of his own. Musso would be making a charge back up through the field and would actually be in 3rd place by the 18th lap of the race. However, at the same time, Fangio would be struggling to make it back to the pits as he too was struggling, but with a broken steering arm. Fangio would make it back to the pits but would have to sit and wait while the team tried to repair the broken steering. Fangio would sit and sit. It seemed, especially with Behra in 3rd and Collins in 5th, that his championship hopes had been broken as well.
Some 30 laps into the 50 lap race, and amidst a brief rain shower, Moss continued to hold onto the lead. But, it would be Musso in 2nd place as the Vanwall's incredible run had come to an end for Schell. Musso had made a stop and had been asked to hand his car over to Fangio but would refuse. Schell's misfortune promoted Collins to 3rd as Behra would be out of the running due to magneto troubles. Fangio's car would finally be repaired. But instead of Fangio jumping back in behind the wheel of the car had had enough of his Lancia-Ferrari and it would actually be Castellotti behind the wheel of Fangio's car.
If things stayed as they were Collins would be the World Champion. However, with 15 laps remaining in the race Collins would do something unexpected and grand in gesture. Collins would come into the pits to have his tires checked for the final run to the end. However, when the tires were checked Collins would make an unexpected and kind gesture by getting out of his car and motioning to Fangio to take over. Fangio would climb into the car and would take off. His championship hopes were restored.
Moss continued to lead and looked unstoppable as he had led almost every lap since taking the lead on the 5th lap. However, with just 5 laps remaining in the race, which to that point seemed over, high drama would again grip the circuit as Moss would run out of fuel. It seemed the victory had been snatched from Moss' fingertips. But not quite.
Luigi Piotti, in a privately entered Maserati, would see an opportunity to help Moss and he would come up behind Moss to push him back to the pits. Piotti would push him all the way until Moss could roll into the pits to be refueled. Refueled, Moss would re-enter the race and would take off after Musso, who had taken over the lead of the race.
Though Moss re-entered the race, it seemed Musso would take the victory. However, with just 3 laps remaining in the race, Musso would throw another tread and would be out of the race. All of a sudden, just when it seemed victory had been snatched away from Moss, it would come back around to him. The World Championship would also come back around to Fangio as a result of Collins' grand gesture. He would be in 2nd place and firmly in hold of the World Championship, if the car could hold together through the final couple of laps.
The nudge by Piotti would end up being more than another nice gesture. Moss' return to the race would end up being very profitable as he would go on to victory completing the race in just under two hours and 24 minutes. Six seconds later, Fangio would come through to finish in 2nd place and take his fourth World Championship. Once again, the Connaught Engineering team would surprise as Ron Flockhart would come through to a 3rd place result. Out of the six cars Ferrari brought to Monza there would be just two that would make it to the end. Fangio's 2nd place would lead to a World Championship. The hasty repairs to Fangio's car would enable Castellotti to complete the final race of the season. Though he would finish 4 laps down, he would still come through to finish in 9th place.
Once again, the final race of the season would be something of a bittersweet moment for Ferrari. Yes, Fangio would come through to take 2nd place and his fourth World Championship title. However, it would take just about every car and Collins' selfless gesture to ensure the honor. Thankfully, the World Championship for Fangio would help to ease the pain.
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