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#37 1954 British Grand Prix

2021-04-08 00:00

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#37 1954 British Grand Prix

Dopo la nota sconfitta della Ferrari e della Maserati contro la rientrante Mercedes nel Gran Premio di Francia corso a Reims il 4 Luglio 1954, Vittori

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After the defeat of Ferrari and Maserati against the re-entrant Mercedes at the French Grand Prix, which took place in Reims on July 4th, 1954, Vittorio Marzotto, Member of the Chamber and known racing driver, writes a letter, published on Saturday July 17th, 1954, from the Italian journal La Stampa, in which he specifies the reasons behind the difficulty that the Italian constructors face against the German rivals.

 

"The defeat of the Italian motoring in Reims pushed part of the national press to speak out with vague invitations to the constructors, encouraging them to build good, fast and solid cars in the shortest time possible, in order to give back to the passionate Italian fans the satisfaction of seeing our cars and drivers racing and succeeding in the international competitions.  According to a custom by now deeply rooted in our country, admissions and regrets always replace that kind of anticipatory foresight which, in happy times, should dictate plans for the future and suggest measures to develop the successes achieved. Nobody has bothered to consolidate that position of pre-eminence, which we held from the post-war period to the Reims race, through a motoring policy that, in addition to serving the sporting passion of millions of Italians, created a favorable environment for our automobile exports. Only continuous criticisms have accompanied the difficult – but also flattering – development of our motoring industry. The Country, through CONI, has done little or nothing in this field. Unlike in other sports sectors, such as football, the public's financial contribution to the automotive sector is almost nil. It follows, for an entirely economic and not at all technical evaluation, that the criticisms raised by this public, not profitable in terms of collections, but still so numerous, remain unheard in the government. Our most daring builders have worked in a regime of isolation that in other countries would have discouraged any industrialist from an effort often prejudiced by insurmountable difficulties. It is good for us that their inexhaustible passion and their ability have allowed us to keep alive an activity that, notoriously, offers no margins. But we must honestly admit the sole merit of our builders. This admission does not seem to be a topic of discussion for the press. The significant success of the German industry against our artisan products has raised a resentful disappointment that rages, beyond any objective evaluation, against an alleged leisure of the Italian manufacturers. No one wondered how much Mercedes spent on the preparation of this racing car, such as the tax relief enjoyed by the German factory which was thus able to exploit its sporting successes by carrying out a massive export to all markets in the world. The problem cannot be considered in the light of a too superficial recrimination which forgets, for example, about the way car taxation reaches the highest level in Italy compared to other countries, and how this incidence is almost double the corresponding tax incidence applied in Germany. And it should not be forgotten that while our automobile exports are almost entirely burdened with all the tax burdens, exact in the production phase, competing foreign companies can enjoy an almost total exemption. The C.O.N.I., which should also deal with motor sport, among other things, has granted the artisans of sports car manufacturers a contribution of 30 million for 1953 to allow them to present themselves at the various world competitions of Sebring, Le Mans, Mille Miglia etc. A very modest contribution, as you can see, when you consider that the major world tests do not offer any engagement. Now Ferrari and Maserati obviously cannot face these expenses with a budget that, due to the structure of the company, does not allow such an onerous impact. The consequence of this impossibility flows in the loss of the best professional drivers in the world who, obviously, prefer to provide their services to manufacturers that offer more advantageous contracts. Ferrari is the most significant example. What to do? The first defeat in the automotive field must not become a black hole as it happened in the period between 1935 and 1938. But as a prerequisite for a reasonable approach to the whole problem, it is necessary that public opinion does not make trivial appeals to build good, fast and solid machines, and does not clamor for the imposition of larger or smaller displacements, because the manufacturers know very well what to build for an effective progress in motor racing. In this regard, see the case of the famous 4900 cmc Ferrari, so criticized and then justified by the great victory of Le Mans, the most important commercially competition in the world. If there is a crisis, then, it doesn’t have its origins and reasons in the lack of effort of our admirable builders, but rather in the abandonment, indifference and absenteeism in which they have been left for so long. In order to be able to expect a prompt and safe recovery of our motoring it is necessary that, once and for all, they find that collaboration and help from the responsible bodies without which it is impossible to think of a satisfactory solution to the problem".

 

In Italy the only discussed theme is the redemption required from Ferrari and Maserati against Mercedes, waiting for Lancia to bring its grand prix car to its debut. The Lancia’s debut is in fact late, also due to the horrible crash of Alberto Ascari in Monza on Friday, July 9th, 1954. The driver is in Monza for some tests, swapping seat with Luigi Villoresi, the new red fireball already acclaimed by the Italian fans, who hope to see him next to the Ferraris and Maseratis in the fight against the Germans. The causes of the crash aren’t officially made public. The most shared hypothesis is that Ascari, widening in the corner, has ended up in the grass. So, the incident was caused by a fatality, but the consequences were luckily limited. The car didn’t suffer any damage, except a blow in the front.

 

"Nothing serious?"

 

He is asked while re-entering in the box.

 

"Nothing, absolutely. It was a miracle. The car was spinning like a spinning top and when I saw the bushes at the end of the grass I directed the steering wheel towards them. That’s how I managed to stop".

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Before the interruption both Ascari and Villoresi score nice laps, swapping seat in the cockpit of the Formula 1 car. Lancia will be back in Monza the following week, to resume the preparation of their new racing car: on July 16th, 1954, Lancia tries its new sport cars 3800. This time the seat is alternate between the promising driver Piodi and the two testers Bona and Navona. The new product of the industry from Turin shows great result. It is destined to replace the 3300, winners of different races, such as the Mexican Carrera and the Mille Miglia, for the next competitions. The debut of the Lancias 3800 will allow a fair fight with the foreign competitors. A new Mercedes Sport is also said to be debuting in the international competitions in the same category. The win of the new Mercedes cars in Reims was impressive, but not completely unexpected. Now the Italians are looking for revenge. For this reason the race in Reims is frequently subject of discussion in Turin: Lancia is looking forward to its F1 debut to beat the Germans, but the cars still need to be refined, and this needs time and ability. When will the red team from Turin get on track?

 

"It could happen tomorrow or in a month, or in two months, maybe three or even more. The new situation changed our program".

 

The presence of Ascari and Villoresi, lent for Reims by the Turin manufacturer to Maserati, in addition to being an act of courtesy and allowing the World Champion to defend his chance in the world championship standings, has enabled two Lancia drivers to check from close the possibilities of the Mercedes. The report of the envoys in Reims is naturally kept secret. However, we know that the strength of the Mercedes lies in the recovery. Another good feature of them is, of course, speed. However, the characteristics regarding stability and braking are less satisfactory. In conclusion, it is believed that the first round was favorable to the Germans, but that the other rounds still to be disputed will allow new surprises, starting with the upcoming British Grand Prix. The Germans are also convinced of this, so much so that we are talking about a curious Mercedes project. For the fast circuits, the German manufacturer will adopt the characteristic aerodynamic bodywork tested on Sunday in Reims, while for the less rapid routes the cars will be naked, torpedo-shaped and lighter by several kilograms.

 

Meanwhile, on Sunday 11th July, 1954, the young French driver Maurice Trintignant brings another time Ferrari to the victory at the Rouen Grand Prix. Of the three official Ferraris taking part in the race only the one of the French winner makes it to the chequered flag: at lap 17 González, taking a corner with an excessive speed, loses the control of his car, while Hawthorn is unable to dominate his Ferrari entering a turn of the Des Easarts Circuit, leaving the track and having to retire from the race. From lap 84, being alone at the lead of the race, Trintignant slows down and finishes the race with one lap of advantage on the second classified, Bira, and with five laps of advantage on the third classifies, the British Roy Salvador. It has also been a brave race for the Argentinian Klemar Bucci, who, after having some problems with the engine of his Gordini in the first phase of the competition, was able to reach up from the tenth to the fifth place. The Argentinian driver had also been called at the last minute to substitute the French Jacques Pollet. But unfortunately, despite the skills he showed in the race, he was disqualified for not crossing the finishing line due to the break of the differential gear. The winner Trintignant, despite not being busy in any intense fight with his opponents, such as the Gordinis and the Maseratis, was able to register a new record for the circuit, beating the one scored in the 1953 season by the British Hawthorn on his Ferrari in 2’12’’8. Trintignant registered a new record race lap time race in 2’09’’9 (and an average speed of 141.339 Km/h).

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After successfully presenting the most recent product of its workshops in Reims, Mercedes lines up its cars in Silverstone against the same old opponents. The first test of the renewed Italian-Germanic sports and industrial duel of the postwar period was resolved in favor of the white German racing cars who, at the helm of two aces such as Kling and Fangio, confirmed what everyone thought on the eve: that they were ultra-fast cars, perhaps brought to the limit of the yields allowed by the bottlenecks of the formula. Indeed, in this regard, one could argue about the solution adopted by the Stuttgart technicians to remain within the dictates prescribed by the formula. The engineers that Neubauer directs have devised the new engine for a power supply obtained by injecting petrol directly into the cylinders, by means of special injectors: what, while not adopting a supercharging by centrifugal compression - which would limit the displacement by decreasing it to 750 cc - always means a supercharging; precisely the solution that the FIA ​​wanted to exclude by allowing the manufacturers to reach the maximum permissible volume of two and a half liters of displacement. Injection - both literally and technically - is quite another thing than aspiration. This is a topic that the interested houses should find useful to discuss in the appropriate international forum. About the Silverstone race, valid as a test for the World Drivers' Championship and which has already seen the triumph of the products of the Italian automotive industry, it will be interesting to observe the result of the new direct confrontation between the Ferraris and Maserati, which have engines orthodoxly conceived in respect of Formula 1, and the Mercedes, which benefit from a solution that, in any case, could at least be defined as a hybridism.

 

In addition to the best drivers of the moment - the names of Ascari, Kling, Fangio, Villoresi, Gonzalez, are a guarantee of attraction - the most successful cars will be competing: a comparison, therefore, of men and machines. The drivers of the Italian teams are of excellent class, not inferior, however, to their rivals; as regards the cars, if Reims has proved the Germans right, it will be necessary to observe their behavior in this imminent proof. The English circuit has very different characteristics from that of France: it’s longer and smoother, while the French one is shorter and a more tormented one, with curves and sinuosity that put to test the goodness and safety of driving as well as the quality of the cars. On the eve of the Grand Prix in Reims some doubts arose regarding the road holding and braking qualities of the brand-new Mercedes; if in France the long straights and the low difficulty of the circuit favored the Germanic cars, designed mainly for speed, at Silverstone, on the other hand, it will probably be a different story. Other factors and qualities could have a big influence on the final result. The duty of the German cars is to confirm their superiority as seen in France; on the other hand, the duty of the rival teams and drivers is to demonstrate that in a more varied and more difficult circuit, the possibility of reaching the highest average speed is not everything that matters. The first practice, which takes place on Thursday 15th July, is scarcely indicative. The weather is not favorable and the violent gusts of wind hinder the march and the drivers are advised to use the utmost caution. The fastest is Hawthorn in his Ferrari, which runs at an average speed under 138 km/h.

 

Gonzalez is one second slower, and Fangio's time is also another second slower than the best lap time of the day. The official tests will take place on Friday, when the starting places will be assigned. There is great interest throughout the international automotive world for this new German car test. The equipment available to the German team is impressive: large trucks, workshop vans, private Mercedes-Benz cars including a beautiful 300SL coupé, with Neubauer and Uhlenhaut in attendance. The optimism of the Germans is evident but it doesn’t reach the high tone of the eve of Reims. Both their new racing cars and the white soccer team that won the very recent World Cup in Switzerland were prepared in Stuttgart, and this is considered a good omen. The eleven representative footballers of Germany, in fact, has completed all its training on the private company football ground of Mercedes. This may indeed be very auspicious, even if football players do not function according to the provisions of a precise and well-defined mechanical formula. During the first day of testing the Gordinis drivers aren’t available, while Maseratis cars aren’t ready, as the two large Fiat vans carrying them have arrived at the wrong port, in France. The practice session for the sports cars produces a big stir when the enterprising G. H. Williamson's Riley Nine engine literally collapses from the Morris Minor Tourer in which it was installed.

 

"Mercedes is undoubtedly powerful and their cars are a big threat. But after today’s practices we can say that the situation is not so desperate as we thought it would be. We have a lot of cards in our hand and tomorrow we’ll decide how to play them in the best way".

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These are the words of the Scuderia Ferrari director, whose cars will race on the Silverstone circuit attempting to snatch the win from the fast Mercedes cars driven by Fangio and Kling. The first day of practice on the circuit of Silverstone, where the British Grand Prix will be hosted on Saturday, was a big surprise for the British. It was a general belief that Mercedes (for the first time in England after 16 years of absence) would have immediately shown superiority, but surprisingly the fastest times were registered by two Ferraris, with Mike Hawthorn and José Froilán González. The French Gordinis, as mentioned before, don’t take part in the first practice and will only get in track on Friday. The result obtained by the Ferraris on the German cars, however, must not lead us to believe in easy predictions.

 

"It’s important to remember that we are only in the phase of practice and with every probability both Fangio and Kling still didn’t harness the power of their cars. Practice still was fundamental to contradict those who thought Ferrari wouldn’t stand any chance against Mercedes".

 

The Italian cars represent a more than hard obstacle for the Germans and could also have completely unexpected results. On Friday morning the British newspapers affirm:

 

"The battle of Silverstone will be a race between the Italian and German car industry".

 

The beauty of the Mercedes makes a great impression on the British:

 

"These machines are jewels. It would not arouse any surprise to see elegant models dressed in Christian Dior clothes emerge from them".

 

The number of people in the Mercedes team also made an impression: in addition to the managers there are in fact twelve mechanics, all under the command of a certain Erwin Grepp, defined by the English newspapers as the general of automotive engineering. In a few hours the flag will be lowered and one of the most exciting sports competitions of recent months will begin: the British Grand Prix, which will involve the best racers in the world and the most powerful European cars. Fangio and Kling driving the new Mercedes Benz, after the sensational victory in Reims; González,Trintignant and Hawthorn at the wheel of the Ferraris; Ascari, Villoresi and Marimon with the Maseratis; Peter Collins on the new Vanwall special, and Behra at the wheel of a Gordini. All these men, and all these cars, will be racing around the circuit to conquer the victory. Experts do not dare to make too demanding predictions on the final results of the race. All they say is that Mercedes seems to be the favorite, followed by Scuderia Ferrari and Scuderia Maserati. No one expects great results from the eleven English cars competing, although everyone is eagerly waiting the test of the new Vanwall Special, driven by Peter Collins with who the English millionaire Vanderwell hopes to raise the international prestige of English racing cars (the industrialist Vandervell spent thousands of pounds out of his own pocket to build this car). The focus is therefore on Mercedes, Ferrari and Maserati, and this explains why the newspapers announce:

 

"Today in Silverstone we will see a battle between the resurgent and aggressive German car industry and the now well-established Italian industry".

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Fangio’s crash is the main topic of discussion for the British experts, but fortunately it’s only a trivial matter. The Argentine ace loses control of his car in a turn, slides on the asphalt and lands against an empty barrel placed as a signal. Nothing serious happens and shortly after Fangio leaves the circuit unharmed. The mechanics immediately repair the superficial damage reported by the machine. It has been said that the Mercedes team will start as the favorite: what are the reasons for this position? First of all, the victory in Reims, then the record set by Fangio in testing, who, pushing his car to over 161 km/h, travels the circuit in 1'45 "0. It’s a harsh reality to face for the men of Ferrari, but after all they look resigned and calm. Speaking with the managers and technicians of the Scuderia Ferrari, we note that the latter are pervaded by a much greater serenity than the one of the day of their arrival in England. They justify their trust with solid arguments. Fangio’s lap time was very remarkable, but it should not be overlooked that to make this effort the Argentine driver forced enough to go off the track (the car suffered damage to the bodywork, already repaired during the night by the Mercedes mechanics). Moreover, if Fangio drove the circuit in 1'45 "0, González in his Ferrari completed the same feat in 1'46" 0: only one second slower. It has been ascertained (a point of extreme importance) that Silverstone does not offer Mercedes those decisive advantages as the Reims circuit did.

 

In France the very pronounced aerodynamics of the Mercedes played - for the characteristics of the route - a very notable, indeed decisive part; at Silverstone, on the other hand, Mercedes should only rely on the power of their engines, since on this English circuit, aerodynamics brings only few advantages. In conclusion - to repeat the words of a Ferrari technician - the disappearance of the aerodynamic factor brings a certain balance between the position of the Maranello team and that of Mercedes. The Maserati cars also have a good chance, even if the reigning World Champion, Alberto Ascari, and his teammates Villoresi and Marimon, were unable to test the track because the Maseratis arrived at Silverstone very late and under blinding rain. Thousands of people have already gathered along the circuit, as it never happened before in Silverstone. Not even the rain falling on the circuit and the cold wind dampen the enthusiasm. Nobody wants to miss the great car battle between Germany and Italy. But it will be interesting to see if the Maseratis will succeed in disrupting the predictions made by the British experts, predictions according to which victory can only go to Mercedes or Ferrari. The sunrise on Saturday 17 July 1954 is wet and breezy, but the rain stopped falling on the circuit just in time for the first event of the day, a seventeen-lap race for sports cars up to 1,500cc. Colin Chapman soon overtakes Gammon, and they both manage to overtake Herrmann, who runs in a Porsche.

 

Coombs is not quite as fast, but holds the fourth position on the other Lotus, behind which McAlpine's Connaught has the best of Riseley-Pritchard's Cooper-Connaught and Scott-Brown's Lister-MG, engaged in a nice triangular duel. It is unfortunate that when the Lester-M.G. of Greenwood is the victim of a spin, Watling-Greenwood hits a bale of straw damaging his car. On the other hand, an official Porsche and Reece's Osca beat Parker's Kieft with the new Coventry Climax engine in the 1100 cc class. With dry asphalt but with a strong threat of rain, a few hours later the Formula 1 cars hit the track for the seventh British Grand Prix. The Maserati mechanics face a last-minute difficulty, since oil is leaking from the front of Luigi Villoresi's engine, and they are allowed to replace the car with a spare, with numbers and wheels changed quickly. Fangio's Mercedes, Gonzalez and Hawthorn's Ferraris and Moss's Maserati will start from the front row. In the second row Kling is joined by Salvadori and Jean Behra. The third row includes Collins, Bira, Wharton and Trintignant's Ferrari. In the fourth row follow Parnell, Bucci and Pilette. The next row consists of Gerard's Cooper-Bristol, Beauman's Connaught, Schell's 1953/4 Maserati and Manzon's Ferrari. The rest of the line-up consists of Riseley-Pritchard's Connaught, Gould's Cooper-Bristol, Whitehouse's Connaught, Brandon's Cooper-Bristol, Whitehead's Cooper-Alta, Thorne's Connaught, Marr's Connaught, Marimon's official Maserati, then Villoresi and Mieres aboard the 1953/4 Maserati with 1952 gearbox, which Daponte drove in Rouen, as his car was destroyed by a joke. The reigning World Champion, Alberto Ascari, and Louis Rosier's Ferrari 1953/4, close the starting grid.

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The British flag drops and González takes the lead. Moss manages to overtake Hawthorn and to stay ahead for three laps, but later loses the position. When the race stabilizes after five laps the leader of the race, José Froilán González, leads by five seconds ahead of Fangio, followed by Hawthorn, Moss, Behra and Marimon. Fangio tries to get back to the lead of the race, bringing the gap to just three seconds after ten laps, and just one second after fifteen laps. Meanwhile Stirling Moss overtakes Mike Hawthorn. Louis Rosier, who got off to a bad start, is forced to retire after two laps, due to an engine failure, while Peter Whitehead brings his attention to an oil pipe leak on his Cooper-Alta, and Clemar Bucci's Gordini suffers of spark plug ignition problems. For three laps Stirling Moss precedes Mike Hawthorn, then the British driver's Ferrari returns to precede the compatriot's Maserati for the next sixteen laps. Then Stirling Moss overtakes Mike Hawthorn again, only to suffer the counter overtaking again. At this point Stirling Moss uses all his skills, now under a pouring rain, leaving Mike Hawthorn far behind and equaling the old lap record for five consecutive laps. Returning to the early part of the race, Peter Whitehead retires after only four laps due to an oil leak, while Bill Whitehouse's Connaught is lagging behind due to fuel problems. Alberto Ascari stops for two minutes in the pits, during the ninth lap, to have the steering of his Maserati examined. At the end of the first twenty laps, José Froilán González leads two seconds ahead of Juan Manuel Fangio, while the leading positions remain unchanged.

 

Shortly before, Karl Kling is victim of a bad skid and goes off the road at the Copse while Peter Collins, pushing his Vanwall very effectively, passes the German driver's Mercedes before retiring during the sixteenth lap with a suspected seal failure. Argentine driver Clemar Bucci hits the embankment at Copse, where a new surface is proving to be slippery, retreating in turn during the eighteenth lap. Alberto Ascari retires during the twenty-first lap with valve problems but detects the Maserati of Luigi Villoresi. Reg Parnell is also forced to return to the pits on foot, as his Ferrari stopped on the circuit during the twenty-fifth lap due to an engine problem. That Juan Manuel Fangio may still be a danger to José Froilán González is demonstrated by the fact that they both run at the same speed before the rain starts to fall in greater quantities. Subsequently, the nose of the German car is damaged on both sides when the Argentine driver, sitting in a very low position in a cockpit flanked by the large aerodynamic body, misjudges the direction of the Silverstone circuit and loses third gear. A third of the way of the British Grand Prix, the classification sees José Froilán González in the lead with a five-second advantage over Juan Manuel Fangio, while Stirling Moss precedes Mike Hawthorn's Ferrari, and further back the Gordini of Behra and the Maserati of Marimon follow in fifth and sixth place. Subsequently, Roy Salvadori's Maserati loses a tank strap and the British driver loses four minutes as it is repaired in the pits. Horace Gould's Cooper-Bristol stops on lap forty-fourth due to seizure of the front wheel. Meanwhile, the hopes of the Maserati factory team are all focused on the Argentine driver Onofre Marimon, as Villoresi's car, later driven by Ascari, retires during the fortieth lap due to an oil leak. Roy Salvadori is also forced to retire, during the fifty-third lap, due to a transmission failure.

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After forty-five laps José Froilán González is still in the lead ahead of his compatriot, with a three-second advantage, followed by Stirling Moss, who has a ten-second advantage over Mike Hawthorn, whose engine tends to falter. Jean Behra's brave Gordini is in fifth place and Onofre Marimon's Maserati is four seconds behind the French driver's car. At this point of the Grand Prix, Juan Manuel Fangio has no more reasons to manage the pace, and indeed it seems that he has tried in every way to reach José Froilán González since the beginning of the race. In the rain and with other problems, such as a gear lever that must be kept in fourth gear, the Argentine driver's hopes aboard his Mercedes are so low that in desperation he reaches 9600 rpm. In addition, Stirling Moss, driving in his impeccable style a car that allows him to achieve his virtuosity, approaches the Mercedes of the Argentine driver. Huge applause from the crowd ring out as the British rider takes second position, and soon after Mike Hawthorn overtakes the Argentine driver too. During the sixtieth lap José Froilán González enjoys a nineteen second advantage over Stirling Moss, with Mike Hawthorn trailing by another fifteen seconds, while Juan Manuel Fangio continues to lose ground and is now fourteen seconds off the bottom step of the podium, and a good forty-eight seconds behind Gonzalez's Ferrari. Mercedes' dominance in the British Grand Prix doesn’t materialize as predicted.

 

The race leader continues his progression undisturbed, amidst the downpours of rain, keeping his right foot firmly on the accelerator, not scared of his wheels slipping on the asphalt, unlike Juan Manuel Fangio, who is in clear difficulty. Subsequently, Stirling Moss slightly slows down, while Mike Hawthorn and Onofre Marimon manage to continue regularly on the wet asphalt. After fifty-five laps, Jean Behra's good driving is interrupted by the failure of the Gordini's rear suspension, but André Pilette is still in the race. The spectators feel that a Ferrari victory is very likely to happen, with the British drivers in second and third place. But Stirling Moss’s misfortune never ends, as the rear axle of his Maserati fails with ten laps to go, when he is in second position twenty-four seconds behind the race leader, and twenty-six seconds ahead of Mike Hawthorn. Prince Bira isn’t feeling well and he stops his Maserati in the pits; Ron Flockhart takes his place, but at Copse the British driver overturns for three times the Maserati 250F inherited from the Thai prince. Flockhart is lucky and he’s thrown out of the cockpit. Ferrari's Sporting Director smiles next to the mechanic holding the pit signals for González. When # 1 is lifted, any barriers that may exist between the manager and the mechanic are forgotten, as they joyfully and mutually acknowledge that their task has been successfully completed. Argentine driver José Froilán González wins the British Grand Prix, ahead of teammate Mike Hawthorn and Maserati driver Onofre Marimon, with Juan Manuel Fangio finishing in fourth place, despite the retirement of Stirling Moss. Maurice Trintignant's third Ferrari closes in fifth position, while Roberto Mieres on Maserati, Karl Kling on Mercedes, Ken Wharton on Maserati, André Pilette on Gordini and Bob Gerard on Cooper-Bristol close the top ten.

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The Seventh Grand Prix of the Royal Automobile Club of Great Britain is therefore won by Gonzalez, on a Ferrari. Second comes another Ferrari, with Englishman Mike Hawthorn at the wheel. Marimon finishes third in a Maserati, Fangio fourth in the new Mercedes; in fifth place another Ferrari, followed by two Maseratis. Kling, on the other Mercedes, finishes seventh. The eagerly awaited duel between the Italian and German cars ends with the Italian victory. The race was characterized by continuous emotions according to what the British technicians say, perhaps the most exciting race that has ever been seen in Great Britain. The measure of the effort imposed by the drivers on the cars is given by the number of cars that were put out of action and by the pitiful conditions in which the bodywork of Fangio's car was reduced upon arrival. The track, much less fast than that of Reims, and the bad weather conditions have confirmed that the German cars, although they develop an absolute power and speed somewhat superior to the Italian ones, still do not possess those qualities of road holding that are necessary for every type of race. The Grand Prix, which is the most important race of the year in Great Britain, had very exciting moments against the backdrop of continuous danger due to the amount of water and oil that was on the track. Skidding of several meters were part of normal driving practice, and there were several pirouettes. Gonzalez, who had been preceded a few meters at the start by his teammate Hawthorn, took the lead within the first kilometer, after the Italian car driven by the Englishman had a kind of curious sigh. Since then, for all 90 laps - about 420 kilometers - Gonzalez has not been overtaken by anyone. The Argentine drove with the calm and precision of someone who perfectly possesses his mechanical vehicle. Fangio, almost haunted by the top speed flag that was waved from the Mercedes garage, instead showed off his most daring stunt.

 

The Maseratis proved to be, exactly as the classification reveals, very worthy competitors of the Ferraris and Mercedes, but they were haunted by technical problems: Ascari, who started with the double disadvantage of little training and the second row in the starting line-up, first had to abandon his car and go behind the wheel of Villoresi's, and then had to abandon this one too, since the oil tank was broken. Stirling Moss' Maserati lasted until the 80th lap in second place and then had to retire due to mechanical problems. The Vanwall Special, the car developed by English technicians based on a Ferrari engine, was out of contention after a few laps. Although Fangio had set a new lap record during the last training session, these speeds were impossible to achieve in the race given the inclement weather. Mercedes has thus lost the only real advantage it could count on: that of greater absolute speed. The maneuverability of Italian machines, on the other hand, has acquired enormous importance. The aerodynamic bodywork of the Mercedes proved to be more of a hindrance than a help in this second test. Moss's retirement on lap 80 was a great disappointment for Maserati and the British and paved the way for Mike Hawthorn to queue up to Gonzalez and stay there without difficulty until the finish. Another intensely emotional moment came when Bira stopped, overwhelmed by the fumes from the engine, and had to be carried away from his car. But at the end of the race each expert agreed that, apart from the momentary intense emotion, the most important element of the day is - as an English radio commentator said - the masterpiece of driving accompanied by the technical masterpiece of the Ferrari team. After the race, having collected the trophy and related check, González commented on his race as follows:

 

"Today I had a great car, and once I took the lead I knew that only some technical failure could have impeded my win. The asphalt was slippery because of the rain but I didn’t find it a big problem, since I’m used to race in this typical British weather".

 

The last sentence is followed by a laugh. A Mercedes’ manager explains the reasons behind the delusional race for the German team, saying that Fangio was forced to drive for the last 35 laps with only 2 gears: the third and the fourth, that were also on the verge of breaking.  

 

"More than once Fangio had to change from second to fifth gear".

 

While the sport director of Mercedes, Neubauer, declares he’s not totally let down by the performance of his cars.

 

"If the track would have been dry, Fangio would have easily gotten a better placement at the chequered flag. We will try to get revenge".

 

While in Silverstone the circuit is gradually emptying, around 6:30 p.m., Giuseppe Farina receives a welcome phone call from Enzo Ferrari, who from Modena wants to share his moment of joy, also making his best wishes for the recovery of the Italian driver who can’t wait to be back on his Ferrari seat. Farina had just returned to Turin with his wife after leaving the clinic in which he was recovered; the decision was made after a consult with Professor Dogliotti, who confirmed the possibility of the movement: now the popular driver will be subjected to a new cure, which we all hope will briefly bring him to recovery.

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For the big public the Mercedes’ defeat in Silverstone was a cold shower, cooling down the warm enthusiasm that followed the brilliant affirmation of the Germans in France. The German newspapers mention a state of surprise for the Ferrari success and superficially analyse the defeat as a consequence of Fangio’s unluck, forced to drive his car with only one hand. Fangio – as the newspapers tell – lead a part of the race with reduced speed in a condition of inferiority compared to his rivals. The technicians and those who better know about racing, admitting the partial truth of these affirmations, have another opinion: the results of the race didn’t really surprise any of the experts; actually, no one was expecting anything better from Mercedes.

 

"Mercedes’ possibilities are what they are, but surely those recently revealed in the French Grand Prix can’t be doubted. In Silverstone happened what we had already predicted: the line of the bodywork turned out to be less adapt for that type of track, and this impeded Fangio from approaching the corners with that security and mathematical precision that would have been necessary. González was advantaged in the corners, as we all saw, but Fangio was gaining seconds in the straights. Honestly, we have to admit that the Mercedes technicians doubted their attendance at the British Grand Prix, but because of the high pressure they were forced to accept the risk of the race".

 

In the end the day in Silverstone didn’t shake the confidence that the technicians place in the virtues of Mercedes, whose cars are still considered unsurpassable:

 

"Next race is at Nürburgring, in Germany, and this time the line of the bodywork will not overshadow the efficiency of our machines".

 

The Italian success at the British Gran Prix is announced on every British newspaper in these words:  

 

"The Italian automotive industry defeats the German industry. Germany is crashed by the Italian superiority. The Italian demonstrated once more to be the masters in the construction of racing cars".

 

The judgement proclaimed though these press headlines is shared by everyone in Great Britain, where the Italian victory mad a great and deep impression.

 

"We knew that the Italian cars were fast and powerful, but we would have never imagined that they could be able to sensationally defeat the new Mercedes".

 

The same experts celebrating Ferrari and Maserati want to give them some advice: be proud and satisfied but don’t flatter yourself, because Mercedes, with some bodywork modifications and on different tracks, can again become a threat.

 

"Ferrari can aim to a bis".

 

Exclaims Giuseppe Farina from the clinic in Turin in which he has been recovered. The ex-World Champion is enthusiastic for the clamorous victory of Ferrari, despite the regret of not participating in a race in which he could have easily made a good impression. The regret is increased by the fact that in 15 days, on the 1st of August, the sixth race of the season will be held in Germany, at the Nürburgring, where in the previous year, 1953, Farina won both the Grand Prix and the 1000 Km paired with Ascari.

 

"Staying in a bed in Turin, feeling anxiety thinking about my return to the competitions, and with the memory of those two successes that proved that I could have some possibility of victory on the German circuit… it’s hard. If only these two burns would leave me alone. I still have tremendous pain. Not even if I sum up all the fractures I experienced in my whole carrier I can think of suffering as I’m doing now with these third-degree burns. At night I still have flashbacks of those few seconds where I literally escaped death. At the Nürburgring the Germans will have the advantage of racing at home, and the Ferraris will find a circuit much more complicated than the one of Silverstone, with turns, ups and downs. But I still believe that Ferrari can win".

 

Assisted by his wife and awaiting for recovery, Giuseppe Farina is frequently visited by friends and sportsmen. On Sunday, 18th of July, in between other visitors, Carrioli and Valenzano also show up, the latter being ready for his Maserati debut in the Aosta-Gran San Bernardo programmed for the following Sunday.

 

Simone Pietro Zazza

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