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#73 1958 Portuguese Grand Prix

2021-04-15 00:00

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#1958,

#73 1958 Portuguese Grand Prix

Il 6 Luglio 1958 è caduto a Reims Luigi Musso; il 3 Agosto, sul circuito del Nurburgring, Peter Collins è rimasto vìttima dello stesso atroce destino

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On 6 July 1958, Luigi Musso passed in Reims. On 3 August, at the Nürburgring circuit, Peter Collins was a victim of the same atrocious fate as his teammate. But motor racing does not stop and, unfortunately, the good intentions expressed in the aftermath of the death of a driver come back in a hurry, it goes on as if by inertia, without worrying about studying those measures that could at least reduce and limit the chances of risk. Sunday, August 24 1958, the Portuguese Grand Prix will be held in Oporto, the ninth round of the world championship drivers. The title fight is drawing to a finale: after the Portuguese race, only two races will remain on the calendar: the Italian Grand Prix in Monza and the Moroccan Grand Prix in Casablanca. And yet nothing is decided in the duel between Hawthorn and Moss, bearers of Ferrari and Vanwall, respectively with 30 and 24 points (Brooks, 16 points, seems now cut off from the fight). In the last analysis, the Hawthorn-Moss comparison is nothing more than a transfer at the sporting level of the confrontation between Ferrari and Vanwall, cars whose superiority over their opponents had been delineated since the Monaco Grand Prix. And if the British team boasts three victories against the two of the Italian one, the balance is still intact, all in all. Ferrari has proved to be so far more competitive overall, if only for its ability to hold at a distance. The fight is very open and in all likelihood, it will continue with as much uncertainty until the last race. Yet, a very serious factor came against Ferrari: the loss of fifty per cent of the team’s drivers, men who could very well be considered at the level of both Moss and Hawthorn for technical ability and ranking position. Apart from the weakening of the team, there is an equally serious negative psychological factor. It is recalled that the day after Collins’ death resolutions of renunciation and withdrawal were attributed to Enzo Ferrari, which - if implemented - would have had very valid justifications. The manufacturer of Modena has decided to possibly revise the programs of competitive activity at the end of the season. As we said, his driver Mike Hawthorn has a good chance of winning the world title: think what you want, but both the English driver and Ferrari have every interest in not dropping this probability.

 

Though, it seems that Ferrari does not intend, at least for the moment, to fill in the gaps left by Musso and Collins. There had been talks in recent days about the American Phil Hill, a driver not new to driving the Ferrari, at least of sport type (paired with poor Collins, Hill had won this year the 1000 Kilometres of Buenos Aires and the 12 Hours of Sebring), then it didn’t happen. Ferrari has sent to Oporto two cars, one destined for Hawthorn, the other, it seems, for Trips; but it is not far-fetched that only one car will be aligned to the start. These are the hard consequences of a sad season for the Italian brand, left alone to defend the national colours against the British offensive. The other teams were untouched: Moss, Brooks and Lewis-Evans on Vanwall, Behra and Schell on the enigmatic B.R.M., Trintignant, Brabham and Salvadori on Cooper, Gregory, Bonnier, Troy Ruttman and Maria Teresa De Filippis on Maserati of the Scuderia Centro-Sud. The Grand Prix of Portugal is taken up only this year as the World Championship test honour. In the past, and rather rare in Oporto, they had, almost always, competed in sports cars. The circuit of the Atlantic city is drawn on peripheral avenues, with a couple of straights and a long stretch of mixed. It has a development of 7407 meters and you can reach average speeds above 155 km/h. It is hoped that the elevated pavements that largely surround the road and that constitute in every street circuit one of the greatest dangers for the drivers (along one of the avenues also run the tram rails) have been suppressed. Unfortunately, many organizers and the same highest authorities of motorsports often give evidence of intolerable lightness. Something has been done to safeguard the spectators but they do not think about the drivers, with the justification that they know what they are risking. The death of car drivers does not stop competitive activity. The gaps are filled and those concerned, old and young, continue, as if, intoxicated by a thin poison, they could no longer live without it. But possibly the explanation on the normal level is a little too simplistic. Recently, just after Collins' miserable death, Stirling Moss, the biggest driver today after Fangio, was asked: Will you keep racing?

 

"I am shocked, as are my other companions. The first reaction was to stop, but I’m sure, despite everything, I will continue. I have races in my blood and a great desire to win many".

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For drivers, it is not in ambition or money or love of adventure that one must seek an explanation for this free choice of a way of life. Perhaps there is something higher, a conception of human courage ennobled by an endless series of deaths. But is it really necessary to try to understand? Races continue (some talk about suppressing them in Italy; certainly not in Great Britain, for example, or in the United States, where car activity has never been so intense). The races continue and the drivers do not even dream of hanging up their helmets. Fangio did it, but now old after taking all the satisfactions and reaching all the goals that a man can desire. Sunday, August 24 1958, everyone will be in Oporto, in the Portuguese Grand Prix, for the third last round of the World Championship. There is waiting for this race, which happens at such a delicate time for motorsport. There is also waiting because of the very human reason that characterizes eve. As previously said, it was thought that Ferrari would retire, so cruelly torn by the recent losses of men. Hastily someone had suggested drivers' names to replace the disappeared, without taking into account - among other things - that the brand of Modena had also destroyed two of its very expensive cars, which can certainly not be rebuilt from week to week. To sum up, Enzo Ferrari has decided to send to Oporto two cars (of which, probably, a training forklift) and to make race only Hawthorn, who has every right to defend his position as world leader. Trips is likely entrusted with the second car, but the Italian brand will fight in obvious conditions of inferiority. This is why the participation of Ferrari in the last races of the season takes on a particular meaning, it becomes something more than a simple sporting gesture.

 

The situation seems to meet the chances of Stirling Moss and Vanwall, seriously committed to recovering the disadvantage of points against Hawthorn, who will have to fight alone against rival countrymen. Even in car racing, the numerical preponderance can be important. Whatever happens at the Portuguese Grand Prix, nothing will be decided mathematically. There will still be racing in Monza and Casablanca and they will have to update the ranking according to the regulation, which provides for the counting of points based on the six best results of each driver in the eleven championship races held this year. We’ll start counting tomorrow night. Although six previous Portuguese Grand Prix events have been held, starting in 1950 and fluctuating between the Porto circuit and the Lisbon Circuit, they have all been for sports cars and, strictly speaking, not Grand Prix races at all. This year a full-scale Formula 1 event has been organized and, in addition, it forms a round in the Drivers’ World Championship series, so the town of Porto and the Boavista circuit have been really put on the map for the Grand Prix circus turned out in full. Of course, the town of Porto has long been on the map for drinkers of Port wine, one bank of the river which dissects the town being covered in famous factories in the Port industry. The town also has another claim to fame, in being, like Venice or Florence, spelt differently by the English, we putting an O in front of the Portuguese spelling, calling it Oporto. In spite of not having had a Grand Prix race on their circuit before, or in Portugal, the organizers and members of the Automobile Club Of Portugal are used to distinguished visitors from the motoring world, previous sports-car races being won by such drivers as Bonetto, Villoresi, Castellotti, Behra, Salvadori on the Porto circuit, and Fangio, Moss , Gonzalez and Gregory on the Lisbon circuit.

 

The circuit of Porto is a true road-circuit and one of the last of the real street races, containing all the normal hazards of a town, including tram-lines, kerbstones, cobbles, drains, trees, lampposts, pillar-boxes and so on. Those drivers who had not seen it before are slightly taken aback, for it is fast and long, while those who had driven in previous sports-car races wonder how much faster the Grand Prix cars will turn the lap. Being a new circuit in the Grande Epreuve series, it justifies an early arrival and the covering of a number of laps before any practice begin, and is found to be most interesting. From the start the pits are on the right and the circuit enters a vast roundabout or open place, making a double-left turn across tram-lines in the opposite direction to normal traffic, and turns up the Avenida da Boavista. This is a long double-track road with the tramway down the centre, and the circuit runs up the left-hand carriageway, going uphill and dead straight. After a little more than two kilometres it swings sharp left into another climbing main road, surfaced with cobbles and having tram-lines on the right-hand side. Just short of a kilometre the road levels out and the circuit turnsleft again into a narrow side turning and between houses and shops, the two previous long straights being lined by large residences with sumptuous gardens. After sweeping right and left the route joins a very smooth-surfaced, high-speed, winding descent that csn only be described as Fangio Country and thin road ran back down to the sea front, where a double left sweep across more tram-lines and cobbles brings the road into the short finishing straight. It i not a difficult circuit to learn from the point of view of shape and direction but many of the corners left a number of different approaches available, whether to dodge the tram-lines or the bumps, or both, or ignore both, and so on.

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Though Vanwalls have been winning GP races they have never been really happy about the temperature at which the engine oil has been running, so before going to Portugal, where intense heat is normal, the cooling system of the four cars taken hass been modified. Until now the radiator core has been in three separate compartments, divided horizontally, top and bottom units being used for oil, one for the engine and the other for the gearbox, and the larger central portion being the engine water cooling element. For the Portuguese race the whole of the main radiator is used for water and a separate cooling element mounted on a tubular structure above the main radiator is used for oil, engine and gearbox systems now being in one unit. This additional radiator protruded above the nose of the car and has a ducted entry and exit forming a large bulge on the once smooth profile of the Vanwall. In putting the two cooling elements separate the degree of heat-exchange in the old system is lost and no real improvement in overall cooling is gained. It would now seem to be standard that the Vanwall uses wire-spoke front wheels and alloy rear ones, While the front suspension has bracing struts to the top wishbones and steering dampers are used, and all ears have vertical rear wheels now. Provision has been made for three Scuderia Ferrari entries but, in fact, only two cars are present, a normal Formula 1 Dino 246 for Hawthorn to drive and the experimental Monza car with coil rear springing and side-mounted oil tank, which was used in practice at Nurburgring, and was driven by von Trips, though the English driver tries it during practice. After Nurburgring B.R.M. finds some flaws in the chassis frame so some stiffening has been added, notably to the front suspension supporting members and the lower rear radius-arm attachments which are outrigged from the main frame.

 

Both cars are fitted with the intermediate oil cooling system as tried at Reims, in which the oil tank remains mounted beneath the exhaust manifold, suitably insulated from the heat of the pipes, and a cylindrical oil-cooler with horizontal air tubes running through it is mounted on the right of the engine beneath the Weber carburetters. Cooper Cars have their usual pair of works cars, the 2.2-litre for Brabham and the 2-litre for Salvadori, more 2.2-litre engines being impossible to come by RRC Walker sent his old 1957 Cooper, with 2-litre engine and 1958 gearbox, it being taken on a trailer behind the works Cooper van. The two 1958 Lotus single-seaters are basically those used at the Nurburgring, the one damaged in practice having a new nose cowling of slightly modified shape, this being the car with the gearbox unit mounted on the honk as they say in Hornsey, or in other words set at an angle to the centreline of the car. This car, with 2-litre engine and inside exhaust system is driven and crashed by Allison in practice, being a virtual write-off. The second car with in-line gearbox has the 2.2-litre engine, outside exhaust pipes and is driven by Hill, both cars having the engine set over to the left. some 17 degrees. To complete the entry of sixteen cars there is a motley selection of Maseratis, Bonnier with his 1957 lightweight ex-works car, Maria-Theresa de Filippis with her built-up 250F, one of the Centro-Sod cars and the new 1958 car that is shorter and lighter and which Fangio drove at Reims in July. This last car, the latest Maserati product, is purchased by the large and genial American sportsman Temple Buell and is driven by Carroll Shelby. Since Reims the only changes made to the car have been the fitting of Houdaille vane-type shock-absorbers all round in place of the telescopics. First practice is on Friday afternoon, under quite hot conditions, and it starts with everyone feeling their way round as there is no standard time to aim at, this being the first appearance of GP cars at Porto.

 

Sports cars have lapped at under 3min, which is a vague guide, but it is not until Moss does 2'48"0, Hawthor in 2'49"0, and Schell, with the B.R.M., 2'46"0, that things get properly under way. Brooks and Lewis-Evans are supporting Moss in the Vanwalls, and von Trips has the experimental Monza Ferrari with rear coil-springing. Behra is in the second B.R.M. and there are three Cooper’s; Brabham and Salvadori in the works cars and Trintignant in the Walker-Cooper, while Allison and Hill have the 1958 works Lotus cars. Signorina de Filippis and Bonnier are out in their own Maseratis and Shelby is driving the 1958 works car which since Reims has been bought by Temple Buell. The Centro-Sud Scuderia has one car at the pits but no driver, as the American Troy Ruttmann has not turned up. As most people are beginning to get below 3 min, Allison suddenly finds himself going sideways up the Avenida at Boavista on some loose gravel and the nose of the Lotus struck a straw bale, whereupon the car spins and demolishes itself among the kerbs and walls. Allison luckily stepping out of the wreckage quite unhurt. Lap speeds are increasing steadily among the fast works drivers, though it is interesting to see the variations in tackling the double left bend after the pits, where the cars have to cross the tram-lines once or twice depending on the line taken. Some drivers ignore the rails and humps and take a theoretical line through the bends, others make sure of crossing the rails at a large angle, some try to avoid them as much as possible. One school of thought aims at arriving in the open space of the roundabout at the highest possible speed and then leaving it slowly, another aims at entering slowly, avoiding the lumps, and leaving as fast as possible. Some drivers, like Schell in the B.R.M., look to be completely out of control while others, like Trintignant in the Cooper, look smooth and effortless.

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While all this is going on there is a moment of panic when de Filippis spins his Maserati and collect a lamp standard, both the concrete pole and the Maserati chassis being put very out of shape, but the Italian is quite unhurt. Hawthorn has fastest lap at this point, with 2'43"0, while Beltra and Trintignant are at 2'45"0, the last time being quite exceptional for a 2-litre car on this circuit. Vanwalls are now ready to go and Moss does 2'41"0, then begins to try and did 2'39"0, and by working hard knocks another second off, finishing up with 2'37"65, the official timing being electrical to 1/100 of a second. Brooks soon joins in and gets down to 2'38"0, and then Hawthorn goes out again in the normal Ferrari, having been turning some laps in the experimental one, and without too much effort makes fastest lap in 2'37"60. Meanwhile both Behra and Schell are below 2'40"0, which has now become a sort of standard minimum, and the tiddlers are still trying to get down to this figure. At long last Vanwall’s let Lewis-Evans have a go and he quickly gets down to 2'39"0, and then Moss goes out again with an extra air Scoop on the oil radiator as the new separate cooler does not seem to be doing its stuff, lid puts in a number of laps at just over 2'37"0 and then as he stops Behra goes off with the B.R.M. and did 2'36"17, a new fastest lap. This brings Moss out again and he does 2'35"24, while Brooks goes out as well and did 2'36"76. So practice finishes with things beginning to get on the boil and everyone learning the way round. Next day there is another afternoon practice, under a hot sun and one or two changes have been made in the entry list. With the Lotus an unrepairable heap of bits, Allison contracts to drive the Centro-Sud Maserati as Ruttmann is obviously not going to turn up, and de Filippis borrows Gerini’s Maserati, which he has brought along in the hope of getting a late entry.

 

Hawthorn and von Trips keeps to the same Ferraris but they changed numbers, thus confusing the public, while Coopers more or less decides that Brabham should have the 2.2-litre car. Brooks, Behra, Schell and Lewis-Evans are soon out practising, but Moss and the two Ferrari drivers are biding their time. While both Behra and Brooks seem to stick at times around 2'37"0, Lewis-Evans is going very fast and sets up a new fastest time of just under 2'35"0, which Hawthorn then goes out and improves upon with an official 2'34"26, while Moss also joins in but is content to tour round in 2'38"0. Shelby is beginning to get the feel of the new Maserati and is down into the 2'40"0 bracket, and Allison is going round quietly in the Centro-Sud Maserati trying to get used to having so much motor car around him and such low-geared steering. Both Schell and von Trips are almost down to 2'37"0 after trying very hard, and Brabham is bending the Cooper in all directions and doing 2'38"0. Graham Hill in the lone Lotus is steadily improving his times and Vanwalls are sitting back for a bit of watching. Meanwhile, Salvadori has been steadily working away with the 2-litre Cooper and though he eventually almost brakes 2'43"0 he cannot approach Trintignant with the old Walker 2-litre Cooper. The little Frenchman is really at home on this fast street circuit and his normal very correct and precise driving is paying off handsomely amidst the various hazards around the course, such as kerbs and walls. His driving is a perfect example of the old school of road racers compared with the present-day aerodrome-born driver, where space is unlimited. Trintignant’s best time of 2'37"97 with the 2-litre Cooper is not a single lucky lap, for he is turning consistent laps at 2'38"0.

 

Moss goes out again and now begins to try everything and approaches 2'34"0, while Behra begins to menace with laps at only a little over 2'35"0, but Moss then finishes his efforts with 2'34"21, which just beat Hawthorn’s best. Having changed the rear springs and shock-absorbers, Brooks tries again, but only just manages to break 2min 36sec, and Shelby then tries the Centro-Sud Maserati to see if it is all right; it is, so Allison goes out again to try a bit harder. With twenty minutes to go to the end of practice there is a lull and everyone sits in the pits to see who is going to make a last-minute effort to beat the time set by Moss. It is Lewis-Evans who sets off just before the end and in three quick laps he gets down to 2'34"60 which puts him on the front row of the grid with Moss and Hawthorn. This immediately stirs up Behra, who takes the B.R.M. out and just brake 2'35"0, and though it is not good enough to get hint in the front row, it puts him in the select four who got times of 2'34"0 and, as could be expected, everyone improves on their times of the day before. With Portugal basking in glorious sunshine at the end of practice, everything looks well for race day, for there have been little mechanical bother in spite of the high-speed circuit and the amount of practice everyone have been doing. However, overnight, the rains come and all.  Sunday, August 24 1958, the Portuguese Grand Prix, attended by fifteen competitors, begins at 4:00 p.m. The sky is cloudy but the track is completely dry after light rain fell in the morning. Moss' Vanwall was the first to complete the first lap, followed by Hawthorn’s Ferrari, Schell’s B.R.M. and Trips' Ferrari. The fifteen drivers must complete fifty laps of the circuit of 7.500 kilometres, equal to a total distance of 375.000 kilometres.

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Sunday morning sees Porto covered in a miserable drizzling rain, while the Atlantic pounds against the sea front. Luckily the start is due to be at 4:00 p.m. and after lunch the rain stops, though the skies are still very grey. As the cars and drivers assemble at the pits there does seem a chance of the roads drying out, and by the time everyone is in their place on the grid the weather is so promising that an enormous crowd have hurried out from the town by bus or tram, and every vantage point is packed. As the fifteen cars leave the line and head across the open space of the roundabout, making for the bottle-neck of the Avenida da Boavista it is Moss who takes the lead, and at the end of lap one he leads Hawthorn, von Trips, Schell, Lewis-Evans, Behra, Brabham and Brooks, all following one another in quick succession and obviously treading cautiously on the still damp track. The rest follows at intervals, with Allison bringing up the rear in the old blue-and-white Maserati, looking very unhappy. Going up the double-track road Hawthorn goes by the leading Vanwall and finishes the second lap with quite a lead on Moss, while Schell, von Trips and Lewis-Evans follow nose-to-tail, with Behra not far behind. Then comes a very tight bunch, filling the road as they approach the pits and getting into line for the next corner in the order Brabham, Brooks, Shelby and Trintignant, and already there is a dull pause before the remainder arrives, consisting of Bonnier with Salvadori and Hill all round him, and then de Filippis and Allison. The gap between Hawthorn and Moss is unchanged on the next lap, but von Trips has shaken off Schell and Lewis-Evans, and Behra has joined them, while Brooks has momentarily got away from the two Coopers. On lap five Moss closes visibly on Hawthorn, for the roads are drying fast and he has got the measure of the circuit, and Behra is now after von Trips, who is in third place 22sec behind Moss.

 

For fifth place Schell and Lewis-Evans are getting in each other’s way, so that Shelby catches them up, and Trintignant is harrying Brooks, the Vanwall driver obviously not at his ease on this circuit. On laps six and seven Moss is right behind Hawthorn, the two of them being way out on their own, and Behra is pressing hard on the tail of von Trips’ Ferrari, and on lap eight Moss goes by Hawthorn and Behra passes von Trips, so that at one stroke Ferraris drop front first and third to second and fourth. The tail-end of the field has already been well and truly lapped and Bonnier has Hill and Salvadori climbing all over him it seems. De Filippis retires out on the circuit and Bonnier then gives up from a disease that is becoming prevalent among drivers of the older Grand Prix machinery, that of small-car boredom. At 10 laps Moss is pulling away steadily from Hawthorn for the Ferrari’s brakes are showing signs of weakening and the Vanwall leads by 6sec. Nearly half a minute later comes Behra in a B.R.M. comfortably leading von Trips, and then comes Lewis-Evans with Shelby hanging on, the Texan having disposed of the American B.R.M. driver, who is now following in seventh position ahead of Trintignant, Brabham and Brooks, the remainder of the runners having been lapped. Hawthorn now gives up all hope of battling with Moss and settles for second place, for the Ferrari brakes just are not up to those of the Vanwall, even though the car has plenty of steam. In the next few laps Lewis-Evans begins to close on von Trips, for the German driver has made a brief stop to have his bonnet refastened, and Shelby, who is getting the hang of the new Maserati, goes along with the Vanwall. Brooks gets past Brabham again and this time shakes hint off, and as Schell loses ground, falling behind Trintignant, the Vanwall also passes the B.R.M.

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Having got past von Trips, Lewis-Evans draws away from him but can make no impression on Behra, and Shelby having lost his free tow is now stuck with the German Ferrari driver, the two of them having a good battle, with Moss now closing up to lap them. Allison has already given up, feeling that he is only wearing out the car and getting in the way of the fast boys, and Salvadori and Hill are locked in mortal combat, though two laps behind the leader. At 20 laps, with Moss some 38sec ahead of Hawthorn, a slight shower of rain falls and for a while it looks as though it might develop, but luckily it holds off. Behra is firmly in third place, nearly three-quarters of a minute ahead of Lewis-Evans, and von Trips is still only just ahead of Shelby, and then comes Brooks, having been lapped by his team-leader. Moss is lapping comfortably and easily faster than anyone else, very much the master of the whole race and by half-distance, 25 laps, he has almost a minute lead. By letting his engine run up to 8.000rpm on the long straight, Shelby manages to get by von Trips and keep ahead of him, and Moss laps the two of them. By the halfway mark Hill is winning the Hornsey vs Surbiton battle for last place, but then overdoes things past the pits and after one of the longest and slowest front-wheel slides ever seen the Lotus mounts the straw bales and settles down like a broody duck, with a bent chassis and an embarrassed driver, who then proceeds to help lift the car back onto the road, but it cannot go on. The roads are now pretty dry and Moss sets up a new fastest lap on numerous occasions and his steadily increasing lead over Hawthorn becomes almost monotonous and people begin to look elsewhere for interest, but around lap 30 there is little to be had, except that Shelby is not happy about revving so high and let von Trips get in front again, and a little while later eases up to remove an oily visor, only to have Brooks go by.

 

After this brief dull-pause everything happens at once for Moss lapped Lewis-Evans, who promptly tucks in behind and lets his leader show him the way round, while Brooks moves up into fifth place ahead of von Trips. Almost at the same time Hawthorn decides his lack of brakes is beginning to get dodgy, so he pulls into the pits on lap 35 to have the front ones screwed up. This stop lets Behra go by and gain a 20sec lead, and though Hawthorn rejoins the race and sets up a new lap record he has little hope of catching the BRM for the Ferrari brakes soon disappeare again. For no apparent reason, other than over-doing it, Brooks spins at the far end of the Avenida da Boavista on lap 37 and stalls his engine, and though he tries hard he can not restart it on his own, eventually getting the help of officials and thus disqualifying himself, so that he motors quietly back to the pits and retires. After being overtaken by nearly everyone, Schell begins to regain places, when first Trintignant slows up with his shock-absorbers no longer working, and then Brabham eases up, feeling he is stretching the Cooper a bit. At 40 laps, with 10 to go, Moss is moving in to lap Hawthorn, who is still in third place behind Behra, and Lewis-Evans is still in Moss’ slipstream. The leader has more than two minutes over the BRM and on lap 41 the Bourne car suddenly loses power and sounds woolly, for the Corundite centre portion of one of the 10mm KLG plugs has broken its gas seal and all the compression of that cylinder is leaking out. Naturally, Behra does not find this out until after the race, and at the time assumes a valve has stretched, or a spring broken, and struggles on with only three cylinders working, so that Hawthorn catches t him on lap 42 and takes second place. Quietly on his own in last place, Salvadori clouts a kerb and bents  the Cooper’s suspension, but limped on for the end is in sight. When Hawthorn brakes the lap record the Vanwall pit displays a sign saying HAWT REC which Moss promptly misreads and does nothing about, so the pit assumes the car or the driver is not up to any new records and leave him to tour round comfortably in the lead.

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On lap 45 Moss is right behind Behra and, of course, right behind Moss is Lewis-Evans, only a few feet behind in distance, but in fact a whole lap and a few feet, so that when Moss laps Behra on lap 46, Lewis-Evans goes by with him and into third place. Nothing remarkable happens in the last few miles, except that Shelby runs into a front brake block that runs him off the road on his 48th lap when he’s sixth. But above all, it is at least curious what happens in the final kilometres. In the first few minutes after the end of the race, it was discovered that Hawthorn’s car had gone off the track on the last lap, and according to someone it would have been put back on track with irregular manoeuvring. If this is proven, Hawthorn may be eliminated from the leaderboard. But to prevent this from happening is, very sportily, Stirling Moss, who comes to the race management to ensure that Hawthorn has regularly completed the race. What was going on? Well, in the final laps the Ferrari brakes continue not to work and Hawthorn, seeing a Vanwall in his rear-view mirror after receiving a sign with +4 sec Evans while passing the pits, thinks that it is Evans immediately behind him. Leaving the way clear at the back of the circuit and then entering the narrow side bend, Hawthorn’s Ferrari slips sideways, allowing Moss to pass. Thinking that his mistake allowed Evans to move into second place, Hawthorn immediately appears very unhappy. Moss, who in the process of noticing Hawthorn’s gaze, instinctively thinks:

 

"Poor old Mike, he looks angry for being lapped by me".

 

He then decides to slow down, beckoning Hawthorn to return to the front. Realizing the situation, Hawthorn is quick to take advantage of Moss’s courtesy. Therefore, returning to the main straight, the three cars will appear in the same order as the previous lap, with Hawthorn crossing the finish line to start his 50th lap remaining in second place, but almost a full lap behind the leader. Moss, behind him, receives the checkered flag, while Lewis-Evans is ranked third, one lap and a few meters behind Moss. Of course, all three cars continue Hawthorn to complete his 50th lap, and the two Vanwall drivers to take a lap of honour. Just at the same bend as the previous lap, Hawthorn this time is spinning, stalling the Ferrari engine. The two Vanwall drivers, after finishing their race, are running the circuit slowly, so after a few moments, they find Hawthorn who pushes intensely his Ferrari trying to restart it. Moss stops, and he sits down with his engine running to see how Hawthorn would get on, while Lewis-Evans walks by and continues alone to the pits, with great dismay of all those who are waiting for Hawthorn to be reported in second place and for Moss to complete his lap of honour. In these dramatic moments, many officials volunteer to help Hawthorn, but both he and Moss drive them away. Having turned the escape route, Hawthorn pushes Ferrari back to the course, and being naturally so busy pushing and cursing his stupidity, he doesn’t look where he was going; having got enough speed, the Briton gets on board and gets back on the road, along the path in the opposite direction of the circuit.

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After a few hiccups the engine ignites, then Moss continues and Hawthorn enters the wide main road to continue and complete his fiftieth lap, receiving the checkered flag. When all the shouts of joy and celebration go out, this moment will be replaced by an embarrassing pause, as officials in the meantime receive a report from their observers indicating that Hawthorn has restarted his car in the wrong direction of the circuit, and according to the rules this means the impending disqualification. It will be necessary to wait until 23:00 for a decision to be made so that Hawthorn’s second place is confirmed. The commissioners will agree that being on the sidewalk did not constitute being in the wrong direction of the circuit, and accept the confirmation of Moss, who thus becomes an eyewitness, which indicates that there was no danger to any other competitor, because, as he rightly points out, Hawthorn was the only one ahead of him when he got the checkered flag, and all the other riders had already stopped running when Hawthorn makes the mistake. At 00:00 a.m. many frustrated newspaper reporters will finally be able to complete their stories. The British Stirling Moss, on Vanwall, won the seventh Portuguese Grand Prix, the third final round of the Formula 1 World Championship. Mike Hawthorn is second and Lewis-Evans, third at a lap away. Jean Behra arrived at the finish line in fourth place on B.R.M., and fifth Trips on Ferrari, also one lap away. With this victory, Stirling Moss puts to the credit eight more points for the ranking of the World Drivers' Championship. However, he is always preceded by Hawthorn, who leads the ranking with 37 points (against the current 32 of Moss), having added to the 30 previous seven earned at the end of the race, including one for having made the fastest lap of the Grand Prix.

 

After the Portuguese Grand Prix, the title was still uncertain: the outcome of the Portuguese Grand Prix did not change the ranking for the title. In truth, the current situation (Hawthorn to 37 points, Moss to 32 points) is more apparent than real, since the complex mechanism of the regulation of the championship provides for the award of the points won by each driver in only six tests out of the eleven organized this year. The count, therefore, should already be based on six races (assuming that in the two Grands Prix still on the calendar, those of Italy and Morocco, the two English drivers do not take even a point), or on four races imagining, with probable approximation, that both should also be the protagonists of the closing races. In the two scenarios, we would have Hawthorn with 36 or 30 points, and Moss with 32 or 31 points. In Oporto, Vanwall has given the exact measure of its efficiency, showing that it has achieved the performance of Ferrari, and above all that held at the distance which it had lacked so far. The judgment between the two mechanical vehicles - the best expressed this year by European manufacturers specialized in the field of Formula 1 - cannot however take as only elements of comparison the events and the result of the Portuguese Grand Prix. The two brands have come to find themselves in recent times in very different positions: in full technical and moral efficiency the British one, seriously affected by mourning and difficulties Ferrari, whose colours are practically defended by only Hawthorn (Trips is considerably smaller in stature).

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And in a psychological situation as delicate as that caused by the loss, within a month, of Musso and Collins, it would not be humanly possible to ask Hawthorn to throw himself into the fray for the conquest of a title of great prestige as long as you want, but which is still a simple formal recognition, not the irrevocable sanction of technical superiority. For these reasons, in Oporto, Hawthorn’s race was so cautious as to make appear even superior to reality the merits and qualities of Moss and his Vanwall The fight will resume in Monza, on the first Sunday of September. It is difficult to predict whether it will be decisive for the Drivers' World Championship and the conquest of the Constructors' Cup. To anyone who goes, these records will have a meaning of high moral value, because obtained in one of the most dramatic seasons that the history of motorsport remembers. Of course, the sportsman makes haste to draw his conclusions: there remain to be disputed the Italian and Moroccan Grand Prix, therefore to the Ferrari driver, to win the 1958 title, it will be enough to prevent Moss from tearing the other six points, that is to arrive at least twice second and win a faster lap - assuming that the compatriot wins both in Monza and Casablanca. These are probable hypotheses but unfortunately flawed at the origin of a fundamental error. Because the rules of the world championship conductors provide for the award of points to each driver taking into account only the best results obtained, namely five results out of eight or nine races organized, or six results out of ten or eleven races.

 

So far there have been nine races, and so assuming the championship trials are sold out you should choose the five best seasonal performances of each runner. We would then have Hawthorn first with 34 points, Moss second with 32. There is already a difference compared to the simple sum of the points scored in all the tests. But even this calculation is not correct, because at the end of the calendar eleven will be the Grand Prix held, and the six best performances are to be counted. If the two British drivers still had to dominate, in Monza and Casablanca, here we should take as a basis of calculation and prediction the four best scores to date. And that is Hawthorn with 30 points, Moss with 31 points. The positions would then be reversed. They may seem like subtleties, but it is necessary to interpret the regulation to the letter if we want to be fully aware of the situation, and above all not to be carried away by excessive optimism in evaluating the possibilities of the Ferrari driver, in this long and dramatic struggle for the formal succession to Juan Manuel Fangio. The conclusion is that on 7 September 1958 in Monza, in the Italian Grand Prix, the fight will explode furiously between the two great British drivers, wearing the Ferrari of Vanwall. It will be easy, however, that not even the most important Italian race will be able to resolve the situation definitively.

 

In Oporto, Moss has established itself with relative ease, confirming the great progress made by Vanwall in just over a month. The London car, overcome by its technicians with the difficulties encountered in the operation of the engine with normal gasoline (instead of the alcohol-based mixture Formula 1 allowed), seems to conclude the season mastering, as in 1957. However, we must keep in mind the particular situation of Ferrari and its driver, who is engaged in fighting practically alone. On the one hand, Hawthorn has the chance to win the title (and maybe only for this reason Ferrari has not retired from racing after the tragic loss of Musso and Collins), on the other, you cannot expect from him, a survivor of a very strong team, to risk beyond the limit of reasonable. Both of these reasons justify Hawthorn’s cautious behaviour in the Portuguese Grand Prix but do not forget that, before the rain made the circuit slippery, the blonde English rider had held the lead of the race; do not forget the fastest lap achieved in extremis, a feat that has earned him another precious point for the world ranking. In short, Ferrari is also very strong, but unfortunately, the situation forces managers and drivers into a tactical economy that is also a moral necessity.

 

Simone Pietro Zazza

 

Translated by Manuela Bisello

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