TeamsOfficine Alfieri Maserati: 1956 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
If ever there was a factory effort that could claim to be cursed it would have to be Maserati. Not only would its early history be filled with a lot of ill-timing, but its Formula One effort would also suffer a very cruel fate. Just when it seemed to be Maserati's moment there would come another that would steal the show. The 1956 season then was to be the company's opportunity to shine, but…
Over the course of Ferrari's utter dominance of the World Championship during the Formula 2 era, Maserati would keep preparing and planning ahead, something the company had never before been really noted for doing. Then, when the new Formula One regulations would be announced heading into the 1954 season Maserati would already be ready with its new chassis. The chassis would become one of the most widely produced and successful chassis in Formula One history—the 250F.
Sitting behind the wheel of the new chassis, Juan Manuel Fangio would make a grand return to form winning the Argentine and Belgian Grand Prix. It seemed as though it was finally Maserati's time. However, as the teams began to arrive at Reims in preparation for the French Grand Prix, Fangio would be gone from Officine Alfieri Maserati and Mercedes-Benz would make its first appearance in Formula One. Unloading their new W196, Maserati would find itself trumped once again. Fangio would go on to win four times in the new W196 and would cruise to his second World Championship title.
The 1955 season would see Maserati's hopes dashed once again. Following Fangio's departure to Mercedes-Benz, Maserati would not win a grand prix the remainder of the year. The factory new it had a competitive car, but against the mighty Silver Arrows the team needed a mighty driver. One of those that would become available would be Stirling Moss.
As a privateer, Moss had recognized the strength of the customer car and would end up purchasing one for use in British Formula One races. Considering the Maserati 250F his first proper Formula One car after struggling with British marques that just couldn't compete, Moss would make the move to the factory Maserati team toward the later-half of the 1954 season and would be, in fact, the de facto number one driver within the team. Maserati had their driver to combat the mighty Silver Arrows. Or did they?
Mercedes' team manager Alfred Neubauer would be intent on having Moss paired with Fangio for the 1955 season and would make him an offer he really couldn't refuse. This offer and resulting test with Mercedes would make Orsi absolutely upset. Orsi would tell Neubauer to leave Moss alone. However, Stirling's father and manager would convince Mercedes that not even a verbal agreement had been made with Maserati and Moss would be the German's number two driver for the 1955 season. Once again, just when the team had the potential of leaving an indelible mark the rug would be pulled out from underneath them.
But Mercedes were leaving Formula One and sportscar racing at the end of the 1955 season as a result of the tragedy in Le Mans and the fact the manufacturer had achieved just about everything it set out to achieve. This left two number one drivers without rides for the 1956 season. Fangio had driven with Maserati before leaving for Mercedes. However, he would be lured away to Ferrari. This would leave Moss. Having driven for the team before and knowing the nature and character of the 250F, the Brit would return to head up the factory effort. Maserati looked strong with Moss leading the team and reliable Jean Behra serving as the number two driver within the team. Unfortunately for Maserati, yet another factory effort would be gearing up for the start of the season as well.
As with the previous few seasons, the 1956 season would begin quite early with another trip to South America. Following Mercedes' departure from the World Championship at the end of the 1955 season there would be a certain amount of upheaval as it seemed more than just one team had the opportunity at success. This upheaval, however, would pale in comparison to what had transpired before the Argentine Grand Prix on the 22nd of January.
The controversial Argentine President Juan Peron had come to office in June of 1946 after having been released from prison on the 17th of October, 1945. Rising to power, Peron would be adamant about promoting Argentina and his social endeavors. Therefore, Peron would focus on sporting events in an attempt to boost his and Argentina's reputation around the world. This would lead to Fangio coming to Europe, but it would also lead to the World Championship coming to Argentina.
However, Peron had his detractors and the popular leader would end up deposed toward the end of September, only a couple of weeks after the final round of the 1955 Formula One World Championship. This action would cause more than a little turmoil within the country and it would be anything but stable within the nation. However, in spite of the events taking place just a few months before, the Argentine Grand Prix would go ahead as scheduled.
Intent on striking first, Officine Alfieri Maserati would dispatch more than just a couple of cars to the South American country. In all, five Maserati 250Fs would end entered for the 98 lap race at the newly-renamed Autodromo Municipal Ciudad de Buenos Aires. However, Maserati would find out really quickly who its main competitor would be.
Scuderia Ferrari would manage to lure Juan Manuel Fangio to the fold. A big part of what would lure the champion would be the fact Ferrari had gained exclusive rights to the Lancia D50s designed by Vittorio Jano. When Alberto Ascari crashed in testing at Monza just four days after having dumped his Lancia into the bay at Monaco, Lancia would be awash in debt and unable to guarantee success, even in the short-term. As a result, Lancia would pull out of Formula One before the end of the 1955 season. Ferrari would be struggling with their own car designs and were not nearly as competitive as the Mercedes or the Maserati. However, the withdrawal of the Lancia's presented an opportunity. After some negotiations and some legal wiggling, Ferrari would come to own Lancia's Formula One project, which meant Ferrari immediately had a competitive car at its disposal. All the Maranello squad had to do was get the car ready for the 1956 season.
Immediately in practice the changes made to the D50 would be impactful. The fastest around the 2.42 mile circuit would be Fangio with a lap time of 1:42.5. This time would not only give Fangio the pole, but it would also be more than 2 seconds quicker than the next-quickest qualifier, which would be Eugenio Castellotti in yet another D50. Luigi Musso would make it three-straight Ferraris on the front row when he lapped the circuit just hundredths of a second slower than Castellotti. The prospects were looking rather grim for Maserati. However, thanks to Jean Behra, the front row would not be an entire lock for Ferrari. Nearly two and a half seconds slower than Fangio, Behra would manage to be just fast enough to capture the 4th, and final, front row starting spot.
Former grand prix winner, Jose Froilan Gonzalez, would start in 5th place on the second row while Carlos Menditeguy would be in 6th place just four-tenths of a second off of Gonzalez's pace. Stirling Moss would complete the second row in the 7th position. The final factory Maserati would be shared by Francesco Landi and Gerino Gerini. Landi would get the car during practice and would end up putting it on the third row of the grid in the 11th place position.
In spite of all the political intrigue a great crowd would assemble around the circuit waiting for the start of the first round of the 1956 Formula One World Championship. Engines brought to a roar, the field of 13 cars would be set for the Argentine Grand Prix. And, when the green flag dropped to start the race it would be the Maserati of Gonzalez that would get the best jump off the grid as the three Lancias would be slow away while Behra would be even slower. Moss would get away well and would be thoroughly surrounded by Ferraris and his teammates through the first part of the first lap.
Gonzalez would get through the first lap with a clear lead sweeping around the final left-hand turn with a second or so advantage over Luigi Musso and the fast-starting Carlos Menditeguy. Moss would complete the first lap in 6th place while Behra would drop all the way down to 7th. Landi would be steady toward the back of the field and would end up coming through the first lap without incident in the 10th position. Therefore, all five of the factory Maseratis would be inside the top ten.
Menditeguy would be the man on the move and he would end up taking over the lead of the race from Gonzalez after 3 laps. Moss would also be on the move as he would get by his former teammate Fangio for 5th place. Behra remained in 7th while Landi remained 10th. After losing the lead, Gonzalez would continue to slip down the order bottoming out in 5th place around the 10 lap mark. Moss, on the other hand, would be hitting his stride and would begin to move forward. By the 11th lap of the race it would be Menditeguy followed by Moss. Gonzalez would soon recover to run in 3rd place while Behra moved up to 6th place following Fangio's fuel pump problems. Landi also continued to hold position but would be brought forward to 9th.
Maserati looked strong through the first quarter of the race. It seemed as if the factory effort had finally reached its time. Even after Gonzalez was forced to retire with engine problems after 24 laps, Maserati had their cars running 1st and 2nd while Behra and Landi remained in the top ten.
Menditeguy would continue to lead the race while Moss held up in 2nd place. By the 40th lap, Behra would be up to 4th place and Landi would be in 8th place. It would be the Ferraris that would be running into trouble over the course of the first half of the race. Castellotti would make it to the 40th lap, but no further. Fangio would be further back having taken over Musso's Ferrari. Collins and Gendebien would be further back struggling with the non-competitive Supersqualo.
The race would be a tale of two halves. Throughout the first half of the race Maserati would dominate while Ferrari absolutely struggled. All of that would change in the last half of the race. Menditeguy, after running so brilliantly in the lead of the race, would suddenly succumb to half shaft failure and would be out of the race. Stirling Moss would then take over the lead of the race but would be both sore and unhappy behind the wheel. Moss would suffer a foot injury right before the start of the race and would be forced to drive under considerable pain. Throughout the first half of the race he would feel very little as he ran incredibly well in 2nd place. Then, when Menditeguy retired, Moss would take over the race and would lead for more than 20 laps. However, just past the 60th lap Moss' engine would not sound healthy as it was running on just five of its six cylinders. This made the Brit vulnerable to attack.
Having taken over Musso's car well before the halfway mark, Fangio would be able to mount a challenge as the race wore on. In the dry conditions Fangio would be fast, at one point a little too fast as he would need help to get pushed back onto the circuit, but he would be drawing in on Moss. Then, when Moss began to suffer from being down a cylinder, the Argentineans lit up with excitement as Fangio would be all over Moss and would end up taking over the lead of the race with about 30 laps remaining. Moss continued to struggle and this allowed Behra to take over 2nd place after running a very controlled and conservative pace. Gerini, having taken over the car from Landi, would also be further up having survived attrition. With 30 laps remaining in the race Gerini would be in 5th place and would be poised to move up even more if others fell out of contention.
Fangio would be in the lead comfortably as Behra gave chase well behind. Moss would do his best but his race would come to an end after 81 laps leaving just six cars still running out on the circuit. Moss' departure also meant Gerini moved up to 4th place in the running order. All that Maserati would be left with would be to pray that something would happen to Fangio over the course of the final 10 laps.
Cheered on by his countrymen, absolutely nothing would be allowed to prevent the World Champion from drawing first blood in the 1956 championship. Crossing the line a little after the 3 hour time limit, Fangio would take the victory much to the delight of his fellow Argentineans. Some 25 seconds would be the difference to Behra who would hold on to bring home his Maserati in 2nd place. Mike Hawthorn would end up 2 laps behind in 3rd place.
The five-car Maserati team had looked so strong throughout the first half of the race. Sure, Behra's 2nd place performance would help to save the day. However, having to find delight in the pairing of Landi and Gerini finishing 6 laps behind in 4th place would not help the team morale all that much. Maserati had a new challenger that promised to cause as much trouble as Mercedes.
When the Argentine Grand Prix came to its frustrating conclusion there would still be somewhat of a silver lining. Fangio's problems early on in the race had caused him to have to switch to Musso's car. And so, even though he would go on to win the race and set the fastest lap, Behra would hold onto the championship lead by a single point. If Maserati could get its cars online it still had a strong chance at taking one of its drivers to the championship.
There would be plenty of time to think about the championship following the end of the Argentine Grand Prix. There would not be another round until the middle of May. Therefore, the teams would have to look forward to non-championship events. Thankfully for the teams that made the journey across the South Atlantic the first of the non-championship events would take place also in Argentina. On the 5th of February, two weeks after the Argentine Grand Prix, the Buenos Aires City Grand Prix would be held. Interestingly, the Buenos Aires City Grand Prix would be held a few hours to the west in the city of Mendoza.
Capital of the Mendoza Province, Mendoza is situated in the high plains on the eastern side of the Andes Mountains. Well known throughout the world for its wine and olive oil production, the city is one of just nine cities known around the world as Great Capitals of Wine.
The race itself, the non-championship affair, would be 60 laps covering a total of 156 miles. Conducted around the 2.60 mile General San Martin Park just to the west of the city's center, the Buenos Aires City Grand Prix would boast of some incredible scenery with the mountains looming in the distance.
The non-championship event would be practically a carbon-copy of the first round of the World Championship. Ferrari would have its five cars present while Maserati would also bring its five cars. The front row of the grid, at least through the first three places, would be absolutely unchanged. Fangio would be on pole. Castellotti and Musso would lie 2nd and 3rd on the grid. The only difference to the front row would come in the form of who was sitting in the 4th starting position. Unlike the Argentine Grand Prix, it would not be Behra in the final spot on the front row. Instead, the honor would go to Moss. Behra would take the 5th place starting spot and the 2nd row. Menditeguy would garner 6th spot for himself while Landi and Pablo Gulle would both start on the third row of the grid in the 10th and 11th spots respectively.
The beginning of this 60 laps race would look quite similar to the Argentine Grand Prix in that two of the Ferraris, those of Musso and Castellotti, would be out of the running. Musso would be the first to depart the scene suffering a crash after 9 laps of running. Castellotti would be the next to go and his problem would have to do with his oil cooler. These would be the only two retirements of the entire race.
And so it seemed as if Maserati would be in a prime position to take control and dominate the race. However, there would be one important player that would come to prevent Maserati's perfect coup. Fangio would be at the head of the field and would be in utter control. Posting the fastest lap of the race with a time of 1:49.2 at an average speed of nearly 86mph, Fangio would be able to fend off challenges from Moss, Behra and Menditeguy. It would be an incredible performance by the Argentinean. Clearly outnumbered, Fangio would hold them off and would actually increase his margin.
Averaging 83mph over the course of the race, the Lancia-Ferrari would demonstrate its strengths and would leave Moss and Behra without anything with which to respond as their Maseratis just did not have the kind of power and torque to take the fight to the sole Lancia-Ferrari left in the race.
Had the factory Maserati team been going up against a fleet of Supersqualos the results would likely have been different. However, it was not to be. Completing the race distance in one hour and almost 53 minutes, Fangio would utterly dominate the race taking the victory by 39 seconds over Stirling Moss. Jean Behra would complete the podium finishing in 3rd place practically a full lap behind Fangio. Carlos Menditeguy would look strong completing the race in 4th place one lap down. Francesco Landi would also hang on to the very end eventually finishing in 7th place some 3 laps behind. Pablo Gulle would also finish the race. He would end up 6 laps behind but would finish 8th in the running order.
It would have been a great day for Maserati had it not been for that lone Lancia-Ferrari that would not give up the fight. Had Fangio retired from the race Maserati would have been in position for a one-two-three finish. Additionally, the team's other two cars likely could have finished 6th and 7th. It ended up being a very good day. Unfortunately, and as seemingly was the story for Maserati, it would end up not being a great day.
In spite of the fact Maserati had come away winless in its forays across the Atlantic, the trip had still proven to be a positive one in that the cars continued to show good speed and handling. If providence would be on the team's side there was no limit as to the team's potential. This would be something of a bright spot as the team made its way back across the Atlantic and began preparations for the start of the grand prix season in Europe.
Arriving back in Italy, Maserati would continue to evolve and be updated. Of course, the factory released the latest evolution of the 250F when the team was making its preparations to leave to go to Argentina. One of those chassis to be used would be a streamlined chassis that first made its appearance in the 1955 Italian Grand Prix. The others would be taken from previously issued chassis as well and evolved to the latest specifications. Maserati would need it as it would be clear the Lancia-Ferraris would be threatening.
Back on home soil, Officine Alfieri Maserati would actually have a quiet couple of months as the factory tried to keep up with demand for the 250F, and also, focused on the new chassis due to roll out of the factory. This would limit the team's appearances at different races and would end up leading to the factory effort sticking close to home.
The first few non-championship events of the season would come on British soil. But then, on the 15th of April, there would be the 6th Gran Premio di Siracusa. This race would hold some bad memories for the team. And the presence of Scuderia Ferrari at the event would help Maserati to make the decision to dispatch just a single entry.
It had been just months earlier that the factory Maserati team looked certain to take an easy victory in the Gran Premio di Siracusa. Organizers for the event would be desperate for participants and would go so far as to provide Connaught Engineering with a deal it just couldn't refuse. After appearing late, the Connaught team would be left scrambling around while the Maseratis would be setting blistering lap times. However, Connaught would soon be ready and a young dental student by the name of Tony Brooks would go out there and would be quickly up to speed. In the end, the Maserati factory would have cars starting 1st and 2nd on the grid. And, while the Connaught looked impressive, large question marks remained about the car's ability to even make it the 70 lap race distance.
But the joke would be on Maserati. Brooks wouldn't just last behind the wheel of the B-Type Connaught. He would utterly dominate leaving Luigi Musso to uphold Maserati pride. Finishing 2nd and 3rd, but well behind the Connaught of Brooks, Maserati was truly humbled, and, it wouldn't go down well.
While the factory busied itself with the latest chassis evolutions in time for the 2nd round of the World Championship, Jean Behra would be sent with a solitary 250F to try and do the impossible. Lacking the outright speed and power of the Lancia-Ferrari, Behra would be left with the task of taking the fight, all by himself, to no less than four D50s. It seemed a fool's errand, but at the time nobody had any clue as to how foolish it would really be.
Taking place on public roads just to the west of the ancient city's center, the Gran Premio di Siracusa had always been a high-speed affair. Measuring 3.48 miles in length and boasting of some very fast straights and quick bends, the Syracuse circuit would be a dangerous high-speed venue with speeds in practice for the 1956 event easily running over 100mph.
Lined by concrete and stone walls, the circuit demanded precision handling and power, both of which the Lancia-Ferrari had in excess over the Maserati. Therefore, it would be of little surprise when Fangio ended up taking the pole for the race by turning a lap of 1:58.0. This would be nine-tenths of a second faster than Castellotti in another D50. For the third straight race, Maserati would barely prevent a clean sweep of the front row by Ferrari. In this case, Behra would be more than a second and a half slower than Fangio but would manage to steal 3rd place on the grid.
When the cars lined up on the grid it seemed perfectly clear the lone Maserati of Behra was highly over-matched. The 3rd spot on the front row would look more like a consolation prize than a sign of strength. And then, as the race got underway, everywhere would have their assumptions proven correct.
The field would tear away with the Ferraris looking quite dominant. Almost immediately Behra would be in trouble. He would slip back and would look not at all healthy. This enabled Peter Collins and Luigi Musso to move up easily until it was all Ferrari up at the front. Behra would complete the first lap of the race, but not much further as lubrication problems would force him out of the race after just one lap.
The remainder of the Maseratis in the field would be entered by privateer teams with talented drivers, but not with the kind of weapon that the D50 actually was. This enabled Scuderia Ferrari to absolutely control and dominate the pace right from the very beginning.
Nobody would control and dominate like Juan Manuel Fangio. Posting a fastest lap time nearly as quick as Behra's time in practice, the Argentinean would be leading a Ferrari foursome that would be busy steamrolling through the field.
Going up against the mighty D50s, many cars within the field would begin to feel the strain of the pace. Besides Behra, five other drivers would find their race to come to an end before the halfway mark. Two of those that would be out rather early would be the B-Type Connaughts. It was clear even they were out of their depth this day.
Nobody would prove to be of the depth of Ferrari on this day as only the Ferrari would remain on the lead lap by the end of the race. The only kind of trouble Ferrari would run into throughout the whole of the 80 lap race would come at the halfway mark when Castellotti made a mistake and crashed out leaving the three Ferraris of Fangio, Musso and Collins to put on a demonstration that would awe and amaze.
Out front, it would be the three Ferraris of Fangio, Musso and Collins running line-astern, running like a freight train through the Sicilian countryside. Behra out of the race right from the very beginning meant Scuderia Ferrari would be left all alone with nobody to challenge. The only fight would be amongst themselves.
Heading into the final lap of the race it would still be Fangio by a couple of car lengths over Musso. Collins would be right there as well as the three cars continued to run at an average speed of more than 97mph. Rounding the final corner and driving to the line, it would be Fangio taking yet another victory with Musso coming through just two-tenths of a second behind. Peter Collins would also be right there three-tenths behind Musso.
It had been an incredible day for Ferrari sweeping the podium and Fangio setting the fastest lap of the race with an average speed of an incredible 103mph. It would be an absolutely terrible day for Maserati. Not only had this very race humbled them just months earlier but their single car entry seemed to suggest a little bit of fear and very little confidence, especially in the presence of the Lancia-Ferraris. Therefore, Behra's failure after the first lap of the race only seemed appropriate. Still, the second round of the Formula One World Championship would be coming up in about a month. The team certainly needed to gain some confidence if it intended to take the fight to Ferrari on the streets of Monaco.
While the failure of the team at Syracuse would be bitterly disappointing the factory would be hard at work preparing its latest evolutions of the 250F chassis. Only a couple of weeks before Behra's disappointing short run in Syracuse, Stirling Moss would debut the latest Maserati 250F in the Glover Trophy race at the Goodwood Easter Monday races. Though entered under his own name, Moss would offer the team some hope by taking the latest chassis to victory beating Roy Salvadori by more than a minute. Maserati had produced this car in time for the start of the season. And while Moss would retire in the Argentine Grand Prix, Behra's new mount would take him to a 2nd place result. So the factory knew they had a couple of strong cars as the Formula One World Championship loomed on the horizon. The team would just have to hope they were strong enough to hold off the challenge from Scuderia Ferrari.
It was now the month of May. No one would be hotter behind the wheel of a grand prix car than Stirling Moss. Starting with a victory in the Glover Trophy race at Goodwood, Moss would go on a string of three-straight non-championship victories. One of those victories would be the 8th BRDC International Trophy race held at Silverstone on the 5th of May. Moss was on a roll behind the wheel of the Maserati and the team would need that roll to continue as it made its final preparations for the second round of the 1956 Formula One World Championship, the Monaco Grand Prix.
Held on the 13th of May, the Monaco Grand Prix would be just the third time the race had been a part of the World Championship. Won by Juan Manuel Fangio in an Alfa Romeo 158 Alfetta, the Monaco Grand Prix would be instantly the race to win. However, the race would disappear from the calendar the following year and would not return until 1955.
An instant classic, the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix would have all the necessary elements: Mercedes-Benz, Juan Manuel Fangio and Alberto Ascari, attrition, a dunk into the bay and a surprise winner. One year later, a lot would change. But, the latest edition of the capital race promised to be just as entertaining.
Unlike the first round of the World Championship, Officine Alfieri Maserati would arrive in Monaco with just three cars. Stirling Moss and Jean Behra would each drive their latest models of the 250F. The third chassis, one that had been with the team since the 1954 Spanish Grand Prix, would be entered for Cesare Perdisa.
While Perdisa would be given the drive in the third Maserati, Moss would gain rights to the car during practice so as to protect his newer mount for the race. This would be a very important tactic taken by the team as they would need their strongest competitors fit and strong for the race given the fact they would be squaring off against four Lancia-Ferraris and a growing number of British entries.
The smallest principality in the world, 'with God's help' Monaco became the crown jewel of the French Riviera. This economic growth would be helped along with the introduction of train service and the opening of the first casino in the principality in the late 19th century. By the early 20th century, Monaco would already be the playground for the rich and famous. Still, holding a grand prix with the most powerful and speedy cars in the world on the very tight and winding streets seemed diametrically opposed to each other. But it certainly worked right from the very beginning and would be one of those races drivers around the world would dream about winning.
In order to win around the streets of Monaco the driver, from the very first race, had to be comfortable in the car. And while top speed would not be the concern, handling and confidence would be the greatest asset a team and driver could have. Therefore, heading into the 1956 Monaco Grand Prix, the Ferrari and Maserati teams seemed evenly matched. Certainly the power and speed advantage went to the Lancia-Ferraris, but the 250F, in the right hands, could hold its own with just about any other car when it came down to handling and confidence.
Measuring 1.95 miles to the lap, the Monaco Circuit demanded precision and supreme focus. Confidence inspires focus and Moss was certainly confidence coming into the race having scored three-straight victories. This confidence would manifest itself during practice as he would be consistently quick and would end up posting a fastest lap time of 1:44.6. This seemed good enough for the pole, but Fangio would eclipse the time with a lap of 1:44.0 and would snatch away the pole from Moss. Eugenio Castellotti would complete the front row posting a lap time three-tenths of a second slower than Moss. This would be the first time in which the Maseratis seemed on par with the Lancia-Ferraris and it promised to set up for an intriguing race.
The race would only get even more intriguing as Behra would qualify 4th for the race and would start from the second row of the grid right behind his teammate Moss and Fangio. Perdisa would also look impressive in the older Maserati. Despite his absence from the team, Perdisa would qualify on the third row of the grid in the 7th position after posting a best lap time of 1:46.0.
Some 100 laps, or 195 miles, would be the race distance. The day of the race would start with overcast conditions and would lead many to think the race was going to be a wet affair. However, by the time the teams arrived at the circuit to begin final preparations for the race the sun would be out and the bright blue sky would be mixing beautifully with the Mediterranean and the mountains surrounding the opulent haven.
Filled the regalia and pomp, the Monaco Grand Prix would attract a crowd of the affluent and the serfs. The modern-day chariots would be lined up on the grid and the drivers would take their places behind the controls. Expectations and tenseness would rise as all awaited the drop of the flag. And as the flag dropped to start the race, dust and tire smoke would rise all around as the cars powered their way toward the tight Gazometre hairpin.
At the start, the entire front row would break away about equal and this would make for an interesting drag race into the first turn. Heading into the hairpin, Moss would be on the outside while Castellotti would be tight to the inside. Harry Schell would follow Moss around the outside while Fangio would follow his teammate Castellotti down the inside. Behra would be right behind Fangio and would actually have contact with his rear end through the turn. Perdisa would lose out at the start somewhat and would be fighting to get into a rhythm.
By the time the field headed up Sante Devote for the first time it would be Moss in the lead with a clear advantage over Castellotti and Fangio. Behra would lose out and would be following along behind the Ferrari of Collins. Perdisa would recover nicely and would follow the other Ferrari of Musso. It was clear that the Maseratis were ready to fight with the Ferraris.
At the end of the first lap it would be Moss sliding through Tabac with an already comfortable lead. Behind him it would remain a chaotic mess that would include Behra and Perdisa. The chaos would only get worse on the third lap of the race as Fangio would spin right in front of Schell and Musso causing them to crash into each other and out of the race. Fangio would lose positions and would end up down in 5th place, just ahead of Perdisa. Therefore, it was Moss, Collins and Behra in the top three. Perdisa ran in 6th place.
Perdisa would move up to 5th place by the 15th lap of the race as Castellotti would be forced out of the race with clutch failure. This meant Maserati had their cars 1st, 3rd and 5th during the early stages of the race. But this is similar to the early stages of the Argentine Grand Prix and it didn't end up the same way.
But that was then. Moss would be absolutely indomitable as he would only stretch out his advantage over the rest of the field while Behra came under attack from Fangio who was absolutely bouncing his Lancia-Ferrari off just about every wall and curb there was in his desperate attempt to regain lost ground. Looking in control and unflustered, Moss would carry on stretching out an even greater advantage while Fangio forces his way by Behra, and then Collins, for 2nd place. Behra would remain in 4th place while Perdisa continued to soldier on in 5th place.
Fangio would be pushing like mad. He would continue to beat his Lancia-Ferrari until the nose and the tanks along the side of the car looked as though they had been ripped apart by a would-be attacker. Fangio would end up pitting his worn out chariot and would hand the controls over to Castellotti for the remainder of the race. After a period of some 10 laps or so, Peter Collins would arrive in the pits and would hand over his car to Fangio. Immediately Fangio would set off in his attempt to haul in Moss.
It would be just past halfway and Behra would now be back up into 2nd place while Moss continued to run away with the race. Perdisa, who had been running well in 5th place, would begin to run into some trouble. Though he would continue he would end up losing position to the two Gordinis of Robert Manzon and Elie Bayol.
Thirty laps away from the end of the race it would be Moss well out in front looking cool and collected behind the wheel of his Maserati. Behra would be in 2nd place looking his usual steady self. However, he would begin to come under some pressure from Fangio who had been absolutely flying ever since he had taken over Collins' Ferrari. Perdisa would be holding station but it would be outside of the top five. He would sit in 7th place giving Maserati a fine strong showing.
Heading into the final 20 laps of the race, Moss would hold a very comfortable margin of nearly a minute over Fangio. With such a lead the Brit could focus on saving his tires and the all-important brakes in order to ensure that he would make it home to the finish, unlike what had happened to him in Buenos Aires.
Fangio wasn't going to make things easy on his former teammate. Once in 2nd place, Fangio would begin to click off fast lap after fast lap in a desperate fight to eradicate the advantage Moss held over him. Each and every lap seconds would be taken away from Moss' lead but the Brit remained in control and confident of what he needed to do to ensure he would come through victorious.
It wouldn't be all smooth sailing for Moss, however. Heading into the final few laps Perdisa would be struggling. Over the course of the race the young driver had fallen off the pace. Over using his brakes during the early stages lent to his Maserati brakes locking as the race wore on. Nearly locking up at every corner, Perdisa would lose valuable time but would also be a danger to the other drivers still out there on the circuit. To the horror of the team, Moss would be one of those that would come under danger from his teammate. Approaching Perdisa to put him yet another lap down, Perdisa' brakes would lock causing him to suddenly slow, and right in front of Moss. Too close to do anything about it, Moss would ram the nose of his car into the tail of Perdisa's. The damage to Moss' nose wouldn't be as obvious as the damage to Cesare's tail but it would be enough to cause hearts to stop in the Maserati pits and would lead to Perdisa being called in to be scolded. Thankfully for Moss and the team the damage would be minimal and he would be able to carry on without too much time being lost.
Heading into the final lap of the race the lead would be down to around 10 seconds, but this would be more than enough for Moss who had led every single one of the laps. He wasn't about to let it slip through his fingers on the last lap. Powering his way through the chicane, Moss would head into Tabac with arm raised. There would be nothing that Fangio could do at this point. In spite of the fact Fangio would set the fastest lap of the race on the very last lap Moss would cruise across the line victorious. Fangio would come through to finish just 6 seconds behind, but it would be 6 seconds too far. It had been a superfluous performance by the Brit. Leading all 100 laps, the Maserati team would be absolutely delighted with the demonstrative victory.
But the day would get even better for Maserati as Jean Behra would guide his Maserati home to a 3rd place performance finishing more than a lap behind his teammate but on the podium. After being scolded by the team Cesare Perdisa would carry on but would be well down. He would end up the 8th car still running out on the circuit. However, all of his problems would cause him to be some 14 laps behind by the end, and therefore, not classified in the results.
In spite of the heart-stopping moment with their two cars, Maserati could not have had a more calm and dominant day. Moss leading every single lap and Behra completing the podium in 3rd place made for a very special day and a very encouraging one after the team failed to come through after a strong start in the Argentine Grand Prix. Suddenly, Maserati had its two main drivers in the hunt for the championship.
Maserati would leave the crown jewel of the French Riviera with the crown of champion. It had been sweet redemption for the team after looking so strong in Buenos Aires. It also seemed to signal that it was Maserati's time to shine. Heading back to Italy, the team would be riding high with confidence looking forward to its next opportunity to show what it could do.
The next opportunity for the team to build upon its momentum would come on the 20th of May in the ancient city of Turin. There in Valentino Park would be held the Gran Premio del Valentino. The factory Maserati team would have a couple of entries in the race while Scuderia Ferrari would have three. Ferrari had a problem in that many of its cars had been terribly damaged during the Monaco Grand Prix and the week in between the two events would not be enough time to properly prepare. Plus, it was a non-championship event and the fourth round of the World Championship would come up just a couple of weeks later. Therefore, Ferrari would make the decision to withdraw.
Maserati would be in a similar situation. While their cars ended the Monaco Grand Prix in strong shape there would still be just a matter of a handful of weeks before the Belgian Grand Prix on the 3rd of June. Therefore, Maserati would make the similar decision to withdraw from the race as well. This would leave the organizers with just a handful of privateer entries. As a result, the organizers would cancel the non-championship event.
Maserati would withdraw from the Valentino Grand Prix in order to focus on the Belgian Grand Prix due to come up on the 3rd of June. The team would need the time as the next circuit would be entirely dissimilar to the streets of Monaco. Instead of tight, slow hairpin turns, Maserati would have to prepare its cars for 8.77 miles of flat-out driving interrupted by really only one slow corner. The team would need every bit of power the 2.5-liter 6-cylinder engine could muster and they would need it for more than 310 miles.
Located in the heart of the Ardennes Forest, the Spa-Francorchamps circuit was by no means a purpose-built circuit, but it would be this fact that would make it one of the pure road courses in the world. Fast and dangerous, the Spa-Francorchamps circuit was everything grand prix racing represented. Fast, sweeping turns, elevation changes and houses lining the circuit all helped to make the circuit instantly identifiable, and dangerous. Combined with the usually unpredictable Belgian weather, the Belgian Grand Prix would be a supreme test for any driver and car.
Maserati would arrive with four cars knowing full well it would need every single car available to hold off the strong D50s of Ferrari. Moss, Behra and Perdisa would be back to drive for the team. Chico Godia-Sales would join the team driving the fourth car. Ferrari would equal the number of Maseratis bringing four cars of their own. Including local Belgian Paul Frere, the Ferrari lineup would be a fine mixture of youthful exuberance and obvious experience.
Using the advantage offered by the eight-cylinder engine, Fangio would set the fastest lap time in practice and would grab the pole. His best lap would be a time of 4:09.8. Stirling Moss would continue to ride his wave of momentum and would qualify 2nd posting a lap 5 seconds slower. Peter Collins would make it another Ferrari-Maserati-Ferrari front row. As with Monaco, Behra would qualify 4th starting from the second row of the grid. Cesare Perdisa would be found on the fourth row of the grid after posting a lap time of 4:35.7. This would give him 9th place on the grid and a challenging race ahead of him. Godia-Sales would have an even tougher assignment as he would end up on the sixth row of the grid in the 14th starting spot. His best lap time would be 40 seconds slower than Fangio.
While the grid would look rather similar to Monaco, the weather would not. As the crowds and the teams assembled to prepare for the start of the 36 lap race a light rain would be falling all around the area. This promised to make for an interesting Belgian Grand Prix.
Lined up on the grid with the engines roaring, the green flag was about to drop. And when the flag did drop it would be Moss that would get the best jump and would have a clear advantage heading into the fast left-right combination at the famous Eau Rouge. Behra would also get a great start and would be up amongst Castellotti and Collins heading into the hill. Needing to be careful at the start of the race, Behra would slot in behind Castellotti and Collins in 4th place.
By the time the field made its way into Stavelot for the first time Fangio would be by Behra and Moss would find himself being chased by three Ferraris. Still, having taken the strong victory at Monaco, Moss would power his way without much concern and would lead the way across the line at the completion of the first lap. Castellotti, Collins and Fangio would lag behind Moss by a couple of seconds. Harry Schell and Maurice Trintignant would get by Behra who would cross the line 7th just ahead of Paul Frere in 8th and Perdisa in 9th. The wet conditions would be very dangerous on such a high speed circuit and Godia-Sales would demonstrate this by suffering an accident during the opening lap and would retire from the race right then and there.
So, Maserati would be down to three cars, but it was holding onto the lead and the other two would be inside the top ten. Fangio, however, would be on the move. Steadily moving up, Fangio would be challenging Moss for the lead as the pair took off around the circuit on the 5th lap. Approaching Stavelot, Fangio would power his way around the outside of Moss and would take over the lead. Behra would begin to get his dander up and would challenge Schell and Trintignant for 5th place. Schell and Trintignant would end up running into trouble and this would allow Behra to take over 5th place. Meanwhile, Perdisa would be running a quite race just inside the top ten. However, after Trintignant was forced to retire with engine trouble, Perdisa would move up to 8th place.
Maserati's drivers were looking strong. However, when Fangio appeared at Stavelot and Moss didn't some frantic moments would ensue in and around the circuit. Then, a matter of moments later, Moss would be seen running down dale in an effort to get back to the pits. It would be discovered that his rear wheel had come loose as he climbed the hill at Eau Rouge. Immediately, the signal would go out for Perdisa to come into the pits. It would take Perdisa a couple of laps to recognize the call but he would pit to hand his car over to Moss. A lap down, Moss would emerge back in the race and would immediately push to make up for lost ground.
The team's hopes would now turn to Behra who would be up to 3rd place just ahead of Paul Frere. Moss, struggling to make up for the lost ground, would be back in 6th place pushing hard to move forward.
Halfway through the race and it would still be Fangio in the lead and driving out to an even larger margin over his teammate Collins. Behra, ever the consistent racer, would remain in 3rd place looking strong for another podium result. Moss would still be in 6th place but would be gaining ground on Schell for 5th.
Finally, by the 21st lap, Moss would be right up behind Schell and would end up taking away the position from the Vanwall driver. This meant Maserati had two cars in the top five, but the team no longer held onto the lead.
It seemed things would end as they were. However, on the 24th lap a great sensation would arise. Powering his way into Stavelot for yet another time, Fangio would end up falling to come out as the transmission in the Lancia-Ferrari would give up the fight. Just like that, Collins would take over the lead of the race. Additionally, Behra's Maserati would begin to struggle with gearbox issues and would start to lose places. Quickly, Frere would take over 2nd place. In a little more than 5 laps, Moss would take over 3rd from Behra. Jean would continue to fall down the running order as he continued to lap the circuit very, very slowly in hopes to make it to the checkered flag.
Heading into the final couple of laps, Collins would be out front with an insurmountable lead, at least if his Ferrari kept running without problems. Having put forth a strong effort to recover from the lost wheel, Moss looked fully capable of holding onto 3rd place but he would continue to try like mad to catch Frere before the end.
Thoroughly in control averaging 118mph, Collins would come around La Source for the final time and would cross the line to take his first World Championship victory. To the delight of the Belgian crowd, Paul Frere would compete the 36 lap distance a minute and 51 seconds behind Collins to take a surprising, but very welcome, 2nd place. Moss' persistence would end up paying off as he would manage to hold on to finish in 3rd place in Perdisa's Maserati. The two of them would end up sharing the points, but, Moss would come away with one extra for setting the fastest lap of the race. Jean Behra would manage to hold on to the very end of the race. However, his slow pace over the last 10 laps would cause him to fall all the way down to 7th place in the order, and out of the points.
Providence would truly be on the side of Maserati over the course of the Belgian Grand Prix. Yes, the team would lose the opportunity of a victory but the lost wheel could have been much worse for Moss and the team and the trouble suffered by Fangio and some of the others meant the Maserati pilots of Moss and Behra were still in the championship hunt. But now they had a new player to concern themselves with in Peter Collins.
Throughout the Belgian Grand Prix the Maserati factory cars showed great speed and stability. This enabled Moss to look incredibly strong until he lost his wheel going up the hill at Eau Rouge. However, in the faster portions of the circuit the sheer pace of the Lancia was more than obvious. This did not bode well for Maserati heading toward the fifth round of the World Championship on the 1st of July.
The fifth of eight rounds for the 1956 Formula One World Championship would be the French Grand Prix and it would be held at the ultra-fast Reims circuit. Returning to the calendar after being cancelled the year before in response to the Le Mans tragedy, the Reims circuit was cut from the same cloth as La Sarthe. Utilizing public roads outside of the city of Reims, the area would be flat farmland with just one rise of note situated along Route Nationale 31 between the hairpins at Muizon and Thillois. Measuring 5.15 miles in length and featuring just a couple of S-bends, the Reims circuit would be all about power and outright speed, something which the Lancia-Ferraris had in abundance. Even with the latest evolution of the 250F chassis there were concerns as to whether or not Maserati would be competitive.
Knowing the French Grand Prix would be fast and likely a war of attrition, Maserati would enter no less than five cars for the 61 lap race. The usual drivers Moss and Behra would be behind the wheels of a couple of Maseratis. Cesare Perdisa would also be back along with Chico Godia-Sales. However, the fifth driver would be a former Ferrari driver from the Formula 2 era. Piero Taruffi would be hired to drive the fifth car as the management would look to use his vast experience to good use.
Over the course of practice it would become quite evident the long, fast straights played to the strengths of the Lancia-Ferraris and the Maseratis would be left looking quite off the pace. This would never be more evident than when the grid positions would be set for the 61 lap race.
On pole, yet again, would be Fangio with a lap time of 2:23.3. This time would end up being more than a second faster than Castellotti's pace around the same 5.15 mile circuit. The 3rd, and final, front row grid position would go to Peter Collins, fresh off of his first World Championship victory.
The second row of the grid would be occupied by Vanwalls. However, there would be a vacancy when Colin Chapman suffered a practice accident in his Vanwall. The speed of the Vanwalls, however, would make like difficult for the Maserati drivers as the first from the Modena-based team couldn't do any better than the third rank. Behra would start in the 7th position after posting a time four and a half seconds slower than Fangio. Starting beside Behra in 8th place would be Moss.
The other Maserati drivers would be even further off the pace. Despite his inexperience with the team and the car, Taruffi would be the fastest of the rest of the Maserati entries. Posting a fastest lap of 2:35.3, Taruffi would take the 13th position on the fifth row of the grid. The other two entrants would find themselves down on the seventh row of the grid. Perdisa would be in 16th position while Godia-Sales would be right beside in 17th.
Heading to the start of the race on the overcast but dry Sunday Maserati and Ferrari were on equal terms when it came to numbers. However, just one glance at the starting grid demonstrated just how far apart the two teams were when it came to performance. And, just prior to the drop of the flag there would be even greater cause for concern as Moss could not get his Maserati to fire. The crew would push the car out of line and down the straight a distance to see if a push-start would work. They would keep pushing and then, finally, the engine would fire and Moss would quickly reverse to his third row starting position.
The flag dropped and the field roared off into the distance. Enjoying the power and torque of the eight-cylinder engine, the three Ferraris would streak out into the distance. Intently watched by the large crowd heading into the fast right-hand Gueux bend, Moss would be away well having had no one ahead of him on the grid. Not far behind would come Behra in another Maserati. Perdisa would also get away strongly and would be chasing the other two Ferraris.
At the end of the first lap it would be Collins in the lead over Castellotti and Fangio. Moss would be in 5th place having been passed on the run down to Thillois by Harry Schell in one of the Vanwalls. Behra would be right behind his teammate in 6th place while Perdisa would be back in 10th place fighting to keep up with Hawthorn and Gendebien. Godia-Sales would be one of the fast starters having made his way up to 12th place after starting 17th on the grid. Taruffi would lose out over the course of the first lap crossing the line in 15th place.
Not being able to match the pace of the Ferraris, the Maserati drivers would either have to sit content or push extra hard. Behra would choose the route of consistency. Moss would choose the other. Unfortunately, the choice to push all-out would not go well as he would slide off the circuit heading into the Muizon hairpin. By this point in time Fangio would be leading the trio of Ferraris at the front. Hawthorn would take over for Schell in 4th place while the other two Ferraris would be running 5th and 6th. The mistake by Moss would cost him and Behra who would be following along right behind his teammate. Behra's early position up near the front would now translate into a 7th while Moss would be in 8th followed by Perdisa in 9th. Godia-Sales would continue to move up the order and would be in 10th while Taruffi would find his day only get worse.
Taruffi would come into the pits after just a couple of laps and would have his car looked over thoroughly before being sent back out onto the circuit. Unfortunately, the work would have little effect as he would be running right at the back of the field unable to emulate the kind of performance he showed during practice.
By the 15th lap of the race it would be Ferrari 1st through 5th. Behra would be in 6th place following Hawthorn's pitstop to hand over his car to Schell. Hawthorn would not be well and would be unable to maintain his pace over the course of the race so Schell would take over, but would rejoin the race down in 8th place just behind Moss. Perdisa remained steady while Godia-Sales would become embroiled in a battle with Louis Rosier. These two would battle it out throughout the whole of the race.
Moss would be into the pits prior to the 20th lap as a result of a broken gear lever. Perdisa would be called in and Moss would take over on the 21st lap. Maserati continued to have three cars in the top ten, but neither of them could challenge the pace of the Ferraris. And in the case of Taruffi, his race would last until the 42nd lap when he would retire with mechanical troubles.
The only car capable of challenging the Ferraris would be the lone Vanwall driven by Harry Schell. After taking over for Hawthorn, Schell would quickly dispatch the Maserati drivers and would soon be breathing down the neck of the Ferraris. No matter what they did to respond, Schell would have an even better answer. By the halfway mark Schell would be sitting in 2nd place only a couple of car lengths behind Fangio. However, the threat would last only about five laps until Schell would be forced to stop as a result of some problems with the Vanwall.
It seemed the race would run out without any more drama, but it seemed as though the pressure from Schell would take its toll as Fangio would suddenly pit to have his car checked. This move would surprise everyone as it seemed Fangio was destined to take the victory. Suddenly the lead would become a battle between Castellotti and Collins. Fangio's long stop meant Behra would move up to 3rd place while Moss trailed behind Fangio in 5th.
Castellotti and Collins would battle it out throughout the next 10 laps. However, Collins had a victory to his credit and was up at the top in the championship standings. It seemed to make sense to have Collins take the lead and the victory. Therefore, with just 11 laps remaining Collins would take over the lead with Castellotti slotting in behind. Behra would be in 3rd place but would not be entirely safe as Fangio would begin driving as he had in Monaco, turning fast lap after fast lap in an attempt to catch Behra. Rosier would finally get the better of Godia-Sales and the third Maserati driver would hold station in 7th.
It seemed clear who was going to take the victory. Rounding Thillois for the final time it would be Collins in the lead with Castellotti just a couple of car lengths behind. Powering up the long start/finish straight, Collins would take his second, and second-straight, World Championship victory completing the race distance in a little more than two hours and 34 minutes at an average speed of 122mph. Castellotti would follow across the line three-tenths of a second behind.
The real question was for 3rd place. All eyes strained to see who would come into Thillois first. Then everyone could see. It would be Behra. Crossing the line to take yet another podium, Behra would finish 30 seconds behind Collins and 5 seconds ahead of Fangio. It had been an incredible late performance by Fangio as he would set the fastest lap of the race on the very last lap of the race.
Having taken over Perdisa's car for the second-straight race, Moss would hold on to finish the race 2 laps down in 5th place and would split the two points with Cesare. Losing out in the battle with Rosier, Godia-Sales would be 4 laps down in the 7th position.
In spite of the fact the Ferraris held the performance advantage over the Maseratis, the factory team didn't necessarily have reason to be disappointed. To have two of their cars finish in the top five when it could have easily been a Ferrari sweep of the points meant Maserati did have some reason to be confident going forward. What's more, the next circuit on the calendar would help to equal out the two teams once again.
The five week span covering the beginning of July and August would be the busiest for the World Championship all year. Following the French Grand Prix by just two weeks would be the British Grand Prix, held on the 14th of July. This meant the teams would have very little time in which to prepare their cars for the notoriously difficult race.
The 1956 edition of the British Grand Prix would also pose another challenge. For the first time since 1954 Silverstone would play host to the World Championship round. Not only did Silverstone offer higher average speeds than Aintree but it also seemed to be a very hard circuit for cars with suspect reliability. On top of all this, Silverstone seemed to have its own weather pattern causing a mixture of sun and rain throughout a grand prix weekend.
The entries would keep coming making the field for the sixth round of the World Championship the largest to that point in the season. Maserati would bring four cars to the race while Ferrari would bring five. However, it would be the presence of the growing number of British marques that would make the field so large.
Formerly known as RAF Silverstone during the Second World War, Silverstone initially served as a bomber training base during the war. However, soon after the end of the war it would begin hosting motor races. At first, races would be held around the perimeter road as well as the triple runways. However, with the first International Trophy race in 1949, the familiar 2.9 mile perimeter road would come into use.
The last time the circuit had been used as part of the World Championship Fangio would set a lap record breaking the 100mph average speed barrier for the first time in the W196. As the cars took to the circuit for practice two years later, the barrier would put up very little resistance. In fact, the top ten on the grid would all be faster than 100mph average speed. The fastest of them all would be Stirling Moss with a lap time of 1:41. Moss' best would be a handful of tenths faster than Fangio in the D50. The 3rd place position on the front row would go to Mike Hawthorn in the Owen Racing BRM P25. The final spot on the front row would end up going to the hottest driver in the World Championship at that moment Peter Collins.
The times up near the front of the grid would be quite tight as the performance gap would be minimized around the 2.9 mile circuit. As a result, a second meant vast differences in starting grid positions. This is something Behra would find out as he would be 6 seconds slower than Moss and would end up on the fourth row of the grid in 13th. Perdisa would be two seconds slower than Behra and would end up on the fifth row in the 15th starting spot. Godia-Sales would be on the seventh row of the grid in the 25th starting spot. A total of 28 cars would qualify for the 101 lap, 293 mile, race.
Heading into race day, the weather would be pleasant but overcast. An incredible crowd would begin spilling all around the circuit waiting for the start of what was certain to be an entertaining race. The cars and drivers would parade by the grandstands en route to their grid positions. The engines would fire and the drivers waited expectantly for the flag.
As the race got underway with a huge crescendo of engine noise, Moss would get away terribly slow while Hawthorn and Brooks would look like they were shot from a gun as they easily led the field into Copse for the first time. Behind the two BRM drivers would come Fangio and the other Ferrari drivers while Moss would be lost well down in the order.
At the end of the first lap it would be Hawthorn with Brooks right behind. A few seconds later it would be Fangio just ahead of Schell with Castellotti and Salvadori not far behind. Moss would go from the pole to crossing the line for the first time in 8th place. Behra would complete the first lap up one spot in 12th while Perdisa and Godia-Sales would be in 19th and 25th respectively.
Although he would start the race poorly, Moss would be on the move from the very first lap onwards. Helped by problems with Schell's Vanwall and the spin by Fangio resulting from his battle with Brooks for 2nd place, Moss would be up to 3rd place by the 10th lap and would end up getting by Brooks for 2nd the very next circulation. Behra would be locked in a duel with Trintignant for 11th but the Vanwall would maintain the upper-hand until he fell out of contention near the 15th lap. Perdisa would run into trouble and would end up dropping well down in the order while Godia-Sales would be another of the drivers on the move. He would steadily climb up the running order as others began to run afoul of problems. By the 15th lap he would be fighting for a top 15 placement in the order.
Fighting for the lead, Moss would seem to have the advantage over Hawthorn who seemed to have problems with his BRM. Back during the International Trophy race in May Hawthorn had a fast start only to come up well short. It would be a case of déjà vu as Hawthorn would lose the lead and then fall out after 24 laps with an oil leak. The numbers of cars out of the race really began to mount. Thankfully for the factory Maserati team, all of its cars were still running.
The strongest runner of the Maserati camp would be Moss. Followed by a very surprising Roy Salvadori, Moss would pull away from the rest of the field building up a comfortable margin. Past quarter distance there would be a gap of 8 seconds between Moss and Salvadori. Behra would ride the wave of attrition and would be up to 6th place while Godia-Sales continued his climb up the order. He would be 12th by the 40th lap while Perdisa would be running steadily down in 14th.
Nearing halfway and Maserati held onto the lead through Moss. Behra would still be in the 6th position. The team's cars were running well but the numbers favored Ferrari as three of their cars ran 3rd through 5th. Godia-Sales came to a standstill in 11th as he tried to track down Castellotti in another of the Ferraris. Perdisa continued to soldier on but not all that quickly as he would come under fire from Desmond Titterington for 14th.
Salvadori had been strong in 2nd place, but at the halfway mark he would have to yield to Fangio as a result of a tank strap coming loose on his Maserati. This meant Fangio was now in 2nd place but Moss was well out in front by this point in time and looked set to dominate the rest of the race just as he had in his superlative victory in Monaco. Salvadori's pitstop and resulting retirement a few laps later would enable Behra to come up to 5th place while Godia-Sales would sit 10th. Perdisa would be very quiet back in 14th.
Moss seemed in indomitable form. However, it would become apparent that not all was well with the Maserati. Moss would end up stopping in his pit to have an apparent misfire situation addressed. The seconds would tick away and Fangio would end up going into the lead while the majority leader remained in the pits. Finally, Moss would be ready and would rejoin the race, but he had lost his lead.
Some 30 laps from the end, Fangio would hold a commanding lead over Moss in 2nd place Problems with Collins' Ferrari meant he would take over Alfonso de Portago's car and would drop down the running order. As a result, Behra would be up to 4th place. After an incredible run, Godia-Sales would be in trouble and he would slip down to 11th place behind his teammate Perdisa. Suddenly, what had seemed to be a day of good tidings would turn bad, and it would only get worse.
Just 7 laps from the checkered flag, Moss would find his race come to a bitterly disappointing end as gearbox failure meant he could no longer go on. Collins would be promoted to 2nd place and Behra, the ever-consistent Frenchman, would be up to 3rd. The other two Maserati drivers would be well back and out of the points.
After having certain victory snatched away from him a couple of times, Fangio would finally get one back as he would come across the line a full lap ahead of Collins to take the victory. Jean Behra's steady performance would leave him two laps behind but he would still end up on the podium with 4 very important championship points. The only other consolation Moss and Maserati would receive at the end of the race would be the solitary point earned for setting the fastest lap of the race. This he would do with an average speed of nearly 102mph.
In the end, Maserati would suffer another frustrating race having been in a strong position throughout the majority of the race. Behra's podium would be little consolation when it seemed absolutely possible for Moss to disappear and earn an easy victory. However, as with the disappointing French Grand Prix there would be little time for the team to dwell upon what could have been as there would be just a handful of weeks before the seventh round of the World Championship.
Experiencing frustrating reliability issues, Maserati would get their cars back to the factory and would set to work preparing them for the next race of the season which would come up on the 5th of August, just three weeks after the British Grand Prix. The team would certainly need all of their cars running on top form heading to the next round of the World Championship as the next stop would be an unyielding gauntlet ready to take advantage of any weakness.
The next race on the calendar would be the German Grand Prix. And while the race would be as important as any of the other rounds, it would be the venue that would certainly cause a little more concern than perhaps some of the others. Measuring a little more than 14 miles in length, the Nurburgring was a truly epic site for the German Grand Prix. Constantly climbing and descending, twisting and turning, the circuit was a never-ending barrage just waiting to wear down its opponent before it landed its killer blow. Featuring more than a thousand feet of elevation changes and more than 170 corners, the mind and the focus of the driver would be supremely tested each and every lap with very little room for error, let alone relaxing. Loved or hated, each trip would either be a truly special journey or an absolute, never-ending hell.
Positioned in the Eifel Mountains of western Germany, the Nurburgring would feature similarly unpredictable weather as that which would cloud the area around Spa-Francorchamps. Sure enough, when the teams began to arrive and set up for the weekend coming up, rain showers would blanket the whole of the area making an already dangerous and demanding circuit downright scary each and every time out. Having fallen in love with the circuit the very first moment he set off around it, it would be of little surprise that Fangio would take the pole. His best lap time of 9:51.2 would be just three-tenths of a second faster than his teammate Peter Collins. Eugenio Castellotti would be just a handful of seconds off the pace and would take the 3rd place starting spot. It seemed as though Ferrari would lock out the entire front row until Stirling Moss rose to the occasion and took the last spot with a rather sedate time of 10:03.4.
Maserati would come to the race with four of its usual drivers. However, there would be a new fourth driver to team with Moss, Behra, Godia-Sales and Perdisa. This time Umberto Maglioli would get the nod to drive the fourth car. Maglioli would actually be listed as an alternate driver for the Scuderia Guastalla team but his services would not be needed as Luigi Villoresi would take the drive. And so, Maglioli would come to Maserati. And, Maglioli would disappoint either. Showing his comfort around the circuit, Umberto would be 23 seconds slower than Moss but would keep his head in the wet conditions and would end up coming away with a second row starting spot. He would end up starting 7th right beside Cesare Perdisa in the 6th place position. Jean Behra would be found on the third row of the grid in the 8th position while Godia-Sales would be all the way down on the fifth row of the grid in the 16th starting spot after posting a lap time of nearly 12 minutes.
In spite of three days of near constant rain, the day of the race would be absolutely beautiful. As a result, the circuit would be dry and ripe for a new lap record. Loving motor sports, an incredible crowd would descend upon the Nordschleife in preparation for the 22 lap race.
Heading to the start there would be some struggles already for Maserati as Perdisa would have some problems and would not be able to start the race. This meant there would be a vacancy in the middle of the second row. This would be unfortunate for Maserati given the strong performance of the Ferraris in practice.
At the start of the race, it would be the Ferraris of Collins and Fangio that would get away best of the Ferraris. However, right there with them would be Moss. In fact, as the cars streamed into the first couple of corners it would be Moss right beside Fangio while Collins would be just ahead in the lead. Behra would get away well too and would be inside the top five through the first couple of corners.
It would be a long first lap and a lot could happen over the course of 14 miles. At the front, the same cars that were there at the beginning would be there at the end but it would be Fangio that would hold onto the lead over Collins and Moss. The threesome would have a bit of distance between itself and Behra in 4th place. Maglioli would survive the first lap and would come across the line in 7th place while Godia-Sales would be up in 11th place after starting 16th. Godia-Sales would be helped a little bit by the failure of Robert Manzon to complete even one lap, and then there would be Castellotti who would suffer from magneto problems and could not achieve the kind of power possible.
A couple of laps into the race and Collins would be fighting hard to stay with Fangio. Moss would be more than 10 seconds down in 3rd place. Behind him, Behra would continue to run steady and well in control as he would manage to break away from Salvadori and de Portago. Not all would be well for some of the other drivers, however. Maglioli would make it through 3 laps of the race before he would be forced to retire with steering failure. Castellotti would finally succumb to his magneto problems after 5 laps. Just three laps later and Collins would be in the pits having become overwhelmed by the fumes from a split fuel line. He would sit by the side trying to recover as the race wore on. While Collins was busy trying to recover from the inhalation of the fumes, Castellotti would head back out onto the circuit having taken over Luigi Musso's car. This effort would last just a little more than 3 laps before Castellotti would make a mistake and crash the car out of the race.
Fangio would hold onto the lead but Moss would stabilize the Argentinean's advantage by running some truly fast laps. However, with every effort to go faster and catch up Fangio would have an answer and would make sure that Moss got no closer than what he already was. Collins would take over de Portago's Ferrari and would begin his pursuit of Behra in 3rd place and the other front row runners.
It would be an incredible performance by Fangio, Moss and Collins. Collins would go quick, Moss would go quicker and Fangio would go quickest. Meanwhile, Behra would be losing ground to Collins and Godia-Sales would be running strongly in 7th place not far behind Harry Schell.
Fangio's pace at the front would be incredible. The previous lap record would be absolutely shattered. This would put a lot of pressure on his pursuers, and, on the 15th lap, Collins would be out as a result of a mistake leading to a crash. Collins had just overtaken Behra for 3rd place but the accident would lead to the two Maseratis to retake 2nd and 3rd. The loss of Collins, Schell and Halford would also lead to Godia-Sales making a quick leap up the order. In fact, Maserati would have its three cars running 2nd, 3rd and 4th heading into the last couple of laps.
Heading into the final couple of laps of the race there would be just 6 cars still running in the race. However, there wouldn't be anyone as fast as Fangio as he would be well out in front just holding on and taking care to make it to the checkered flag. While everything seemed squared away for Fangio and Ferrari there would be some concern in the Maserati camp as Moss' gearbox sounded very ominous. Everyone, including Moss, would be hoping and praying that yet another strong result would not be taken away from them in the closing stages of a race.
Nothing could be taken away from Fangio on this day. Leading from the very first lap, the Argentinean would need just three hours and almost 39 minutes to take the checkered flag and his second World Championship victory in a row. Averaging a little more than 85mph over the course of the race Fangio would enjoy a margin of victory of some 46 seconds over Moss who would do an excellent job of ensuring his Maserati made it all the way to the finish. Jean Behra would clinch yet another podium result finishing in 3rd place a little more than seven minutes and 38 seconds behind. The disqualification of Bruce Halford and the struggles encountered by others would enable Godia-Sales to leap up the leaderboard. When it was all said and done, Godia-Sales would finish the race a little more than 2 laps behind in the 4th position, a very good result for him.
It had been a dominant win for Fangio. There was very little either of the Maserati drivers could have done to challenge for the win. However, the team would come away with about the next best result possible. Having two drivers on the podium and a third sitting in 4th place revealed the team did everything it could. With Stirling Moss, Behra and Godia-Sales all scoring points at the end of the race, the German Grand Prix could not have gone much better and would set up for a truly epic finish to the World Championship one month later.
Following the strong showing at the German Grand Prix there would be about a month between the seventh and eighth rounds of the World Championship. This would be a very important time for the team as it would provide them the necessary time needed to thoroughly prepare their cars for the last round of the World Championship. Having Moss within reach of the title meant the Italian Grand Prix would be a very important race to the team constantly overshadowed by others. As a result, the team would be very reserved in the final month to take part in any other race as they would not want it to possibly detract from what they were trying to achieve. Nonetheless, Harry Schell would approach the factory about dispatching a car for his use. He had what he believed to be a full-proof plan. His plan: to win the 4th Grand Prix de Caen on the 26th of August.
Just looking at the entry list for the 70 lap, Schell's plan didn't seem all that foolhardy. With the exception of Equipe Gordini, there would be no other factory teams entered. The remainder of the entry list would be comprised of privateer teams and individuals. While all of the drivers in the field would be quite talented, none of them had proven to have the pace of Schell in a competitive car. And so, Schell's plan didn't seem like a losing proposition. And so, Maserati would dispatch a single car to Caen for Schell.
Situated right along the Normandy coast overlooking the English Channel, Caen has been a strategic city all throughout its history. Boasting of such incredible and grand buildings as the Chateau Caen, Caen Hotel de Ville and the quaint Saint-Etienne-le-Vieux, Caen would seem like a popular destination for just about anyone. However, there would be some reservation within the Maserati factory when it dispatched a single car with Harry Schell given there was just a week until the final round of the World Championship.
Schell would either be considerate of the fact, or, would struggle in practice as he would not be even close to the front row of the grid. In fact, it would be Roy Salvadori that would earn the honor of starting on pole. Louis Rosier would show signs of days gone by as he would end up 2nd-quickest around the 2.19 mile. Schell would ultimately find himself down on the third row of the two-by-two grid. Starting from 5th place Schell would have some work to do over the course of the 153 mile race, but there would be time in which to do it.
Situated right along the coast of the Channel, conditions can change rapidly in the area and it would seem that such changing conditions would catch many a driver totally unprepared. It would start right from the very beginning. Salvadori would be quick right from the very beginning and it wouldn't take him long to be lapping the circuit at an average speed of more than 90mph. This pushed the pace around the circuit and would lead to a number of early retirements. Hermanos da Silva Ramos would be the first out. His race in the Gordini T32 would last just a lap before clutch failure would end his day. Six laps later Paul Emery would drop out with engine troubles.
The pace early on would be quite quick with Salvadori the fastest of them all turning in a lap with an average speed of more than 91mph. But then the conditions changed and the drivers would be left to have to quickly adapt. Many would not.
Horace Gould, Bruce Halford and Robert Manzon would all crash out of the race in 10 lap intervals starting on the 12th lap of the race. Louis Rosier would also crash out of the race but his departure would come just a few laps after Manzon.
Nonetheless, the changing conditions would throw the result of the Grand Prix de Caen into doubt. Salvadori would drop off the pace and would end up well back. Andre Simon would come all the way up from 7th on the grid to be challenging for the lead. However, the man that handled the conditions the best would be Schell in the loaned Maserati.
Despite starting 5th, Schell would handle the changing conditions the best and would be in the lead of the race with a growing advantage over Simon in 2nd place. Roy Salvadori would lose ground hand over fist but would be hanging onto 3rd place.
In the end, the proposal would work. Averaging a little more than 80mph over the course of the 70 lap race, Schell would cruise to an easy victory defeating Simon by a margin of a minute and 10 seconds. Salvadori would go from starting on the pole to ending a lap down in 3rd place.
It would be an incredible race by Schell. Showing his talent throughout the year the proposal to take part in the Grand Prix de Caen certainly didn't seem like a wrong step. And, as Schell handled the conditions and bolstered his advantage over the rest of the cars in the race it became abundantly clear that investing in the talents of Schell was a very good idea. And, thanks to Schell, Maserati would gain a little more momentum heading into the final round of the World Championship.
If ever there was a time for Maserati to show up and show its true potential it would be the eighth, and final, round of the 1956 Formula One World Championship. Taking place on the 2nd of September, not only would the Italian Grand Prix be the last round of the World Championship but the race would also take place on home soil. And so, while there would be the World Championship within the team's sights there would also be the added benefit of coming out on top in front of the home crowd.
It was Maserati's greatest opportunity. There was an opportunity, albeit rather slim, for Behra to fight for the championship. But then there was Stirling Moss. He had performed incredibly well throughout the season and had it not been for some unfortunate moments he too could have been in the hunt for the championship. Nonetheless, it was a bright moment for Maserati. But there would be a problem.
The Italian Grand Prix, for the second year in a row, would take place on the updated 6.2 mile circuit that featured the integrated road course and the steeply-banked oval. Combined together, the already fast Autodromo Nazionale Monza would be even faster. This played to the strength of the Lancia-Ferrari, and this would never be more evident than in practice when Fangio took yet another pole position with a lap time of 2:42.6. Castellotti would make it two Ferraris on the front row when he qualified eight-tenths slower than Fangio. The final spot on the front row would also go to a Ferrari, this one driven by Luigi Musso.
Things did not look all that good for the Modena-based team. Still, Behra and Moss would do their best to show they were ready to fight to the very end. Both men would end up on the second row with Behra qualifying 5th and Moss 6th.
Luigi Villoresi would be given a drive with the factory team and he too would look good in practice ending up on the third row of the grid in the 8th position. Maglioli also would be back with the team and he would end up on the fourth row of the grid in the 12th position having posted a personal best of 2:52.7. Chico Godia-Sales would be in the final Maserati. His best would be 10 seconds off the pace of Maglioli and would result in Godia-Sales starting from the sixth row of the grid in the 17th position.
The Tifosi would be well accounted for having two major factory teams occupying numerous positions so high up on the grid. Impatient to get the event underway, the crowd would grow even more impatient when the official clock stopped working for a matter of a few minutes. But, finally, the clock, and the field, would be ready. As the flag dropped to start the race the Ferraris of Castellotti and Musso would rocket out into the lead. Fangio would get away well while Behra would get swallowed up from behind after a terrible start off the line. Moss would have a strong start and would be right up near the front-runners as the field made its way to the banking for the very first time.
Completing the first lap, Castellotti and Musso would be running an absolutely torrid pace and would be more than a second out front of Fangio who was closely followed by Schell and Collins. Moss would make his way by Taruffi over the course of the first lap and would be in 6th place while Behra would recover and would move up to 8th by the end of the first circulation. Maglioli would hold station in 12th while Godia-Sales would have another strong start to complete the first lap in 14th. Villoresi would be the only one of the Maserati crew that would be struggling at the end of the first lap. He would be all the way down in 23rd after starting 8th on the grid.
The incredible pace by Castellotti and Musso had a price to pay and it would come in the form of thrown tire treads. Both would be in the pits by the 5th lap of the race allowing Moss to come up to lead the race just ahead of Schell and Fangio. Behra would move up as a result of Castellotti and Musso and would be in 6th place while Maglioli would be up to 9th and Godia-Sales 12th. Villoresi would fight as hard as he could but neither he nor Jo Bonnier, whom he was to share the car with, would make it to the end of the race. Actually, Villoresi would pull out of the race after just 7 laps as a result of engine failure.
The tire problems for Ferrari would keep coming as de Portago would have a tire blow out on him on the banking. He would be lucky not to suffer a terrible accident but the resulting damaged suspension meant his race was over. Collins would stop for tires and would drop back. Castellotti would return to the race and would suffer yet another failure that would lead to his retirement.
Moss and Schell continued to battle it out for the lead of the race while Fangio remained in 3rd place and Behra rested in 4th. As it was, Fangio would be the World Champion, but there was still a long way to go in the 50 lap race.
It was looking good for Maserati. While Ferrari continued to suffer tire problems, Maserati held onto the lead and 4th place. Maglioli continued to climb up the order and would be in 6th place by the 11th lap. Godia-Sales would make it four Maseratis inside the top eight. While the rest of the Vanwalls would run into trouble over the bumpy concrete banking, Schell soldiered on in fantastic fashion challenging Moss and Fangio.
And then there would be another twist in the plot. The bumpy circuit was taking its toll. Its next victim would be Fangio and his Lancia-Ferrari's steering. The bent steering meant Fangio would spend a good deal of time in the pits as the team did its best to fix the problem. All of a sudden, Fangio's championship hopes seemed to be going away with each passing second. It was Behra's moment. But there would be a problem.
Throughout the first half of the race Behra had sat patiently in 4th place looking for an opportunity to make his move. Unfortunately, instead of him making his move, attrition would make its move on him. Having completed 23 laps it was clear his Maserati was not running on full power. He would come into the pits and it would be found he had magneto failure. Just like that, Behra's hopes would vaporize with the brief rain shower that blanketed the circuit.
The only man that had any chance of taking away the title from Fangio would be one of his teammates. Peter Collins would be out on the circuit running in 3rd place. Fangio would be doing everything he could to get back in the race. Musso, however, would turn him down. And so, Fangio sat and waited.
Though not mathematically able to take the title, Moss would play a part in the proceedings. Leading a majority of the race Collins would soon become aware of the fact he had no chance of taking the championship if he couldn't get past Moss for the lead. Seeing the task as nearly impossible, Collins would pit and in the course of the stop would hand his car over to Fangio for the remaining 14 laps.
Heading into the final 9 laps it seemed as though Moss had won the World Championship for his former teammate. Behra would take over Maglioli but would be sitting too far back in 5th place to assert himself in the battle. Godia-Sales would make his way up to 7th place in the running order. It seemed as though it was all over. But this was the Italian Grand Prix. And had Collins known what was to happen with five laps remaining he may not have been co quick to give up his car to Fangio.
Moss had been absolutely flying around the circuit. Posting what would be the fastest lap of the race on the 47th lap with a time actually faster than his own qualifying effort, Moss was out to show that he too should have been involved in the title fight. At the very least he was going to finish 2nd. But this pace came at a price as well. While unreliability would not be the way in which the pace would expose itself, Moss would need something to ensure his victory—fuel.
Five laps from the checkered flag a sensation would take place that would have the crowd in an uproar. Coming around on the road course portion of the circuit it would become obvious that Moss was out of fuel. Quickly slowing down, it was becoming apparent Moss was on the verge of having another victory snatched away from him. But thankfully for Moss and Maserati Luigi Piotti would still be in the race. Pulling up behind Moss, Piotti would push Moss to the pits so he could be refueled. He had a huge lead before the fuel problems. However, the lead would not be enough as Musso would go through into the lead. So, yet again, it seemed as though victory would elude Moss.
Moss would retake to the circuit and would not give up, but it certainly seemed as though Musso would take the surprising victory. Just prior to Moss' troubles, Behra would retire from the race in Maglioli's car as a result of steering problems. So, Maserati's day was quickly going from great to catastrophic.
But the last 5 laps would allow plenty of time for other problems to surface and affect the outcome. Sure enough, with just 3 laps remaining in the race, the final twist of the plot would take place as Musso would throw yet another tire tread. Pulling into the pits, Musso wouldn't even attempt to re-enter the race. Moss would be back in the lead. Finally, providence was smiling on the Brit. He had dominated the race and nothing was going to inhibit him from earning his just reward.
And so the race ran out with Moss taking a dominant, and fortunate, victory. Averaging 129mph, Moss would take the victory by about 6 seconds over Fangio in Collins' Lancia-Ferrari. Had Collins remained in the car, and the variables happened as they did, Collins likely would have been tied with Fangio for the championship. Instead, Fangio would take his third-straight World Championship title. Ron Flockhart would demonstrate the future of Formula One as he would guide his B-Type Connaught home to a splendid 3rd place finish. He would cross the line a lap behind, but he would still put an English manufacturer on the podium. It would be just a handful of years later that British manufacturers would dominate the sport. Chico Godia-Sales would have another fantastic result finishing 4th for his second straight race. This would give the Spanish driver 6 championship points and would leave him in the top ten in the championship standings.
Moss' indomitable performance, including the fastest lap of the race, meant the Brit would end the 1956 World Championship season in 2nd place in the standings, right where he had ended up the year before while teamed with Fangio at Mercedes-Benz.
Maserati would certainly be delighted with Moss' victory but there would be a bit of bitter disappointment within the team. They had a chance to produce a World Champion. Throughout the majority of the race the team had a number of cars hovering right around the top five. Yes, the team came away with a victory, but in the end, what could have been would remain a very nagging question.
Maserati had enjoyed its strongest season to date but they would still suffer from the presence of a stronger car and team. The team had showed it was possible to produce a champion, but they needed that little bit more to get them to that place. Perhaps what they needed most wasn't the most spectacular car but a certain driver, like the driver celebrating his fourth World Championship? Officine Alfieri Maserati