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#67 1958 Netherlands Grand Prix

2021-04-21 00:00

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#67 1958 Netherlands Grand Prix

Lunedì 26 Maggio 1958, a soli otto giorni dal Gran Premio di Monaco, si disputerà a Zandvoort il Gran Premio d'Olanda, terza prova del Campionato Mond

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Monday, May 26th, 1958 only eight days before the Monaco Grand Prix, it’ll be held at Zandvoort the Netherlands Grand Prix, third round of the Formula 1 World Championship. The closeness of the two races makes contrasts with the rules of the International Sports Code, which prescribes a break of 15 days at least between two races valid for the title. But the International Sports Commission bowed their heads in front of the Dutch organizers and the race will happen. To no avail were the sacrosanct protests of Ferrari, which had even threatened to forfeit. Fifteen days between the races not only allow the constructors to put the cars back in place, but they are essential for the drivers to regain the mental balance that every race tends to weaken. But clearly the CSI does not have the right authority to enforce the regulations. The Netherlands Grand Prix is still awaited with great curiosity after the disconcerting results of the Monegasque race last Sunday. For every team in the race it will be about confirming or denying or modifying the impressions given in Monaco. Zandvoort’s circuit traced between high sand dunes, has quite different characteristics from the urban one in the tiny Principality: while it is decidedly eventful, it allows significantly higher speeds, and above all more resources for the drivers. For example, it is difficult, not to say impossible, for the Cooper to find such favourable employment opportunities there as in Monte Carlo, while it is likely that the Ferrari will be able to express all its qualities this time. As for the Vanwalls and B.R.M.'s, based on the findings of the last performance, the conclusion should be drawn that a week is not enough to complete a still uncertain set-up. Unless the failures that occurred on Sunday concern simple details that are easily obvious.

 

If the technical reasons for the Dutch Grand Prix are therefore only relatively interesting (they will certainly be more so in a month's time, when the constructors have resolved the problems that have emerged in these first races of the season), certain importance the race will have from a sporting point of view, that is, in the development of the fight for the world title, which currently has Luigi Musso as the leader with 12 points, against the 8 of Moss and Trintignant. At Zandvoort this ranking could take more precise contours, and define whether, as sportsmen's predictions indicate, the confrontation will be confined this year between Musso and Stirling Moss. The Zandvoort circuit measures 4,193 meters. It will have to be run seventy-five times for a total of 314.475 kilometres. The record has belonged since 1956 (in the last two years the Dutch Grand Prix had been suppressed due to a decision made by the Dutch organizers, which matured after the tragic accident that occurred during the 24 Hours of Le Mans during the 1955 edition) to Fangio in a Mercedes, averaging 144.268 km/h over one hundred laps; Mieres in a Maserati, on the other hand, holds the lap record at 149.601 km/h. The same protagonists will find themselves on the difficult, fast Dutch track, strong with more experience but, as mentioned, facing different technical problems from those that emerged on the Monte Carlo circuit. Despite the limited time available, the engineers of the teams beaten last Sunday should have been able to partially remedy the problems complained of, and since the race terrain has very different characteristics this time, it is fair to expect quite a different outcome from Zandvoort.

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The last time that a Grand Prix was held at Zandvoort was in 1955, the year that Mercedes-Benz conquered all the opposition, and since then the KNAC, who organise the race, felt they could not afford the capital outlay to run a World Championship event. However, this year preliminary work has been started early and there is sufficient financial backing to enter the Dutch Grand Prix once more in the list of races for Formula 1 to count for the World Championship. Coming as it does just one week after Monaco it means that the Grand Prix teams have to hustle about to get ready in time, but with the first practice being on Saturday it is not impossible and all the teams from Monaco are present. Three of the four Vanwalls at Monaco are flown back to England from Nice the Monday after the race and are overhauled at the factory and flown out to Calais, by which time the transporters have driven up from the South of France. The B.R.M., Lotus and Cooper teams do not return home travelling direct from Monte Carlo to Zandvoort, while the Ferrari team go back to Maranello for service, as do the private Maseratis. The Saturday practice is divided into two sessions, one in the morning and another in the afternoon, so that any faults discovered in the morning can be rectified in the lunch hour and the cars try again in the afternoon. Moss, Brooks and Lewis-Evans are out in the Vanwalls, finding the smooth surface of the Zandvoort circuit particularly kind to roadholding characteristics, though those of the Vanwalls are not ideally suited to all the corners. Collins, Hawthorn and Musso are finding their V6 Ferraris have too lunch understeer and though possessing lots of bhp it is coming in rather suddenly, while the change to oversteer is too sudden and too late.

 

B.R.M. are extremely happy and Behra is an obvious favourite, while Schell is going surprisingly quickly, due, it is said, to having received the gypsy’s warning after his miserable efforts at Monaco. They have the old 1957 car available as a training car, the two 1958 cars forming the mainstay of the team. In the Cooper works team Salvadori and Brabham have changed cars since Monaco, the Australian now having the 1.960cc-engined car and Salvadori the 2.2-litre car. Lotus have now produced their larger engine, also of 2.2-litres, from Coventry-Climax, and fitted it to Allison’s car, Hill still having the 1.960cc version. The Rob Walker team are present and correct, with Trintignant in the 1958 Cooper, fresh from its Monaco victory, and they are in the happy state of having their 1957 car as a standby. To complete the field there are three Maseratis belonging to Bonnier, Scarlatti and Gould, the Swedish driver’s car having had a quick rebuild after its Monaco crash. This makes a total of 16, which is usually considered sufficient for a Grand Prix, but as a sop to Holland their number one driver, de Beaufort, is allowed to enter with his Porsche Spyder RS, and it is hoped that he keeps out of the way of the Grand Prix cars. When the last Grand Prix was run at Zandvoort in 1955 it was the Argentine driver Mieres with a Maserati who set up the lap record with a time of 1'40"9, though in practice that year Fangio had recorded 1'40"0. Now, in 1958, bearing in mind the obvious progress in Grand Prix car design that should have taken place during 1956 and 1957, it is reasonable to suppose that 1'40"0 may be a simple target to beat, for the track has not been altered in any way since 1955.

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The Vanwall team soon show that they have moved on over the years and it is not long before Moss and Brooks are well below 1'40"0, and as it is Brooks’ first visit to the track he does well to be only 1sec behind his team leader, who has made 1'38"0. After his talking-to, Schell responds nobly and clocks 1'39"6, while the only other driver/car combination to show the results of two years of learning is Hawthorn, with a time of 1'39"7. The new cars are a little out of their element on the Dutch track and are not approaching the bogey time, the two Lotuses being hopelessly undergeared. The end of the first practice sees Moss leading, closely followed by Brooks, and Lewis-Evans in fifth place, so they decide not to practice in the afternoon. The three B.R.M.s are spot-on so they merely sit in an orderly row while the drivers and mechanics lunch, but both Ferrari and Lotus are juggling about with final-drive ratios. The morning has been overcast and windy, and the afternoon is no better, occasional showers of rain falling, but between these there is plenty of activity. The three Ferrari drivers are trying hard, Musso in particular being keen to put up a good show, his second places in the first two World Championship events having given him a good lead on points. B.R.M. do some more training and Flockhart joins in on the spare car as it is hoped that he can be added to the list of runners as a last-minute entry, and Behra and Schell continue to show that the morning times are not a fluke, the number one driver getting down to 1'38"8. Towards the end of the afternoon Ferrari and B.R.M. pack up and go home and Zandvoort takes on the appearance of Brands Hatch with the Lotus team vying with the Cooper team to clock times below 1'40"0, and Trintignant in the Walker car also joining in the fun.

 

Allison in the 2.2-litre Lotus beat the bogey time, as does Trintignant, the little Frenchman trying really hard, so much so that he spins right round on one lap, and shortly afterwards Allison does the same thing, but luckily there is no damage in either camp. Salvadori and Hill can not better 1'40"0, the former clocking that time exactly and the latter being 0.5sec slower, but Brabham pulls a crafty one and gets himself credited with 1'38"5, a time he personally achieves but not in his own car. It is Salvadori’s turn to have the 2.2-litre and, thanks to some quickly removable plastic numbers, Brabham puts his number on the 2.2-litre, records 1min 38.5sec and then puts the number back on his own car! Things are definitely warming up for whereas before lunch there are only four drivers below 1'40"0. there are now nine, being Moss, Brabham, Behra, Brooks, Musso, Schell, Hawthorn, Trintignant and Allison, with only 1.9 sec between the first and ninth. Next morning the track is given a rest but at 3:00 p.m. it all starts again and everyone is out, including the three Vanwalls, and though the engines are behaving perfectly there is a certain amount of discord among the drivers for Lewis-Evans has asked to have his alloy front wheels replaced by the older-type wire-spoke wheels and is finding the handling of his car apparently more suited to the circuit. This leaves Moss and Brooks with the new alloy front wheels and when Lewis-Evans begins to approach their lap times they feel it must be something to do with improved steering, so Moss tries the car and finds it nearly half a second a lap quicker.

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Whether there is any sound technical reason for all this or whether it is a simple matter of psychology, is hard to say, but there might have been something to it for undoubtedly the wire-spoke wheel can flex on a corner and give a different slip-angle relative to the steering geometry and the steering wheel, whereas the alloy wheel is fundamentally more rigid and would certainly give a different feel to the steering, all other things being equal. As the tyres on the wire wheels on Lewis-Evans car are not the same as those on the alloy wheels of the day before, all things are not equal, so that most of the controversy that arises can be put down to cockpit trouble. A simple answer would have been to make a quick change of wheels, but that is not possible as it is a major operation to remove the alloy wheels, the centre fixing nut not only keeping the wheel in place, but also retaining the wheel races, while the brake disc is attached to the alloy wheel by eight nuts and bolts. Even then, when all this is removed, the inner tracks of the wheel races have to be pulled off the stub axle, and then the normal splined hub and its races can be pressed onto the stub axle and the stub axle nut replaced and split-pinned. In spite of all this apparent difficulty and dissension in the Vanwall team the cars are very much faster than all the opposition, which is probably why the three drivers have time to fuss about so much; have the B.R.M.s and Ferraris been going faster they would have been too busy trying to make good times to worry too much about the handling. Throughout the two hours of practice there is immense activity and more and more cars are getting down below 1'40"0, so that the first three rows of the starting grid are being decided by tenths of seconds or the trembling of a time-keeper’s hand.

 

The Lotus cars are looking beautifully steady but are not quite as fast as the Coopers, while Brabham is really enjoying himself and broadsiding many of the corners. Of the three private Maseratis, Bonnier is easily the fastest until Gould lends his car to Masten Gregory, who is on holiday in the pits, whereupon Bonnier takes a back seat for Gregory drives some beautifully smooth and fast laps and clocked 1'42"0, so that Gould immediately nominates the American as his driver and becomes a patron himself. This makes Bonnier really try hard but he can get no closer than 1'42"3, while Scarlatti is more than two seconds slower, all of which is most amusing as Gould’s car is not exactly the ultimate in 250F Maseratis. The three Vanwalls are complete masters of the practice and before they finish for the afternoon Moss does a remarkable 1'37"2 in the Lewis-Evans car, which is by far the fastest lap of the day, though it does not count, not being in his own car, but then Lewis-Evans gets in the car as if to stake his claim on what is obviously a good car, and with apparent ease does 1'37"1 which rather embarrasses Moss, and the Ferrari drivers goad him on to do a Fangio and make a faster lap, but he does not rise to the bait; the Vanwalls are all in the front row and that is good enough for him. Right at the end of practice there is a momentary hush as Graham Hill spins off the road in a big way in the 1.9-litre Lotus and disappears backwards over a sharp edge on the sand dunes; fortunately he lands right way up, shaken but undamaged, and at last knowing the ultimate limit of the Lotus’ cornering power. Although it has landed from a height of some four feet the car is quite undamaged and after being lifted bodily back onto the road it is driven back to the pits just after practice finishes. Whether the third B.R.M. starts or not depends on anyone falling out during practice and the Bounrne interest in Hornsey for a short time is acute, but to no avail for the Lotus has proved to be stronger than it looks and all is well.

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It is very much a repetition of Monaco, with green cars dominating the field and the first red car in row three, once again driven by Hawthorn, so that no-one can deny the dominance of the British, but there are now 75 non-stop laps to cover, not just one quick one. With thirteen cars under 140"0, and only 2.7 sec between them, no one can say Grand Prix racing is becoming dull from the competition point of view, even if it is not so exciting technically. With the three Vanwalls in the front row and after the way they have set the pace in practice it looks as though they might pull off a 1-2-3, but Behra and Schell in the 1958 B.R.M.s can not be ignored while it is hard to believe that the Ferrari team are really outclassed. Since the technical exercise the day before Moss has decided to have his car converted back to the heavy splined front hubs and wire wheels, and as there are only two sets available Brooks has to retain the alloy wheels. All three cars keep the alloy wheels on the rear. The sky is dull and cloudy and there is a strong cold wind blowing in from the sea, so that when the start is delayed for half an hour because of some difficulties with the fire-brigade on duty round the circuit, the cars and drivers become somewhat chilly. By 2:30 p.m. on monday 26 May, 1958, everything is under control and the flag falls to a perfect start, all seventeen cars getting away in a tight jostling bunch. The Vanwall team are so busy keeping eyes on each other and also seeing that there is no room for Behra to nip through from row two that they overlook Schell in row three, and he is in amongst them as they go round the first corner. Along behind the pits the order is Moss, Lewis-Evans, Schell, Brooks, with Behra being hounded by Coopers and Ferraris.

 

In this pushing-and-shoving someone bumps the back of Brooks’ car and after two laps he thinks it is handling oddly so he comes into the pits to see if a wheel or something is bent. The order of the race is Moss, Lewis-Evans, Schell, Salvadori, Behra, Brabham, Hawthorn, Collins, Trintignant, Allison, Musso and the rest, and many of the drivers are beginning to find their cars handling in a peculiar fashion on certain parts of the circuit due to the strong cross-wind blowing gustily between the sand dunes. Some, like Moss and Brabham, realise what is happening, while others, like Salvadori and Brooks, think something is broken on the suspension. After his pit stop Brooks sets off right at the back of the field, still not convinced of the handling of his car, and he is lapping much slower than his team-mates. Moss is in grand form and is leaving everyone behind him, driving a smooth, perfect race, and by eight laps there is no-one in sight behind him as he comes past the pits looking his typical calm and relaxed self. Behind him Lewis-Evans is holding second position but Schell is closing up rapidly, the B.R.M. with full tanks apparently handling better than the Vanwall with full tanks, and on lap 12 Schell gets by on the inside of the hairpin behind the pits and takes second place. Both B.R.M.s are sounding very healthy, though Behra is all tangled up in a scrap for fifth place, this consisting of the B.R.M., Hawthorn, Collins, Brabham and Allison, these five lapping in a solid bunch. Salvadori in the 2.2-litre Cooper has got himself firmly in fourth place when Brooks stops at the pits and while the five cars behind him are getting in each other’s way he pulls out a long lead on them. Poor Musso, who has been holding out great hopes for a good place in this race, makes a poor start and is having to work his way up from 13th place.

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Moss is just going on and on into an unassailable lead and Schell has outdistanced Lewis-Evans, who is equally a long way ahead of Salvadori, so that very early in the race the first four cars are spread out in a high-speed procession. Moss has already lapped the last car, which is de Beaufort’s Porsche, and by lap 13 he is not far off lapping Brooks, who is making poor progress since his pit stop, lapping in 1'43"0. compared with 1'39"0 for Moss and 1'40"0 for Lewis-Evans. Before suffering the indignity of being lapped by his team leader Brooks comes in and gives up as the handling of his car just isn’t right, causing him great anguish on the fast back swerves on the circuit even at the low speed at which he is lapping. Among the tail-enders Gregory is going extremely well in Gould’s Maserati, ahead of Bonnier and Scarlatti and even ahead of Trintignant and Hill, but as the Maserati goes past the pits on lap 17 it pops and bangs, and disappears out of sight sounding as if bits are going to fly in all directions. Much to the relief of its owner the trouble is only a defective fuel feed and the Maserati comes to rest with no means of getting petrol to the carburetters. The scrap in the centre of the field resolves itself into two parts, with Hawthorn and Behra together and Collins trying to get rid of Brabham and Allison; after getting the Ferrari ahead of the Cooper and the Lotus for a couple of laps, Collins lets Allison by again and the Lotus then draws away leaving Brabham to nibble at the Ferrari tail, and a few laps later Musso catches them up and joins in. On lap 15 Behra at last gets past Hawthorn, and having a clear track ahead of him for the first time since the start he is able to get motoring and catch up Salvadori, but there is little hope of catching anyone else, especially Moss, who is still forging ahead and some 15 sec in front of Schell.

 

By 20 laps Beira is right behind Salvadori and in front on lap 21, now in fourth position but not close enough to Lewis-Evans in third place to cause the Vanwall pit any concern. Collins, Brabham and Musso are now nose-to-tail and Moss has them in his sights ready to lap them, which gives a good impression of his rate of progress. At this point Hill fails to go by and later comes running into the pits with the tiny Lotus in tow, its engine having gone dead. This is traced to one of the ignition contact points having broken off, and after fitting a new one he rejoins the race right at the back of the field, nine laps behind the leader. Musso is now making progress and gets by Brabham and then gets by Collins, and all three catch Allison, while Moss is right behind about to lap them. On lap 35, as Moss gets past Brabham, Collins spins off due to a gearbox seizure, and Moss then laps Musso and after that Allison, for there is nobody capable of stopping the meteoric flight of the Vanwall. Schell is 25 sec behind, followed by Lewis-Evans, Behra, Salvadori and Hawthorn, the Ferrari driver trying really hard to overcome the unsuitable handing of his car. At the back of the field nothing very exciting is happening; Trintignant is leading Bonnier, while Scarlatti retires with rear-end trouble and Hill is in trouble with overheating on the Lotus, eventually retiring when the head gasket breaks. Moss goes on piling up his lead, setting a new lap record at 1min 38.0sec, later to improve on this and continually circulating in under 1'40"0, so that by lap 42 he has 28 sec, lead over Schell, 48sec over Lewis-Evans and 64sec over Behra. Apart from this, of course, there is the truly wonderful sight of four British Grand Prix cars running 1-2-3-4 with Salvadori’s 2.2-litre Cooper following, and Hawthorn’s is the only red car not to be lapped by the leader. However, this does not last for long and on lap 48 Moss is right behind him.

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The satisfaction of this is dulled somewhat by Lewis-Evans running into trouble for as he goes by the pits on lap 45 there is an ominous puff of smoke from the Vanwall’s exhaust pipe, and when he stops at the end of the next lap it is found that a valve-spring holder has broken and the valve has dropped onto the piston, and that is that. There are still 30 laps to run and only one Vanwall left, but it is sounding healthy enough and Moss is looking as confident as ever, while the B.R.M.s, now in second and third places, are running superbly, these 1958 models making up for all the faults of the earlier cars. After lapping Hawthorn the leading Vanwall then laps Salvadori and is not far off lapping Behra while Schell in second place is also lapping the cars at the end of the field, and as the race enters its last 10 laps he is getting ready to lap Musso, who is in seventh place. With five laps to go Moss has 48sec lead over Schell, which amounts to just on half a lap, while he has almost a lap lead on Behra. On lap 70 Schell comes up behind Hawthorn to lap the Ferrari but the Farnham driver thinks otherwise. To be lapped by Moss in a Vanwall is an indignity he can stomach but to be lapped by Schell in a B.R.M. is more than Hawthorn can stand and he presses-on madly with Schell trying to get past. Leaving the 180-deg turn at the end of the straight the B.R.M. gets by but takes to the grass and the Ferrari goes ahead again, three more laps being covered before Hawthorn waves Schell by. Moss looks as thinks he can have lapped Behra but there is little point in it and he finishes the race a convincing and worthy winner, with only the two B.R.M.s on the same lap. While not being an exciting race it has been a wonderful demonstration of Britain’s supremacy in Grand Prix racing and the B.R.M.s has at last proved their worth. While the Acton team are busy battling against the Bourne team their impetus has thoroughly trounced the Maranello team.

 

A not inconsiderable show of strength on the part of British driver Stirling Moss, especially considering the almost fifty-second gap to Harry Schell at the end of the seventy-four laps scheduled for the race. Although, following the retirements of Brooks and Lewis-Evans, there still remain several doubts and some concerns about the reliability of the Vanwall, which proves to be as fast as it is fragile. B.R.M., after winning the first two races, collects with a second and third place, once again showing an excellent level of competitiveness; Schell and Behra, by the way, are the only two drivers not to be lapped by Stirling Moss. Roy Salvadori ended the race in fourth place, in the Cooper-Climax, ahead of Mike Hawthorn's Ferrari, lapped and never having a real chance to get at least close to third place, useful to get on the podium. Allison's Lotus did well, sixth ahead of Luigi Musso's Ferrari. The track passed its judgment: in Holland as many as five British cars occupied the first six positions, showing an almost resounding superiority over the Ferraris. Stirling Moss, after the first three races, enjoys the lead in the standings with an impressive 17 points, followed by Luigi Musso, stationary at 12. In light of these prerogatives, it looks like a triumphant ride could begin for the British driver, which could lead him to win the much-coveted rainbow crown, after Fangio's semi-retirement from racing.

 

Simone Pietro Zazza

 

Translated by Alessia Borelli

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