Scuderia Ferrari: 1954 Formula One Season
In 1951, at the height of Alfa Romeo's dominance in the newly founded Formula One World Championship, a new team established by a former Alfa employee by the name of Enzo Ferrari was beginning to turn some heads. With its 4.5-liter Ferrari 375, Scuderia Ferrari would begin to challenge Alfa Romeo's rule. In the end, it would be an Argentinean that would open the floodgates to what would become two years of Ferrari dominance. However, heading into the 1954 season, Ferrari would rather lose its way. Not surprisingly, the team would turn, once again, to the same Argentinean to help stem the tide and return the team to the head of the field.
At the British Grand Prix in 1951, Jose Froilan Gonzalez would provide Scuderia Ferrari with its first Formula One victory. Over the course of the next two years of the World Championship Ferrari would win all but one of the races (not counting Indianapolis). Such was the dominance of Ferrari with the departure of Alfa Romeo at the end of 1951.
Throughout the 1952 and 1953 seasons it would be Alberto Ascari that would be the dominant name in Formula One. Just in 1952 alone, Ascari would win six of eight races and all of them would be in a row. The following year, Ascari would win the first three until Mike Hawthorn kept the streak going in an absolutely thrilling French Grand Prix. Ascari would add two more victories while Farina would add one of his own. Ascari and Farina would be fighting for the victory in the final round of the season, the Italian Grand Prix, when Ascari would try an audacious move that would end up costing him and Farina the victory and giving it to Juan Manuel Fangio.
All throughout his time with Ferrari Alberto Ascari and Enzo were at odds with each other. Especially in 1953, there would be times when Ascari would disobey team orders to take victories. This would further cause hindrances in the relationship between the two men. But it would be this final move in the Italian Grand Prix that would really drive a wedge between them. It was, after all, the Italian Grand Prix. The team had been running 1st and 2nd with just one turn remaining. But in his zest for victory Ascari would take it away from Ferrari altogether and would give it to Fangio and Maserati.
But not all was well with Ferrari anyway, and this would be frustrating for Ascari. Two years of dominance had somewhat wetted the appetite of Ferrari. The desire seemed to be waning a little bit. There were hints Ferrari would not take part in the World Championship altogether after the '53 season. This, and the falling out with Enzo himself, would cause a bad taste in Ascari's mouth and he would decide to leave the team at the end of the season. Heading out the door with him would be Luigi Villoresi.
Villoresi really had not love affair with Enzo either after his brother's death in 1939. Test driving the new 158 Alfetta, Luigi's brother would veer off the circuit striking a tree and killing himself. Luigi would ask to see the car to which Enzo would deny him access and would even go so far as saying it had been a big lunch that had caused Luigi's brother to make a mistake and crash. However, as Luigi would state, 'Then I asked him about insurance and he told me there wasn't any, so I was very upset. After that, my brother's road car, an 8C Alfa Romeo 2300, disappeared and some time later Consalvo Sanesi, the Alfa Romeo test driver, told me that the steering had broken on the car. So I really did not like him.'
Despite the suspicion and the dislike, Villoresi would end up driving for Enzo throughout 1952 and 1953 right alongside his friend and student Ascari. However, when things went south between Ascari and Enzo, out the door with Ascari went Villoresi.
If Ferrari seemed to be wandering in the woods about the future of their World Championship program, when Ascari and Villoresi left, it seemed the team had totally lost its way. And so, the team would turn to the man that had helped to forge their period of dominance. Signed to drive alongside Mike Hawthorn and Giuseppe Farina would be Jose Froilan Gonzalez.
Changes kept coming heading into the 1954 season. Over the course of the 1952 and 1953 seasons the World Championship had been conducted according to Formula 2 regulations. However, with the approach of the 1954 season the teams would be facing the reality of the new Formula One regulations. The biggest change in the regulations would have to do with engine size. While the Formula 2 cars allowed a maximum displacement of 2.0-liters, the new Formula One regulations would allow a maximum of 2.5-liters.
But despite the new regulations it wasn't as if Ferrari was unprepared despite the apparent lack of drive. The truth of the matter was it was anything but that way for the team. Prior to the move to Formula 2 regulations the design team had built the car that would become known as the Ferrari 500 F2, the car that would dominate for two years. However, a 2.5-liter version of the car, known as the 625, had been first tested in September of 1951. In fact, the 625 had been the original design and the 500 F2 had been taken from it. Therefore, the team knew they had their car with which to start out their season.
However, the design had first been tested back in 1951, and so, it was believed the car would lack competitiveness to designs rolling out of factories over the winter months, cars like the Maserati 250F. Therefore, Ferrari would not remain idle as would be expected for a team that was kind of on the fence about taking part in the 1954 season. In fact, toward the end of the 1953 season Ferrari would introduce its 553 'Squalo'. And when it was combined with a new 2.5-liter engine, it represented, it was believed, the future for the team in Formula One.
So despite what seemed to be like a lack of direction, Scuderia Ferrari was rather well prepared for the start of the 1954 Formula One World Championship. The team just needed to make it to the first round of the World Championship to prove the fact.
The first actual race of the 1954 season would be a Formula Libre race held in Rio de Janeiro on the 3rd of January at the 6.68 mile Gavea circuit running along the Atlantic coastline. The field for the race would be quite large but it would not include any car or driver from Scuderia Ferrari. They would be busy arriving and preparing for the first round of the Formula One World Championship for 1954. The race would be the Argentine Grand Prix and it would take place at the site of a horrific moment in Giuseppe Farina's career.
The 1953 season would be the first time in which (not counting the Indianapolis 500) the World Championship was truly a 'World' championship. President Peron was keen to have the World Championship come to Argentina so as to use it as propaganda for his administration of the country. By making ticket costs next to nothing the whole of the brand new Autodromo 17 de Octubre circuit would be filled with spectators clamoring to get a better view. Unfortunately, a young man would wander onto the circuit right in front of Farina. Swerving to miss the boy, Farina would plow into a crowd of spectators killing more than a dozen people. Though Alberto Ascari would go on to win the race, the event had been seriously marred by the episode on the 31st lap of the race. One year later, the World Championship and Giuseppe Farina were back, but this time seriously praying for a much better, and joyous, result.
Scuderia Ferrari would field no fewer than four cars for the first round of the 1954 Formula One World Championship. The four cars would be driven by Jose Froilan Gonzalez, Mike Hawthorn, Giuseppe Farina and Umberto Maglioli. Three of the four men would look absolutely unstoppable in practice around the 2.42 mile circuit. Fastest of them all would be Farina. His best lap of 1:44.8 would earn him the pole by a mere tenth over Gonzalez. Mike Hawthorn would be just over two seconds slower but would start in 4th place on the final spot on the front row. This would make Fangio, the lone Maserati on the front row, feel quite lonely being outnumbered three to one.
Preparing for the start of the 87 lap race, Gonzalez would find himself amongst friends, despite the fact they were his competitors. Gonzalez would be one of five Argentinean drivers preparing to start the race. It would have been six had it not been for engine problems with Carlos Menditeguy's Maserati that would force him to be a non-starter.
The race would not be straight-forward. While the circuit was dry as the cars were rolled out to their grid positions it was clear the skies would drop some rain on the circuit. It was just a matter of, 'When'?
The start of the race would see Farina continue his show of dominance as he would take the lead right off the line. Following closely behind Farina would be Fangio. Hawthorn would get away well and would find himself in 3rd place during the early going. Gonzalez, on the other hand, would not get away from the line well at all and would be working hard to recover.
Farina would lead the way through the first 14 laps. He was looking strong, but he would not look as strong as what Gonzalez would. Gonzalez would recover from his terrible start and would be flying his way up through the field. Quickly he would get by Hawthorn, and then, Fangio. By the time the race was heading into the 15th lap, he would be challenging Farina for the lead.
There would be nothing Farina could do to hold back Gonzalez and he would take the lead on the 15th lap of the race. Over the course of the next 15 laps Gonzalez would pull away from the rest of the field and would seemingly be on course to an easy victory. However, Providence would prove otherwise. A storm would break right over the circuit dropping a lot of water in a short amount of time. Gonzalez would spin off the circuit in the rain. Farina would stop for a visor for his helmet. Hawthorn, on the other hand, would be able to take the lead. However, the lead would be short-lived as he too would spin off the circuit in the rain. Maglioli would slow dramatically just to try and make it through. This would hand the lead to Fangio.
Fangio would hold onto the lead until the circuit dried out once again, at which time, Gonzalez would retake the lead. It seemed, this time, that Gonzalez would have a clear run to victory. However, after just a couple of laps in the lead, the rains would come again and would cause Gonzalez to slow and hand the lead to Farina while Fangio stopped for specially-cut tires. Mike Hawthorn would suffer a second spin and would end up being disqualified for receiving outside assistance to help him get going again. Maglioli, meanwhile, continued on, but at a much more sedated pace, which lent to him being many laps down at the finish.
The race would be between Farina, Gonzalez and Fangio. There would be some controversy over Fangio's stop, and in the wet conditions, Ferrari felt safe to have their drivers slow to make it to the finish. Ferrari told their drivers to take it easy as they were certain Fangio would be disqualified. Therefore, neither Farina nor Gonzalez were too bothered when Fangio went by them into the lead. Fangio would lead the remaining 23 laps and would emerge around the last bend to cross the line amidst beaming sunlight and no disqualification. His victory would stand. Sure of the disqualification, both of the Ferrari drivers slowed to ensure their arrival at the finish. As a result, Farina would finish in 2nd place a minute and nineteen seconds behind Fangio while Gonzalez would finish in 3rd, two minutes and one second behind. Umberto Maglioli would finish the race down in 9th place but would be no fewer than five laps behind.
Had the team forgotten about disqualifications and just went for it, the team looked to be en route to victory. Instead, once Farina and Gonzalez backed off they could not get their edge back. And in the last moments of the race, when the rain ceased and the circuit began drying out, neither could mount a challenge for victory. This would seem to be evidence of the team's lack of commitment. The fight would only get tougher from here on out.
After having a possible victory slip through their hands in the Argentine Grand Prix on the 17th of January, the team would return to the circuit on the 31st of the month to take part in the 10th Gran Premio Ciudad de Buenos Aires Formula Libre race.
The Formula Libre race would take place on the same 2.42 mile circuit number 2 as what the Argentine Grand Prix had. And, as with the Argentine Grand Prix, Giuseppe Farina would dominate the time sheets in practice and would start the race from the pole. Unfortunately, the rest of the starting grid is unknown, but it certainly was clear Farina felt at home at the circuit.
Although Farina would feel at home at the circuit it would still fail to translate into victory as he would end up retiring from the race with mechanical problems. Farina wouldn't be alone either as Juan Manuel Fangio, Onofre Marimon and seven others would all drop out of the 65 lap race before the end.
Amazingly, Giuseppe Farina would not be done entirely. Gonzalez would not be well. The illness was causing him to slow and he just couldn't be as effective behind the wheel of the car. Therefore, Farina would take over the drive of the car for the remainder of the race. However, the change in driver would cost valuable time and Farina would find himself running behind Roberto Mieres in the running order. Mike Hawthorn would run well but would have his engine fail him on the very last lap of the race. Umberto Maglioli would remain in the race but he too would be a lap down by the end.
In the end it would be Maurice Trintignant, driving for Ecurie Rosier, that would take the victory by nearly thirty seconds over Roberto Mieres in a Maserati. Giuseppe Farina would finish in 3rd place driving Gonzalez's car. He would finish eight seconds behind Mieres.
Although the Ferrari drivers would prove fast around the Autodromo 17 de Octubre, the circuit would prove to be unkind to the team on a whole. Fastest laps and pole positions would mean nothing for the circuit would not flinch in the presence of the 'Prancing Horse'. Unfortunately, this meant the team could not capitalize on its performance and would, instead, head back to Europe feeling as if they had missed out on some golden opportunities.
After an early start to the season, it would be a couple of months before Scuderia Ferrari would load up its cars and would set off to take part in a grand prix. However, on the 11th of April, the team would be in Syracuse, Sicily preparing to take part in the 4th Gran Premio di Siracusa. This would be the first single-seater grand prix held in Europe for 1954 and it would end up being one race in which the team would gladly have missed.
To say the race was the first on the European continent is something of a misnomer. Lying nearly in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily is as much its own as it is Italian. However, since Sicily was the stepping stone to Europe during the Second World War, it would be fitting the first grand prix of the season would be held on the island.
Scuderia Ferrari would show up to the 80 lap event with four cars. When a number of privateer Maseratis failed to show, including one Maserati factory entry for Juan Manuel Fangio, Ferrari would find themselves making up 50 percent of the grid for the Gran Premio di Siracusa.
Nonetheless, the race would provide a great opportunity for the team to test the Formula One variant of the 553 'Squalo'. It would be driven by Jose Froilan Gonzalez. The rest of the team, which would now include Maurice Trintignant, would be left driving 625s.
Neither the new 553 nor the older 625s would be able to break Marimon's best effort of 2:02.6. Therefore, Marimon and his Maserati 250F would start from the pole. Gonzalez, who would end up being slower by mere hundredths of a second, would start the race 2nd while Giuseppe Farina would complete the front row in 3rd place. Mike Hawthorn and Trintignant would occupy the two-wide second row.
Situated to the west of downtown Syracuse, the Syracuse circuit was similar in location and feel to that of Reims in France. Set amidst the rolling countryside, the 3.48 mile circuit would boast of some decently-long straights and some fast bends. Rather boring in its layout and character, the circuit would only have a couple of interesting points to it. One of those would be the fact the circuit passed right by the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery where about 1,000 servicemen are buried from World War II. One interesting character aspect to the circuit that would come into play during the race would be the retaining walls lining portions of the circuit. This allowed spectators a view down upon the track and it would help to keep the action trapped within those walls.
As the race got underway, it would be Marimon that would lead the way in his 250F. Right behind Marimon, Hawthorn would make a great start and would be in 2nd place followed by Gonzalez in the 553. The racing at the front of the field would be intense, especially given the small size of the field. However, this would lead to a disastrous moment just a few minutes into the race.
Marimon held onto the lead followed closely by Hawthorn. As they rounded one of the corners, Marimon would drift a little too far wide and would brush up against some of the hay bails by the side of the circuit. Unfortunately, as Marimon kicked up the hay it would momentarily blind Hawthorn as they passed through one of the cut-out portions of the circuit. Suddenly, Hawthorn would crash into the retaining wall and would end up collecting Gonzalez with him. Hawthorn would hit the wall so hard that his car would catch on fire. Hawthorn would try his best to get out of the car. Gonzalez would hope out of his car and would come over to Hawthorn to help extract him. Unfortunately, they would not be able to get Hawthorn out of the car before his hands, arms and legs would suffer some terrible burns.
Two Ferraris would be out of the race with practically nothing left of them as both would become victims of the fire that also badly burned Hawthorn. However, the team still had its other two cars in the running behind Marimon.
The accident would happen less than 10 laps into the race. After that, things would be quiet. It wouldn't be until there were about 15 laps left that the action would pick up.
Marimon continued to look strong. By the time the race was heading into the last 10 laps he was up at the front of a field of just six cars. However, Robert Manzon would fall out with just 12 laps remaining when his Ferrari suffered problems.
Just when it seemed Marimon would roll on to victory he would make a mistake and would crash out with only 9 laps remaining in the race. This would have everyone's attention switch to Giuseppe Farina, who was now the leader of the race over Maurice Trintignant and Sergio Mantovani.
Enjoying a two lap cushion over Trintignant, Farina would be able to cruise to victory without too much trouble. In spite of the chaos that would take place with a couple of his teammates, Farina would easily cruise to victory. Completing the race distance in two hours, fifty-one minutes and fifty-seven seconds, Farina would take the victory having averaged a little more than 95 mph. His advantage over Trintignant would be a little more than two laps. Five laps would be the difference back to Mantovani who would finish in the 3rd position.
After failing to score victory in two races in which he looked certain to win, it would be in the Gran Premio di Siracusa, where he really didn't seem like much of a factor, where Farina would break through and score his first victory of the season. Still, the win would be rather muted knowing the extent of the burns suffered by Hawthorn in the fire. Still, he was expected to make a full recovery and Scuderia Ferrari would carry on to its next race of the season.
Just one week would separate races for the team. This meant the team carried on without Mike Hawthorn. But while they could have added another car and brought on Maglioli, the team would carry on to its next race with just three cars.
The team's next race would not be that close by. The team would end up leaving Sicily and would make its way back to the European mainland into France. Upon arriving in France, Scuderia Ferrari would head off toward the Pyrenees Mountains. Situated on the hillside over looking the Gave de Pau is the small city of Pau. Pau had been the site of the first grand prix race around the turn of the 20th century. The first race would be conducted over hundreds of miles stretching all the way to the coasts far to the west. The Pau Grand Prix on the 19th of April in 1954, however, would take place on the now familiar 1.72 mile street circuit based right in the heart of the city.
Those its origins are something of a mystery, Pau would become a very important holiday location for the affluent the world over. From Henry IV to Marie Antoinette to Charles XIV of Sweden and Mary Todd Lincoln, Pau would serve as host to some of the most noted figures in history. Given its setting, the wealth and layout of the city, Pau could very easily be considered the Monte Carlo of the Pyrenees and the street circuit used for the race played out in a very similar fashion with its tight, twisty turns and elevation changes.
Like Monaco, the Pau circuit would serve as a severe test for drivers and cars. Given the fact the race was a three hour timed event, transmissions, brakes and engines would be severely tested through the constant gear changes, braking and acceleration. And with little to no time for the driver to take a break over the course of a lap it would also be an easy circuit in which to make a mistake.
The field for the three hour race would be small, just twelve cars. However, the field of twelve would include some incredibly strong and talented drivers. Scuderia Ferrari would bring three cars to the race for Farina, Gonzalez and Trintignant. The Maserati factory team would also enter three cars. Ecurie Rosier would enter two while Equipe Gordini would enter four.
Farina had been proving to be quite quick during the early part of the season and he would continue to be so in Pau. He would set the fastest lap time around the circuit beating Trintignant by a second, and thereby, securing pole. Gonzalez would make it a Ferrari sweep of the top three positions on the grid when he would start from the second row of the grid after posting a time just seven-tenths slower than Trintignant.
An incredible throng of spectators would line the circuit, especially along the hillside overlooking the run down to the tight right-hand turn one. This crowd would end up being treated to one titanic battle between a couple of French aces.
Harry Schell would drop out of the race after just 6 laps. Another of the French heroes, Robert Manzon, would last just 16 laps before his gearbox would force him out of the running. However, up toward the front of the field, Jean Behra of Equipe Gordini and Maurice Trintignant would be locked in a nose-to-tail duel that would rage lap after lap.
The fight between the two Frenchmen would never get out of hand, but it would be fierce at the same time. The racing was so close and so fierce it would become as though they were the only ones on the circuit, and in the last few moments of the race that would be literally the case.
Gonzalez would retire after 24 laps with crankshaft failure. The pace at the front of the field, which included Behra posting a fastest lap time a full second faster than Farina's pole-winning effort, would cause many competitors, Farina included, to fade as the race went on.
Heading into the final couple of laps of the race, Farina was well out of the picture. Trying to chase down Elie Bayol, Farina was running in 5th place, some four laps behind Behr and Trintignant. In the case of Behra and Trintignant, neither one would give the other an inch, each wanted to win the prestigious race on their home soil. And so, the battle would rage all the way to the very end.
Coming through the esses and powering down the short straight toward the finish line it was still unclear who would actually take the victory. Racing toward the line nearly side-by-side, it would be Behra that would edge out Trintignant by a mere two-tenths of a second. After three hours and 109 laps, just two-tenths would be the difference at the line! It would be an incredible race that would see Behra string together an impressive run of success at Pau. In the case of Trintignant, the race would be disappointing, and yet, very positive. He would show that he belonged at Ferrari and was more than capable carrying the Ferrari flag. Such was the pace and the intensity of the battle between the two men that Roberto Mieres would finish the race in 3rd but would be a little more than three laps behind. Still, it would be a better result than what Farina would end up with.
Whether it was a championship or non-championship event, Scuderia Ferrari would appear more than capable of battling with the top teams and drivers. And whether it was the fast circuits like Syracuse, or the slow twisty circuits like Pau, Scuderia Ferrari was still proving to be more than capable of achieving strong results and challenging for victory.
There would be a span of three weeks in between races for the Scuderia Ferrari grand prix squad. However, their next race would again take place on French soil. On the 9th of May the team would be busy making final preparations for the Bordeaux Grand Prix, a 123 lap event that would take place right in the heart of the city.
Travelling from Pau to Bordeaux, the non-championship part of the grand prix season would travel from one rich part of France to another. A port city straddling the Garonne River, the Bordeaux region of France would be better known as the wine industry capital of the world. But while the region would be rich and flowing with wines greatly pleasing to the palette, the city itself would also be rich in history, education and beautiful architecture. It would be fitting then that the Bordeaux Grand Prix would be held on the streets amongst the beautiful architecture and along the river that fed life to its important industry.
Practice would see Roberto Mieres suffer a crash that would eliminate him from being able to take part in the actual race. Therefore, like Pau, twelve cars would line up on the grid. Heading up the field would be Maurice Trintignant. He would power his way around the 1.53 mile circuit in 1:21.8 and would end up three-tenths of a second faster than his Ferrari teammate Jose Froilan Gonzalez. Ferrari would bring just two cars to the race. Therefore, both would start from a strong position being on the front row of the grid. Trintignant's nemesis from Pau, Jean Behra, would complete the front row in the 3rd position.
Heading into the race, another challenge, besides competition and attrition, would come to play a part. As the cars roared down the circuit along the Garonne River they would do so on a wet track with the skies still pouring down. Stirling Moss would take the advantage early on as Trintignant would get away poorly from the line and would be trailing by quite a margin throughout the early laps. However, Gonzalez would not make a poor start and would be right up there with Moss, Behra and Elie Bayol fighting for the lead of the race.
With 123 laps ahead of them, the field would be in for a long race that would likely stretch beyond three hours. Unfortunately for some, they would never have to worry about their cars being able to make it the whole three hours because their cars would prove incapable of going even twenty minutes. Peter Whitehead would be out after just 4 laps. Louis Rosier's engine would expire after just 9. Harry Schell would only make it 16 laps before his clutch would fail him. In all, there would be five cars that would not make it to the end of the race and that would be out of the running before the 50th lap. One of those five would be Behra. This seemed to be an open door for Trintignant to gain his victory on home soil.
Trintignant's poor start, however, would come back to haunt him. Though he would desperately fight to make it back to the front of the field, Gonzalez would be seem to be in his element in the wet conditions and would make it practically impossible for his teammate.
Anchored by a fastest lap time less than a second off of the pole-winning time of Trintignant, Gonzalez would gradually pull away with the lead of the race. His escape would be helped by Moss and Bayol's fading over time. This meant just Robert Manzon and Trintignant could really take up the challenge, but they could not consistently post the lap times Gonzalez would prove capable of doing, and therefore, would only lose more ground.
Gonzalez would appear comfortable and right at home throughout the 123 laps. He would cruise to an easy victory beating Manzon to the line by a mere forty-four and a half seconds. Following along in 3rd place would be Trintignant. Though he would finish in 3rd place, he would finish over a minute and three seconds behind.
Seeing that Ferrari would only bring two cars to the race it would really be a tale of two vastly different experiences. Though he would start from pole, Trintignant's excitement would end at the start and his opportunity at taking a victory on home soil again evaporated. But while Trintignant would come up dry and wanting, Gonzalez would flourish in the wet conditions and would come away with a well-earned victory. But if Trintignant had been bitterly disappointed at the end of the Bordeaux Grand Prix he would just have to wait until the following week to experience true bitterness.
From the rain in the Bordeaux region of France, the team would travel to the English Channel coast and across to a country known for its gloomy weather. Upon arriving in England, the team would make its way to its final destination—Silverstone.
The team would arrive at Silverstone to take part in one of the most important non-championship races to exist at the time. The race was the ever-popular BRDC International Trophy race. And in 1954, it would be the 6th edition of the race, of which all six would take place on the 2.88 mile Silverstone circuit utilizing the perimeter road of the former bomber training base.
Selected as a perfect site for a bomber training base for its flat terrain and sweeping winds that would help get the bombers off the ground, the base wouldn't lie dormant after the Second World War for very long before it would become the site of the 1948 British Grand Prix. However, in that first year of the British Grand Prix being held at the former airbase the circuit would make use of both the perimeter road and the runways. This would all change in 1949 with the first International Trophy race. The new non-championship race would come in and the circuit would change as a result. It would be the first time the familiar Silverstone layout would be used.
Six editions later, neither the race nor the circuit had changed all that much. The race still consisted of two heat races and a final. The heat races were 15 laps in length while the final would be stretched to 35. Finishing times in each heat would be very important as they would determine final grid placement. And heading into the 1954 running of the race, finishing times would also offer up a bit of controversy.
Scuderia Ferrari would come to the race with three cars. Jose Froilan Gonzalez and Umberto Maglioli would be listed in the first heat while Maurice Trintignant would be going it alone in the second.
It was the 15th of May and the usual wet weather greeted the first heat competitors as they prepared to take part in their race. Heat one would see Gonzalez on pole with Jean Behra, Stirling Moss and Alan Brown joining him on the front row. Umberto Maglioli would start the race from the middle of the second row in the 6th position.
The actual heat race would see Gonzalez continue his performance of Singin' in the Rain. He would be fast despite the wet weather conditions. Aided by setting the fastest lap of the race, he would put tremendous pressure on his teammate Maglioli and the rest of the drivers in the field.
Both Behra and Brown would fade as the race wore on. Stirling Moss would hold steady. But Prince Bira would be as impressive as Gonzalez in the rain, but would start too far back to challenge the Argentinean. Starting from the 8th position on the grid, Prince Bira would be flying throughout the 15 lap heat race. He would quickly make his way toward the front of the field and would become embroiled in a great battle with Moss for 2nd place. Meanwhile, Gonzalez soldiered on at the front without a care in the world.
Gonzalez would continue without being accosted by so much as a single competitor. Averaging nearly 83 mph Gonzalez would streak to an impressive victory. Fourteen seconds later, Bira would cross the line in 2nd place. Moss would follow along two seconds further back in 3rd. Umberto Maglioli would finish the race in a steady 4th place but would do so some thirty-two seconds behind Moss.
The second heat would see Trintignant starting from the pole in his Ferrari 625. Joining him on the front row would be the 1951 winner of the race Reg Parnell. Andre Simon and Bob Gerard would complete the front row for the second heat race.
Bob Gerard had looked impressive at the wheel of his Formula 2 Cooper-Bristol T23. However, unlike the first heat race the second would see drying conditions appear around the circuit. This meant the pace would pick up and Gerard would find himself at a disadvantage with his 2.0-liter powerplant.
Despite some pressure from Parnell, Trintignant would lead the way and would only get faster as the race wore on. In the drier conditions, Trintignant would set a fastest lap time that would be six seconds faster than Gonzalez's fastest lap from the first heat. And with an average speed of a little more than 87 mph, Trintignant was streaking toward a finishing time more than a few seconds ahead of Gonzalez' pace.
Parnell would do his best to go with Trintignant but would end up losing ground as the race developed. Robert Manzon would be inspired by Prince Bira in the first heat race and he would climb up from 8th on the grid to find himself in 3rd place. Roy Salvadori would be a more interesting story yet. Salvadori would start the heat from all the way down in 12th place on the grid. However, in the drier conditions he would use his Maserati 250F to great effect and would climb his way all the way up to the top five.
With a fastest lap average speed of greater than 90 mph nobody could catch Trintignant. He would drive his way to victory and would finish some six seconds ahead of Parnell. His finishing time would also be nearly a minute and forty-five seconds faster than that achieved by Gonzalez. Robert Manzon would finish the heat race in 3rd place some forty-seven seconds behind Trintignant.
And then came controversy. It would become apparent after the conclusion of the first heat race that Gonzalez's engine seized in his 553 'Squalo'. This would make for a very interesting and bitter moment, especially for Trintignant. Trintignant had streaked to victory and a great finishing time. However, the team management would make the decision to give his car, and finishing time, to Gonzalez. This meant Gonzalez would be promoted from the ninth-fastest time to pole. Trintignant, therefore, would be demoted to 6th place on the starting grid and Maglioli would be left without a ride altogether. The rest of the front row would include Reg Parnell in 2nd, Robert Manzon in 3rd and Roy Salvadori in 4th.
As the 35 lap final got underway, the promotion would be all that Gonzalez would need. In the much drier conditions Gonzalez would take off into the distance leaving the rest of the field well behind. Behra would do his best to keep pace but would only lose ground to Gonzalez and the Ferrari. Literally and emotionally demoted, Trintignant could not recover from the politics of the moment and would struggle to climb up through the running order.
Robert Manzon and Reg Parnell would last less than 5 laps before mechanical woes ended their race. However, Andre Simon and Roberto Mieres would pick up their pace and would give Trintignant all he could handle, therefore slowing his momentum. Stirling Moss was looking strong until 11 laps were left in the race. Then, suspension failure would strike his Maserati leaving him out of the running.
Everyone was out of the running, at least for the victory that is, from the very start of the race. Helped along by a fastest lap average speed of nearly 96 mph, Gonzalez would easily cruise to the victory beating Behra by no less than thirty-six seconds. More than a lap would be the difference back to Simon finishing in the 3rd position. Trintignant would be mired down in bad politics and would carry on to finish a very quiet 5th, also a lap down.
Again, if Trintignant had been bitter after his failed opportunity in Bordeaux, then the International Trophy race would be an even greater low. Any bitterness would only have been made worse when it was rumored Gonzalez's 553 fired up immediately when the team was taking it over to be loaded on the transporter.
Once again, one driver on the Scuderia Ferrari team would leave euphoric while another would be leaving with something of a bad taste in his mouth. What made matters worse was the fact it was the same two men that were experiencing the same feelings. Nonetheless, the team would load everything up on the transporter and would head back to the coast and on to the European mainland. There was no time to lose as the team's next race would be on the 22nd of May, just one week after the International Trophy race, and it would take place all the way down on the eastern coast of Italy in Bari. The race was the 7th Gran Premio di Bari and it would consist of a 60 lap race along the 3.45 mile street and road course situated right along the Adriatic coast.
While boasting of a history stretching all the way back into the 3rd century BC, the history of Bari is one that is filled mostly with destruction and slavery. From the destruction of the Gothic Wars, Bari would become a major slave port while under the rule of the Byzantines. Unfortunately for this city, the destruction would continue well up through the 11th century and even right up until the 20th century with air raid conducted by the Germans in December of 1943. This attack would only be made worse by the presence of the Liberty ship John Harvey that happened to be in the harbor when it was attacked. Onboard the ship was mustard gas and it would be emitted throughout the area and greatly impacted the residents. Still, by the early 1950s, Bari was a city on the mend looking to build a new image for itself and motor racing was certainly a major draw for people during that time. Therefore a 3.45 mile street circuit layout would be used to host some of the best teams, cars and drivers of the period.
Scuderia Ferrari would field three cars for Gonzalez, Trintignant and Maglioli. Fresh from his two-straight victories, Gonzalez would take the pole for the race with Trintignant starting alongside in 2nd place. Jean Behra would make his way to the 3rd, and final, spot on the front row. Umberto would struggle somewhat and would start down in 7th position, which was the outside of the third row.
Ferrari had been on a role lately and it would continue in the race. Gonzalez and Trintignant would show the way while others struggled to keep pace, or, stay in the race altogether. Ecurie Rosier would be suffering a terrible season and it would only get worse when both of their cars would retire early on in the race. Maglioli would continue on in the race in the third Ferrari but his pace would be such that it was like he was out of the race altogether.
Gonzalez and Trintignant would continue their dominant form at the head of the field. Jose would lead the way with Trintignant following on only a few seconds behind. The pace of these two would cause Behra to be left in the dust. And despite Onofre Marimon's fastest lap, the consistent pace of the two Ferrari drivers would lead to him being more than a lap behind by the end.
The older Ferrari 625s carried on without so much as a hiccup. Over the course of the 60 lap race Gonzalez would stretch out an advantage over Trintignant who was under absolutely no pressure from behind. Therefore, Trintignant would settle into a fast but comfortable pace knowing his position was safe as long as the car continued to run.
And the Prancing Horses would run, and run. Gonzalez would drive on to his third-straight victory with Trintignant following along seven seconds behind. A minute and a second would be the difference between Gonzalez and Behra finishing in the 3rd position. Maglioli would not be able to match the performance of his Ferrari teammates. He would finish the race a rather lowly 7th and a little more than 6 laps behind.
The older 625 was still performing strongly against its younger competition. It seemed Ferrari was in a strong position as the next round of the World Championship approached. The 625 was performing so well in fact that most of the drivers preferred to drive it compared to the new 553. And while Scuderia Ferrari certainly appeared to remain strong, this fact would cause some problems for the team.
It had been a very busy couple of months for the team as there had been a race just about every week or every couple of weeks. And while it had been a successful period of time it was proving to be a little exhausting traveling back and forth across Europe and England. On the 6th of June, Castel Fusano, an area to the west of Rome, was set to host the Gran Premio di Roma. For an Italian team, the Grand Prix of Rome would be a big and important race. However, Scuderia Ferrari would not arrive for the race as their cars would not be ready in time to take part. Therefore, the team would look ahead to their next race on the calendar.
The next race to which the team would look forward to would be the third round of the 1954 Formula One World Championship, the Belgian Grand Prix. The team would have a few weeks in which to prepare as it would not take place until the 20th of June. However, unlike some of the other non-championship races, the race would be filled with the best teams, drivers and cars that existed at that point in time. On top of it all, the race would take place at one of the most demanding circuits in the world, the famed and ultra-fast Spa-Francorchamps Circuit.
Nestled deep in the Ardennes, the 8.77 mile Spa-Francorchamps Circuit was a pure road course filled with blinding speed, courageously-fast bends and wonderful elevation changes. It was a fan and driver favorite. But it was also one of the most dangerous circuits, and therefore, demanding a lot of respect, especially when the weather was wet.
In the first round of the Formula One World Championship Giuseppe Farina showed the way in practice and started from the pole. However, by the time the World Championship returned to Europe for the first time, it would be Juan Manuel Fangio that would show the way and would take the pole by a second and a half over Jose Froilan Gonzalez. Farina would complete the three-wide front row with a time four seconds slower around the 8.77 mile circuit.
Mike Hawthorn would be back with the team in time for the race. He would be a little more than seven seconds slower around the circuit, but still would start from the second row of the grid in the 5th position. Scuderia Ferrari would enter four cars in the race. Trintignant would be at the wheel of one of the others and would end up qualifying on the third row of the grid in the 6th position.
Amazingly, as the cars were wheeled out to their starting grid positions for the 2pm start, the skies would be sunny and the circuit would be totally dry. This served as perfect conditions for an already fast circuit. And as the field roared downhill toward the climbing right-hander at Eau Rouge it would be Gonzalez that would streak into the lead. He had done this the year before and it didn't end up lasting past the 11th lap of the race. This time, however, it would last an even shorter amount of time. Gonzalez would come to a halt on the very first lap of the race with a broken oil pipe. Giuseppe Farina would also make a good start off the line and would be ahead of Fangio when Gonzalez retired from the race. Therefore, Farina would take over the lead of the race. Of course, the most dramatic departure from the race would be made by Roberto Mieres. His Maserati would catch fire right on the grid prior to the start of the race. He would escape the car without injury, but the race was certainly over for him.
Farina would lead the race throughout the first couple of laps. However, Fangio's pace around the circuit was evident to be faster. He had proven this in practice. Therefore, it was just a matter of time before he would power his way into the lead of the race. This would end up happening on the 3rd lap.
Hawthorn would be still dealing with the burns he had suffered in Syracuse, and therefore, wasn't his usual break-neck self. Trintignant would also be rather slow off the line at the start and would settle into his usual comfortable pace. And while Trintignant was never known to set the world on fire, he was already well known for his ability to carry a car all the way through to the finish, and he would do it again this day.
Fangio began to set sail into the distance, but a problem with his helmet would cause him to slow and hand the lead back to Farina on the 11th lap of the race. Farina would hold onto the lead but it would only take a couple of laps before Fangio had gotten his troubles fixed and was back on the pace. By the 14th lap, Fangio was back in the lead and Farina was out.
Fangio was beginning to reapply pressure on Farina when the former Alfa Romeo teammate would lose his engine, thereby handing the lead back to Fangio on lap 14. Behind Fangio a distance back was Hawthorn followed by Trintignant.
Fangio was in a class unto himself. Hawthorn would be called into the pits to hand his car over to Gonzalez for the remainder of the race since he was still dealing with his burns and a faster Gonzalez was just sitting on the sidelines. This stop would promote the steady Trintignant to 2nd overall.
Gonzalez would try and mount a challenge of the front-runners once he took over for Hawthorn. However, he had a problem. Exhaust was somehow leaking into the cockpit making things very dangerous for Gonzalez. It was the later-stages of the race, and therefore, Gonzalez was under little pressure when he made his stop to have the situation taken care of.
On this day, there was no one faster than Fangio. He would set the fastest lap of the race around the halfway mark and would lap the field up to 2nd place. This would ensure an easy victory for the Argentinean. He would come around La Source and on the downhill run across the line to take the victory by twenty-four seconds over Trintignant. Stirling Moss would be a lap down, but would manage to finish the race in 3rd. Gonzalez would carry on to the finish. He would bring Hawthorn's car home in the 4th position one lap down.
Trintignant's abilities with a racing car would end up carrying the day for Scuderia Ferrari. And though he would not win the race, were it not for him, Ferrari would not have earned as good a result as what they did. In a way, it would be sweet retribution for Trintignant as the team would have to thank him for pulling out such a good result.
There was little time for 'thank-yous', for the World Championship season was beginning to kick in gear in all earnestness. Once the cars were loaded on the transporter the team would immediately leave for home. The team had a couple of weeks to prepare for what would end up being a whole month of racing. After some time at the factory, the team would pack everything up and would head out in order to go and take part in the fourth round of the World Championship, the French Grand Prix.
Since the inception of the Formula One World Championship the ultra-fast Reims Circuit had been the site of the French Grand Prix. The only exception would be in 1952 when the race was held for a year at Rouen-les-Essarts. Situated to the west of the city of Reims, the Reims Circuit was very similar to Spa-Francorchamps in pace, but quite different in character and make-up. Utilizing public roads between Reims and Gueux, the circuit layout was generally flat with some rolling terrain. And while many portions of the Spa Circuit was tree-lined, the Reims Circuit utilized roads passing through French farmland, and therefore, was wide open and exposed to the elements.
The French Grand Prix in 1954 would see a special entrant that posed a very serious threat to Ferrari and the others up and down the pitlane. For the first time since before World War II, Mercedes-Benz would enter a grand prix. Utilizing the driving talents of Juan Manuel Fangio, Karl Kling and Hans Herrmann, Mercedes came to Reims with three very sleek cars called the W196. And during practice their advantage in outright speed would be more than obvious. The top-two positions on the timesheets would belong to Silver Arrows cars. Fangio would be fastest and would claim the pole with a lap of 2:29.4. Karl Kling would end up 2nd. His best effort would be exactly a second slower. Alberto Ascari would be at the race driving for Maserati. He would make sure Ferrari would be shut-out from the front row for the first time all season as he would secure the 3rd, and final, position on the front row.
Scuderia Ferrari had four entries for the 61 lap race. However, only three would arrive for the race. Giuseppe Farina would take part in a sportscar race during the break between the Belgian and French Grand Prix. Unfortunately, he would be involved in a crash at the start of one of the races and would suffer terrible burns just like what Hawthorn had at Syracuse. So, just when Ferrari gets one driver back from suffering burns it loses another to the same terrible injury.
The team would carry on. Gonzalez would be fastest amongst those from the team that would make it to Reims. He would end up on the second row in the 4th position. Clearly becoming one of the team leaders precisely because he had not suffered any injuries, Gonzalez would do his best to respond. Hawthorn would find himself on the third row of the grid in the 8th position while Trintignant would complete the Ferrari lineup in the fourth row of the grid in 9th place overall.
The story heading into the race had been the return of the Silver Arrows. And despite the threat of rain at some point during the race, the Silver Arrows of Fangio and Kling would be the story during the race as well. The two would streak ahead of the field right at the start as Ascari's Maserati broke on the line. Gonzalez would be the man that would give chase of the W196s. Hawthorn would make a great start and would also take up the challenge following Gonzalez around in the 4th position. Trintignant would lose out at the start and would be forced into a tough battle to make his way back up the running order.
Kling would lead the first couple of laps before Fangio would take over on lap 3. For the next 25 laps, Fangio would show the way just a matter of a couple of car lengths ahead of Kling. Gonzalez would remain in 3rd for most of the time until the 13th lap when his engine would let him down. This would allow Hans Herrmann, who would go on to set the fastest lap of the race, to make it a Mercedes one-two-three.
By the time the rains came, Ferrari was left with just one leg to stand on. Hawthorn departed the race after just 9 laps. Gonzalez left the field on lap 13. This left just the stable Trintignant to carry Ferrari's honor. However, not even the masterful Trintignant would be able to keep the team's honor as on the 37th lap he too would drop out of the running having blown his engine.
With just 11 laps left in the race, there were only six cars still running in the race. Fangio and Kling would be ordered to slow as they were the only two on the lead lap. However, despite the wet weather and the clear advantage, neither would slow. The epic duel would continue right down to the final lap of the race. It would be an incredible display of professionalism amongst teammates. The two would never be separated by more than a couple of car lengths at about any time during the 61 laps. And as the two made the turn around the Thillois hairpin for the final time, it was still somewhat unclear as to who would win the race.
Fangio had the lead in the World Championship and he would have the lead as the two crossed the line nearly side-by-side. Prince Bira would run out of fuel on his final lap and would allow Robert Manzon to come through to claim 3rd, albeit a lap down to the two Silver Arrows.
Just when Ferrari needed to be at its best in order to try and break up the Juggernaut that was the pairing of Fangio and Kling, the team would be at its worst having none of its three cars making it through to the finish of the race. This was especially concerning given the team had come off of a break. The season was about to kick into its highest gear and Ferrari was suffering from engine problems. This was not good for the team moving forward.
The one bit of good news the team would have heading into its next race would be the fact they didn't have to travel all that far. The next race on the team's calendar would be a non-championship race held at a site of a former World Championship race. The race was the 4th Grand Prix de Rouen-les-Essarts and it would take place on the same 3.17 mile circuit that had hosted the French Grand Prix back in 1952.
Though a non-championship race, the Grand Prix de Rouen-les-Essarts would be a test of the tallest order. Besides taking place on the 11th of July, one week after the championship race at Reims, the race distance would be 95 laps, meaning a total race distance of 301 miles.
In spite of a number of races on French soil and being with one of the strongest teams in the world, Maurice Trintignant had yet to earn that elusive victory. However, in practice for the Grand Prix de Rouen he would make it clear he was not going to lose out on another opportunity. He would take the pole for the race with a time eight-tenths of a second faster than Jean Behra driving his Gordini T16. Mike Hawthorn would make it an Equipe Gordini sandwich as he would take the final front row position. Gonzalez would be right there. Posting a best time just three-tenths slower than Hawthorn, he would start from the second row of the grid in the 4th position.
Right at the start of the race there would be trouble. Both Behra and Hawthorn would lose control of their cars off the circuit and would receive outside assistance in getting going again. Unfortunately this was against the regulations, and therefore, both would end up disqualified. This would reduce Ferrari's attack to just two cars.
It would be further reduced to just one when, on the 17th lap, Gonzalez's Ferrari would blow its engine once again. This meant it was all in the hands of Trintignant once again. But it would be a different Trintignant driving this day.
Trintignant was not known for being the fastest. However, during the Grand Prix de Rouen, he would go on to post the fastest lap of the race and would leave the remainder of the field well and truly in the distance. Consistently driving with an average speed above 82mph, Trintignant would be consistently fast and would be untouchable. It would be just a matter of him being able to bring the car home.
Nothing was going to deny him on this day. After an exhausting three hours, forty minutes and thirty-four seconds, Trintignant would come across the line to take the victory. Though nearly 8 hours away from his home town, the victory at Rouen would still be something special and, nonetheless, a victory on home soil. It would be a indomitable performance as Prince Bira would finish in the 2nd place position, but would be more than a lap down. Roy Salvadori would complete the podium finishing some five laps behind.
Trintignant would come through for Ferrari and it would be the very reason for which he would be employed. When everyone else's race had come to a premature end, Trintignant would prove capable of doing what seemed impossible. He would get a second opportunity after the French Grand Prix, and he wouldn't fail.
It was the story of Ferrari's season. While one driver would have reason to celebrate, there would be one or more drivers on the team that would have very little reason to do so. Unfortunately, the races, now, kept coming. After Trintignant's victory at Rouen, the team would quickly pack everything up and would head across the English Channel to England. The team was headed back to Silverstone, but this time the race was the fifth round of the Formula One World Championship, the British Grand Prix.
With Farina still recovering from his terrible burns, Scuderia Ferrari would return to Silverstone again with just three cars. However, with Mike Hawthorn now back on the team it was highly unlikely that any controversial maneuver like that pulled in the International Trophy race would be allowed in the British Grand Prix as there was little to no chance of Hawthorn's car being taken away from him and given to another.
But the real story coming into the event was the Silver Arrows of Mercedes-Benz. And during practice, Fangio would keep the intrigue at a high level as he would break the track record with an average speed above 100 mph. He would be the first to achieve this feat on the 2.88 mile circuit. Therefore, Fangio would clearly earn the pole for the 90 lap race. Gonzalez would be 2nd on the front row, a full second off of the pace of Fangio. Hawthorn would find himself in the 3rd position while Stirling Moss would complete the front row in 4th. Trintignant's best effort around the circuit would be three seconds slower than Fangio's. As a result, Maurice would line up on the grid in the third row in the 8th position.
Changing weather conditions were to greet the teams heading into the race. This was exactly what Gonzalez had faced back during the International Trophy race and, in that race, he had dominated. Interestingly, the scenario was similar to the 1951 British Grand Prix. Heading into that race Ferrari was on the rise, but Alfa Romeo was still the dominant team in the paddock. Coming into the 1954 edition of the race, Mercedes-Benz was certainly on the rise. Ferrari needed Gonzalez to take the bull by the horns, once again, and help the team recover its dominance.
Gonzalez would respond. Right from the start, Gonzalez would shoot into the lead of the race with Stirling Moss and Hawthorn trailing a few car lengths behind. Trintignant would well inside the top ten but would be battling with Kling in his W196.
In the dry conditions, Gonzalez would be fast. Fangio would have trouble in his W196 as he could not see over the sleek fenders. This would cost him time and damage to the front corners of his car. Still, he would be on the charge after his poor start. Hawthorn would be battling with Moss and would finally make his way past after a few laps. Trintignant would make his way past Kling but would soon find himself in another battle, but this time with Alberto Ascari.
Gonzalez would find himself all alone out front of the field, especially when the rain began to fall. Hawthorn would find himself reinstated into the 2nd position after bodywork damage and gearbox issues would cause Fangio drop from 2nd on back through the field. Trintignant would also find himself in the top five when Ascari and Moss dropped out of the running.
Gonzalez would be leading an impressive Ferrari charge. All of the buzz coming into the race had been about Mercedes, but with just 5 laps remaining in the race it was a Ferrari one-two and Trintignant would make it a one-two-five.
Gonzalez would do it again. Just like the 1951 British Grand Prix, and in similar conditions to those of the 1954 International Trophy race, Gonzalez would prove capable of doing something truly special every time he came to Silverstone. Gonzalez would lead from start to finish. It would be a formidable performance as he would defeat his British teammate by a minute and ten seconds at the line. Onofre Marimon would complete the podium finishing in the 3rd position, but he would be more than a lap behind. Trintignant would end up three laps behind at the finish but would still manage to bring his car home in the 5th position.
It had to be one of the best clutch performances by a team. Just a couple of weeks prior the team had left the French Grand Prix without a car still running. Two weeks later, the seemingly aimless team would slay the mighty Silver Arrows and Juan Manuel Fangio. And heading the attack, just as he had back in 1951, would be Jose Froilan Gonzalez. Of course, the British faithful would have reason to celebrate as Hawthorn would put together an impressive performance, despite the scars from his burns, to finish a strong 2nd. And the steady Trintignant would help to make sure Scuderia Ferrari would leave the British Grand Prix with a little more than 16 championship points. And in the case of Gonzalez and Hawthorn, each would have a share in the extra point given for turning the fastest lap of the race.
All-in-all, considering all of the rumors and struggles of the team prior to the race, the British Grand Prix a reflection of the team's dominant recent past, and it would be a welcome sight heading into the second half of the season.
Another week, yet another race. On the 25th of July, Scuderia Ferrari would be back on the European mainland and on French soil preparing to take part in another non-championship event. The race would be the 3rd Grand Prix de Caen.
During World War II, Caen was one important strategic goal in the Normandy Invasion and in the case of Scuderia Ferrari in 1954, Caen would be important to maintain the momentum the team had left Silverstone with.
In the previous couple of races prior to the British Grand Prix the hopes of the team had been squarely placed on Maurice Trintignant. Well, heading into the Grand Prix de Caen, all of the pressure would again be squarely on Trintignant precisely because he was the only entry in the race on behalf of the Ferrari team.
Just nine cars would arrive to take part in the 60 lap race. And in practice, Trintignant would prove fastest around the 2.19 mile circuit based on city streets surrounding the Hippodrome de la Prairie in downtown Caen. He would beat Stirling Moss to the pole by four-tenths of a second. Moss would beat Behra to the second, and final, front row spot by mere hundredths.
Any threat Jean Behra posed to Trintignant and the others in the race would come to an end after just 4 laps when he would crash out of the race. Harry Schell and Robert Manzon would join Behra out of the race. However, Trintignant would have his hands more than full with a fast Moss climbing all over his backside.
Despite setting the fastest lap of the race, Moss would find his way toward the lead impeded by Trintignant in his Ferrari 625. Moss' fastest lap would be achieved with an average speed of more than 92 mph. And though it would be nearly 4 mph faster than Trintignant's average speed throughout the race, the Frenchman would be consistently fast enough to frustrate the Brit.
Still, the battle would rage throughout the whole of the race. Moss would give it his best, but Trintignant would prove equal to the task this day. In fact, as he powered his way toward the line, Trintignant would end up taking the victory by a margin of a little more than three and a half seconds over Moss. Jean Behra would take over Jacques Pollet's Gordini and would manage a 3rd place finish, but he would be some two laps down at the end.
Trintignant would do it again. When it was all up to him he would deliver in a big way. Holding back Moss required Trintignant to push a little more than he might have particularly wanted to. And yet, he would conduct a near flawless performance at the head of the field and would come away with his second victory on French soil. He was certainly earning his keep with Ferrari.
While Trintignant was busy upholding Ferrari's honor in the Grand Prix de Caen, the rest of the team would travel back to its Modena headquarters where it would make some final preparations before packing everything up and heading to the Nurburgring for the German Grand Prix, the sixth round of the Formula One World Championship in 1954.
During the Second World War, Germany surrounded many of its key manufacturing facilities with a gauntlet of anti-aircraft artillery. Well, surrounding the ancient Nurburg Castle would be one hellish gauntlet known as the Nurburgring Norschleife.
During the Second World War, the Mercedes-Benz factory would suffer severe destruction. However, as the 1954 German Grand Prix approached on the 1st of August there was a great air of excitement surrounding and flowing amongst the Eifel Mountains as the mighty Silver Arrows had returned to grand prix racing and had proven quite strong. Therefore, there were many reasons for the German population to be abuzz with excitement heading into the event.
However, the mood and the excitement would be dampened. Amongst the strong Argentinean contingent of drivers it would be a scene of utter grief as Onofre Marimon would lose his life in a crash on the downhill run toward the Adenau Bridge.
Despite his terrible grief, Fangio would take and put his W196 on pole with a lap time of the 14 mile circuit of 9:50.1. Mike Hawthorn would be the fastest of the four 625s entered by the factory. He would end up three seconds slower than Fangio and would start from the middle of the front row in the 2nd position. The final position on the front row would be occupied by Stirling Moss in his Maserati.
Jose Froilan Gonzalez would end up on the second row in the 5th position while Maurice Trintignant would find himself starting from the third row in the 7th position. For the first time since the beginning of the 1952 World Championship, Piero Taruffi would be back driving for Ferrari's grand prix team. His best effort in practice would by thirty-three seconds slower than Fangio and would cause him to start the 22 lap race from the fifth row of the grid in the 11th position.
The incredible crowd of German spectators were expecting and praying for a dominant performance by its Silver Arrows, and, at the start, Fangio would oblige by taking the lead over Gonzalez. Hawthorn would lose out at the start and would be fighting to stay ahead of Jean Behra in the 6th position. Right behind Behra would be Trintignant. Taruffi would falter at the start and would find himself losing ground over the course of the first lap. At the end of the first lap he would be down in 15th struggling to keep touch.
Gonzalez would be fighting hard to challenge Fangio while Hawthorn did his best to recover from his poor start. Soon, Hawthorn would be up to 4th place but would have it all come to naught when his engine expired after just 3 laps. But while Hawthorn's engine was letting him down, Karl Kling's was propelling him up from dead last. By the 7th lap of the race he would climb all the way up to 3rd place and would be looking for more.
Fangio would lead the first 14 laps, but Kling would not be denied. Despite putting his W196 through the ringer to get there, Kling would take the lead pushing Fangio back to 2nd. At about that same time, Gonzalez was struggling to carry on. The death of Marimon was still very fresh in his mind and it was making it very difficult for him to carry on. With a safe gap between himself and Trintignant in the 4th position, Gonzalez would pit on the 16th lap of the race and would turn his car over to Hawthorn for the remainder of the race. By that point in the race, Ferrari had their three cars running well inside the top ten.
Despite the protests of his team, Kling kept pushing his car. Unfortunately, it would come to haunt him as his car would run into trouble just as soon as he took over the lead of the race. His lead would last just 2 laps, but he would need to pit to have the car checked and fixed. This would drop him down the order and would end up promoting Hawthorn and Trintignant.
Though promoted by Kling's misfortunes, there was nothing either Hawthorn or Trintignant could do with Fangio. After a three hour and forty-five minute marathon of a race, Fangio would come across the line to take yet another victory. Mike Hawthorn would following along a minute and thirty-six seconds in arrears in Gonzalez's Ferrari. Maurice Trintignant would manage to make it two Ferraris finishing on the podium when he finished five minutes behind in 3rd place. Even Piero Taruffi would have an impressive race just missing out on the points with a 6th place finish one lap down.
Though Fangio and Mercedes would be victorious in the race, the German Grand Prix would see a tremendous team effort from Ferrari. Not only would Hawthorn take over and perform brilliantly for Gonzalez when it was least expected, but even Trintignant's solid and steady performance would be very impressive as he would make his way up from 8th after the first lap to finish in 3rd. And Taruffi's 6th place effort would just cap off an incredible effort by the Modena squad.
It had been a rather impressive string of performances by Scuderia Ferrari, but what was truly remarkable was that it was coming during one of the busiest parts of the team's season. But while the team would want to make sure it kept its momentum up and going forward, the pace of the season was truly hectic. Finding breaks was difficult to do. Still, there were many that didn't want to take a break. One of those that didn't want to take a break was Mike Hawthorn.
Scuderia Ferrari would put in an entry for Hawthorn in the 1st International Gold Cup race held at Oulton Park on the 7th of August. However, the calendar had been packed with racing and the team needed a little extra time to prepare its cars. Therefore, Ferrari and Hawthorn would not arrive to take part in the race. Instead, the team would prepare for the next championship race that would take place around the middle of August. However, they would send out one car to take part in a non-championship race on the 15th of August.
The next race on the grand prix team's calendar would be a non-championship race taking place in Italy. The race would be the 23rd Circuito di Pescara. The race would take place on the 15th of August and would take place on one of the longest circuits in existence in the world at the time.
Located along the Adriatic coast on the eastern edge of the Abruzzo region of Italy, Pescara consists of low sandy beaches with the Maiella mountains rising in the distance. It would be amongst this varying geography that the 15.96 mile circuit would be taken. Therefore, the circuit would have just about every imaginable character mixed into it. Stretching for miles, the circuit would have more of the feel of the Mille Miglia or the Targa Florio than any grand prix. Therefore, even in the 1950s, the Pescara would have the feel of something of a throwback when grand prix races were conducted over one lap of a tremendously long circuit traversing the local countryside.
Scuderia Ferrari would dispatch just a single car to take part in the 16 lap, 255 mile, race. In an attempt to test the 553 'Squalo' further, one would be sent with Umberto Maglioli in order to take part in the race.
Practice would be a little disconcerting when Stirling Moss would be the fastest around the circuit in his Maserati 250F. Setting a best time of 10:23.0 around the circuit, Moss would take the pole by a margin of twenty-one seconds over Robert Manzon. Clemar Bucci would earn the final front row starting position in his Gordini T16. The best time Maglioli would manage to post would be some thirty-six seconds slower than Moss. As a result, Maglioli would put the 553 on the third row of the grid in the 6th position.
However, there was a problem heading into the start of the race. Umberto would learn of an illness in his family and it would be rather serious in nature. As a result, Maglioli would leave Pescara to go be with family. This left a car without a driver. Unable to find anyone to replace Maglioli at such late notice the team would just pack everything up and would head back to Modena.
It would be unfortunate the team would have to leave for Moss and Manzon would both fall out of contention early on and it would be Luigi Musso, who had started just one place ahead of Maglioli on the grid, that would end up taking the victory.
Scuderia Ferrari would quickly switch its focus from its missed opportunity at Pescara to the task at hand. And the task at hand would be final preparations before heading off to the Bremgarten Circuit in order to take part in the Swiss Grand Prix on the 22nd of August.
The seventh round of the 1954 Formula One World Championship would be yet another pure road circuit. Built in the early 1930s in the Bremgarten forest, the 4.52 mile Bremgarten Circuit couldn't have been designed any more 'natural'. Boasting of no real straight, but just a never-ending stream of fast corners, the circuit seemed absolutely natural amongst the deep woods near the Wohlensee river. Unfortunately, it would be this natural setting that would also make it one of the more dangerous circuits in the world, especially in the wet.
And the seventh round of the World Championship would be wet, at least practice would be. Proving himself to be something of a master in wet and changing conditions, Gonzalez would take the pole in his Ferrari 625. Fangio would end up qualifying 2nd while Stirling Moss would complete the front row starting in 3rd. Trintignant would go well in practice and would end up with a second row starting position, 4th overall. Mike Hawthorn would be found in the next row in the 6th position. Umberto Maglioli would be able to make it to the Swiss Grand Prix and would end up on the fifth row in the 11th position.
The night before the race the rains continued to fall on the circuit and the ground was extremely muddy as the teams began rolling their cars out to the starting positions on the grid. This would make for some treacherous conditions as the circuit would actually be dry nearing the start time, but the grass would still be incredibly wet and slick.
As the Swiss flag dropped to start the race, it would be Fangio that would get a good start off the line, but the better start would be made by Kling in the second row. Heading out on the first lap it would be Fangio leading Kling by less than a couple of feet. Gonzalez would be in 3rd while Moss would be in 4th. Though Kling would make an incredible start, he would soon spin and would drop to the back of the pack. Gonzalez would also lose out as a result. This meant the order after the first lap would be Fangio, Moss and Gonzalez. Trintignant would be in 5th position while Hawthorn would be down in 8th.
Hawthorn would be on a tear during the early part of the race. Quickly he would make his way up through the field and would even get by Trintignant. So, by just the 3rd lap, Ferrari would have three of its four cars running 3rd, 4th and 5th with Maglioli languishing around the top ten with the lone 553 in the field.
Gonzalez and Hawthorn would give it everything they had to catch up to Fangio, but Fangio never once looked out of control or bothered by the Ferraris. Hawthorn would look incredibly strong until an issue with his throttle would cause him to pit and lose valuable places. It wouldn't matter all that much as his race would only last until lap 31 when an oil pump failure ended his race. Just three laps later, Trintignant would be out of the running with an engine failure. With Stirling Moss also out of the running, it would be just Gonzalez that could give Fangio any kind of trouble over the remaining half of the 66 lap race.
But Fangio would not be bothered at all at any time. He would lead from the very start and every single lap after that until he crossed the line after three hours and thirty-four seconds to take his fifth victory of the season, thereby securing his second World Drivers' Championship. Gonzalez would be bested in the overcast conditions and would end up finishing in 2nd place about fifty-eight seconds behind Fangio. One lap down, Hans Herrmann would make it two Mercedes Silver Arrows finishing on the podium. The 553 was to be the car of Ferrari's future, but as Maglioli finished the race a very quiet 7th some five laps down, it was clear the car just could not compete and it would undoubtedly become the un-favored car of the drivers.
Heading into the race, it seemed Gonzalez would have Fangio's number and would be able to do more than keep pace with the W196. However, as the race unfolded, it was clear the 625, even with the hybrid 553 engine, just could not match the performance of the W196 at every circuit. It was disappointing for the team, but it was still going much better than perhaps many thought it would, especially with the strong Mercedes-Benz and the newer Maserati 250F on the scene.
The season was heading into its final couple of months. Ferrari continued to test and play around with different combinations of chassis and engines. It was clear the 553, in and of itself, would not do the trick. However, Ferrari was having trouble. In the races in which the team would experience engine blow-ups, it was usually caused by the strain of trying to mate a 625's block with the head and bores of the 553. At times Ferrari would get the combination right. Often times, it would be the older 625 that would simply carry the team. So while Ferrari was focused on Formula One, it was clear they just didn't quite have their way sorted, at least, not just yet.
Unfortunately, the season was running out. There were only two more World Championship races left on the calendar and these would be the final races of Scuderia Ferrari's 1954 grand prix season.
The first of these last two Formula One World Championship races would be the most important race of the season, at least as far as Ferrari was concerned. As is tradition, when the calendar swung to the month of September all eyes would look forward to the Italian Grand Prix held at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza. And in 1954, the Italian Grand Prix would be held on the 5th of September.
Though originally conceived as a complex of different kinds of circuits, including a 2.62 mile banked oval which would be incorporated with the 3.91 mile road course at many times throughout its history since opening in 1922, the Monza road course would be so fast in and of itself that it would actually seem as much an oval as a road course. As the oval would often be deemed too dangerous, the road course would be the only portion of the original complex that would be utilized for the grand prix on a kind of consistent basis. And, in 1954, it would be no different.
But while the circuit's foundation of speed had not changed, there would be some interesting changes at Scuderia Ferrari. Ferrari would come to the most important race of the season with an armada. No less than six cars would be entered by the Modena team. Five of them would be 625s. The remaining car would be a 553 that was to be driven by Gonzalez. But while six cars would be noteworthy, the fact that Alberto Ascari would be driving one of them would be more than the Italian press could ever hope for. Despite the falling out with Enzo, Ascari would be back. He would drive alongside the regulars, Gonzalez, Hawthorn and Trintignant. The other two cars were to be driven by Umberto Maglioli and Piero Taruffi. Although Ferrari would have six entries in the race, Piero Taruffi would not attend the race. Therefore, Ferrari would come to the race with just the five cars.
It would be an all-out effort by the Italian teams. Ferrari would bring five cars, as Maserati would enter six. Both of these factory teams knew they would need the numbers to have the strength to compete with just the three Mercedes-Benz W196s driven by Fangio, Kling and Herrmann.
Practice would prove the Italian teams would need every single one of their cars to try and quench the threat that was the Silver Arrows. Fangio would end up being fastest around the circuit posting a time of 1:59.0. Ascari would pick up right where he left off with the Ferrari team setting the second-fastest time, slower by just two-tenths of a second. Stirling Moss would again earn the final spot on the front row in his Maserati 250F. Just three-tenths of a second would separate the entire front row.
Ferrari would have its cars well spread out throughout the field. Besides Ascari on the front row, Gonzalez would be exactly a second slower than Fangio and would start in the middle of the second row in the 5th position. Hawthorn would find himself on the third row in 7th while Trintignant would be in the fourth row in 11th. Maglioli would complete Ferrari's lineup starting from the fifth row in the 13th position.
As one would expect, the weather the day of the race would be absolutely beautiful. The start would also be a beautiful one for Kling as he would take the lead from Fangio. Ascari would follow along in 3rd place with Gonzalez right on his tail in 4th. Hawthorn would be in 6th while Trintignant would lose out and would drop to 13th.
Kling would hold onto the lead until the 4th lap. He would make a mistake and would hand the lead to Fangio. Gonzalez would also get by Ascari for 2nd. However, by the 5th lap, Ascari would recover and would make his way past Gonzalez and would even challenge Fangio for the lead of the race. On the 6th lap, to the delight of the Tifosi, Ascari would push his way past into the lead ahead of Fangio.
Gonzalez and Moss would be locked in an incredible duel until Gonzalez went out of the race with gearbox trouble. Hawthorn would be stuck in the 6th place position unable to climb any higher, but the action at the front, with Ascari, Fangio and Moss, would more than distract all of the thousands of spectators.
The length of the race was 80 laps. By the halfway mark, Gonzalez's car would be out of the race. However, Gonzalez would end up taking over Maglioli's 625 for the remainder of the race and would charge off after the front-runners which still included Ascari battling with Fangio and Moss for the lead.
Ascari would lead 41 laps but it would all come to an end on the 49th lap when his engine gave up the fight. This handed the lead of the race over to Moss who had Fangio following along a little behind. Hawthorn would now sit 3rd after not getting anywhere earlier in the race. Gonzalez's 'never say die' attitude would help him to fight all the way back up to 5th while Trintignant was struggling along just inside the top ten.
It seemed Moss was well on his way to his first World Championship victory when, just 13 laps from the finish, his car would develop a problem. He would pit to address the issue. This would hand the lead back to Fangio. Three laps later, Moss would be out altogether. Hawthorn would now find himself in 2nd with Gonzalez 3rd. Late attrition, and an increase in his own pace, would see Trintignant also move forward in the running order. With just 5 laps remaining, Trintignant would be in 5th.
Despite the gaggle of Italian entries, both cars and drivers, trained to keep the Mercedes off the top step of the podium, it would be Fangio that would come through all of the wild excitement with his second-straight Italian Grand Prix victory. The year before he had been handed victory. The same would be true in 1954, but Fangio would take it anyway it wanted to come to him. There would not be an Italian driver that would finish in the points. 2nd in the race would go to Hawthorn, who was one lap down at the finish. The 3rd place spot would go to Gonzalez in Maglioli's 625. Though two laps down, this would be an impressive performance by Gonzalez. And though he would end up some five laps down in the end, Trintignant's 5th place meant there would be three Ferraris finishing in the points.
There would not be strength in numbers. But the law of averages would help Ferrari come away with some strong results nonetheless. And these results clearly placed three of Ferrari's drivers within the top five in the World Drivers' Championship standings. Unfortunately, the title had already been decided at the previous grand prix. However, the strong results were allowing Ferrari to look ahead to the next race and the next season with confidence.
The next race of the season for Ferrari's grand prix team would be the final round of the Formula One World Championship and the final race of the 1954 season for the team. The race would be the Spanish Grand Prix held at the Pedralbes Circuit on the 24th of October.
The Spanish Grand Prix would cause some bitter memories for Ferrari, for in 1951, the Spanish Grand Prix would go the way of Alfa Romeo and would rob Ferrari of its first World Championship for Ascari. On that incredibly hot day, a decision concerning tires would be the deciding factor. But at least, coming into the Spanish Grand Prix in 1954, the title had already been decided. This would allow Ferrari to focus on ending the season on the strongest possible footing so they would head into the offseason confident of success for 1955.
If the presence of Mercedes-Benz wasn't enough, the 1954 Spanish Grand Prix would present another challenger added to the mix—Lancia. Expected to make their debut all season long, Lancia would finally be ready to make its debut in the final round of the World Championship. The team would bring two of its new and radical D50s to the race and they would be driven by Alberto Ascari and Luigi Villoresi, and therefore, were not going to be easy prey.
Measuring 3.91 miles in length just like the Monza Circuit, the Pedralbes Circuit would be driven in a similar manner. A mix of rural roads and city streets, the Pedralbes Circuit was anything but slow. The portions utilizing city streets would be multi-lanes wide and would enable drivers to maintain a high entry speed into each of the corners. This would allow Ascari to maintain an average speed of 102 mph during practice, and therefore, take the pole for the 80 lap race. Fangio would be a second slower around the circuit, but would start the race from 2nd on the grid. Mike Hawthorn would look strong in practice despite driving one of the disliked 553s. He would start the race from the 3rd position on the front row. Harry Schell would be surprisingly fast in his 250F and would complete the front row in the 4th position.
Ferrari would come to the race with just two entries, its fewest for a World Championship race all season long. Besides Hawthorn starting on the front row, the only other Scuderia Ferrari in the field would be that of Trintignant and he would start form the third row in the 8th position.
The team would have a tall order on their hands coming to the race with just two cars and facing Maserati, Mercedes and Lancia along with a host of other privateer entries. One of those privateer entries, Harry Schell, had proven fast in practice but would further surprise all of those assembled to watch the race when he took the lead at the start and would hold onto it throughout the first couple of laps. Trintignant would get an incredible jump off the line and would end the first lap in the 4th position right behind his teammate Hawthorn.
Ascari would take over the lead of the race on the 3rd lap and would seemingly take control of the race. However, on the 10th lap, the clutch would fail on Ascari's Lancia causing him to join his Lancia teammate, Villoresi, out of the race. This handed the lead back to Schell who would find himself in a spirited duel with Trintignant. While these two would trade out the lead on what seemed to be every lap, Hawthorn remained in a strong 3rd. Fangio had started poorly and began to challenge Hawthorn. This would cause Hawthorn to respond by picking up his pace. This would see the Brit briefly take over the lead of the race on the 22nd lap only to lose it to Schell on the very next lap.
Schell would be looking like he was ready for the fight but he would soon make a mistake and would end up spinning off the circuit. By the time he rejoined he would be all the way down in 4th. This would hand the lead back to Hawthorn with Trintignant following along behind in 2nd place. Short-handed and against three mighty teams, the apparently aimless Ferrari team were running 1st and 2nd up until the 30th lap when Trintignant ran into trouble and dropped well down in the field.
Hawthorn was now all by himself in the lead with Fangio in 2nd. Thankfully, Hawthorn would have a comfortable margin over the Argentinean and carry on without much concern. The real concern would actually be in Fangio's car. Hot oil would be spraying back in the face of Fangio causing small burns and slowing his pace to the point that it would allow Luigi Musso to take over the 2nd place position. Just prior to this happening, Trintignant would finally retire from the race with engine failure. This meant Hawthorn was now all alone as Ferrari's sole hope.
But on this day, the much maligned 553 would deliver the performance of its career as Hawthorn would carry on to lead 58 laps, the last being the most important. Mike Hawthorn would cross the line and take the victory with no less than a minute and thirteen seconds in hand over Musso in 2nd place. A little more than a lap would be the difference back to Fangio finishing in 3rd.
Hawthorn had done it again. Just like the year before in his epic duel with Fangio at the French Grand Prix, Hawthorn took on all challengers, including three incredibly strong factory teams, and would come out on top of them all earning his second World Championship victory and the second for Ferrari on the season. This was the perfect way for Ferrari to end its season of indecision.
The victory in the Spanish Grand Prix at the end of the 1954 season should have been something in which Ferrari could have built upon, and therefore, been in a much stronger position heading into the 1955 season. However, if the problems with Alberto Ascari seemed to signal trouble at the stable of the prancing horses, then the continual disagreements between management and Aurelio Lampredi, which would eventually lead to his leaving the company, would reveal Ferrari was actually in crisis. And a team and a company in crisis could not expect to consistently challenge for victory.
Such was the case with Scuderia Ferrari heading into the 1955 season. After dominating the World Championship for two years between 1952 and 1953, the team would find itself having to beg for race victories. It would just go to show how quickly things can change in the world of Formula One.
But at least in 1954, the team could turn to the very man that carried them to their first Formula One victory in order to help them through their current turbulent times. And Gonzalez would lead the way. Though Fangio would be the clear championship winner in 1954, Gonzalez would lead home a Ferrari trio taking 2nd through 4th. And so, while Fangio would rightfully garner a lot of praise for his incredible record in Formula One, the ability and accomplishments of his fellow Argentinean, Jose Froilan Gonzalez, could not be overlooked. And for Scuderia Ferrari in 1954, Gonzalez would have just what Ferrari needed. Sources:
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Wikipedia contributors. 'Giuseppe Farina.' Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 15 Jul. 2012. Web. 19 Jul. 2012.By Jeremy McMullen