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#58 1957 Monaco Grand Prix

2021-04-22 00:00

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#58 1957 Monaco Grand Prix

Report of Monaco Grand Prix and the race of Mille Miglia 1957

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The latter will be able to benefit from some new experience in terms of ever more powerful engines, but only for a specific, and not absolute, improvement in performance. In other words, it will be able to achieve the same practical results as in the past, which are now insurmountable because they are close to the limit of environmental saturation, with smaller displacements and more concentrated efficiency: which is mainly of sporting and not utilitarian importance, i.e. an end in itself. On the other hand, the means of investigation, study and testing have also been perfected in the meantime at the large industrial complexes, so that the so-called road race test bench has now become little more than empirical naivety. All scientific activity nowadays passes through the laboratory, just as all the most exasperated and critical conditions of use, for the car, its organs, fuels, lubricants, tyres, are reproduced in the laboratory, multiplied by a safety coefficient. Of course, the term 'experimental laboratory' in automotive parlance refers to the workshop with its special testing machines, the fields equipped for certain experiments, the circuit track or the racetrack for environmental tests, and perhaps even the actual races. Thus, following the American example - where no manufacturer would take seriously an invitation to take part in a road race to technically refine its models - it is now done all over the world. This does not mean that the experience of customers and ordinary roads has lost all interest: but here we are in the field of fine-tuning tastes, of statistics on the reproduction of certain small inconveniences that never reach the level of danger.

 

In short, industry can do without road racing. What has already been said about cars in general also applies to tyres, and the culprit for the De Portago disaster must be found in the tyre itself. What is certain is that the tyre's problem, at 300 km/h, is tremendous and different from ordinary use. The predominant torment at those speeds is centrifugal stress, which is the least of it in normal use. And even in this case the racing sector tends to form a closed and exclusive technique, which is more likely to distract resources, studies and experience from the evolution of mass production than to encourage it. And how well we know that the improvement of its resistance and safety conditions is today an exclusively economic matter. In conclusion, technology is not a cruel goddess, but the Mille Miglia can well disappear without regret: its task is over. In the meantime, the investigation for the Guidizzolo tragedy goes on, and during the day of Tuesday, May 14, 1957, the Public Prosecutor's Office of Mantua confiscates the Ferraris used in the Mille Miglia race, in order to carry out an expertise on the cars and tyres. For this reason, Enzo Ferrari asks the Commissione Sportiva Automobilistica Italiana (Italian Motor Sports Commission) to speak to the organisers of the 1000 kilometres of the Nurburgring in order to ask for a postponement of the date of the fourth round of the World Sports Car Championship, scheduled for 26 May 1957. In addition, as a precautionary measure, Ferrari's passport was withdrawn. Ferrari immediately stated that, whatever the outcome of the investigation, it would be his duty to compensate the families of the victims and he immediately set about getting the company's insurance company on his side. Meanwhile, on Tuesday May 14, 1957, in Mantua, the mayors of Guidizzolo, Cavriana and Volta Mantovana put up a poster in the three municipalities saying:

 

"The disaster of 12 May leaves us stunned and saddened, and commits us to honour the victims with dignity. Every citizen should pay their respects to the dead and show their relatives the Christian solidarity of our people".

 

The townspeople accepted the appeal and in the afternoon the funeral, held in Guidizzolo at 4:30 p.m., was impressive in terms of crowd participation and simple in terms of function. The funerals are common for ten of the eleven victims; one, Silvestro Franzini, had been buried in the morning in Volta Mantovana. Present were the Prefect, the Mayor, the Chief Constable, the President of the Provincial Council of Mantua, the Mayor of Brescia, the Mayors of Guidizzolo, Cavriana and Volta Mantovana, the gonfalon of the city of Mantua and the banners of the latter three municipalities, and also Enzo Ferrari with his wife, together with numerous personalities from the world of sport. Fangio arrives in Milan from Argentina on the evening of Monday 13th May 1957 and goes to the cemetery of Cavriana the following morning together with De Tomaso, Mendlteguy and the Ferrari technicians, watching the moment when the two bodies are closed inside the coffin. The Argentinean champion is asked if the accident could be due to the Marquis' tiredness:

 

"Absolutely not. Most likely it was due to the tyre bursting. The Mantova-Brescia section is one of the fastest in the Mille Miglia. The cross-shaped tear, which is clearly visible in the tyre, is for me an unequivocal sign of the explosion. Why did it explode? There could be several reasons. Among the most probable causes, in my opinion, is the possibility of a very slight disintegration of the wheel axle. This displacement, even if it is only a fraction of a millimetre, is at least ten times greater than the diameter of the wheel itself on the casing. It is clear that the tyre is subjected to lateral stress and, in particular, to friction that, when speeds of hundreds of kilometres per hour are reached, causes very high overheating, which can compromise the integrity of the tyre itself".

 

Film actress Linda Christian, who had come to Milan on Monday 13 May 1957 to await the arrival of Marquis Alfonso De Portago's mother at Malpensa, was not present.

 

"I did not want to attend the funeral in Guidizzolo in order not to complicate the family situation of De Portago's widow. It was only right that his wife should be present at the funeral, even though she had been separated from Alfonso for over a year. I myself gave her a seat on the airliner that will transport the coffin to Spain. All the documents are now ready, and I was assured a short while ago by the Spanish consul that the formalities required by international conventions have been completed. I don't know when I will come back to Italy, I have left too many memories of my life in this country".

 

The day before, having to wait for Marquis De Portago to go to dinner with Trips, Linda got off the plane that had taken her from Rome to Linate airport at 7:50 p.m., and meeting a journalist asked if the Mille Miglia classification was known.

 

"De Portago has not arrived?"

 

The disappointed woman asks, before discovering that her name is not among those present because the marquis has unfortunately disappeared. Shortly afterwards, Linda goes with the journalist she met at the airport to the scene of the accident, where she finds Alfonso's helmet, and caresses it crying.

 

"We left, Alfonso and I, from Madrid for Rome, but before leaving he had wanted to introduce me to his mother, who was very nice to me. In order to follow Alfonso in all the races he was to run this year, I had previously cancelled all my film commitments. We had been to Cuba together, where my fiancé had run a magnificent race and was in great shape".

 

The beautiful actress then says she met Alfonso De Portago in Paris six months earlier:

 

"It's not true that I was the cause of his divorce, because his wife had asked for it a year and a half before Alfonso and I met. I had only known him for six months and I loved him very much. He also loved me very much and we were going to get married as soon as the divorce decree was published. I can say that De Portago's wife had insisted on the divorce, and even a few weeks ago her lawyers in New York were urged by her to speed up the process. I had a great fear whenever I knew him engaged in some race, and I begged him many times to get it over with. He wouldn't even listen to me, he would reply: Not even for the greatest love in the world could I give up racing. I won't give up motor racing until I've won the world championship title. Above all, I was terrified of the Mille Miglia and I begged him not to take part in it because it was too dangerous. He wouldn't listen to me and told me to wait for him at the Rome passage, where he would be among the first. It was at the Rome checkpoint that I saw him for the last time. It was a forty-five second meeting, just enough time to exchange a long kiss. I gave him a piece of paper, on which I had written in Spanish the position of the various competitors, so that he could regulate his race. At the bottom of the note I added three words, my last words of love to him: Te quiero mucho. I am petrified with pain. It really is too strong a blow, I don't know what to do anymore. I'm completely disoriented, I feel alone, lost, abandoned by everyone".

 

The actress was also very surprised to hear the news of the imminent arrival of Alfonso De Portago's wife and two children from New York.

 

"I didn't know, it's likely that both the wife and the mother will want to see Alfonso's body".

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The following day, Monday 13th May 1957, at 4:17 p.m., the large English twin-engine Viking plane marked G-AHOP, chartered in Biarriz in the morning, arrives at Malpensa airport to take De Porago's mother, Dona Olga Martin Montis to Italy. Linda Christian, dressed in a black suit and a black scarf with large white polka dots, doesn't wait a moment to climb up the ladder, almost tripping over the last step, to rush into the nacelle and embrace the Marquis' mother, crying. The lady is accompanied by her third husband, Don Isidro Martin Montis, and Alfonso's sister, the Marquise Sol de Moratalla, who says on her arrival:

 

"Mum was restless on Sunday. She phoned Modena twice, to Ferrari, to ask why Alfonso was not in the order of arrival. They didn't have the courage to tell her. She learned about it at 6:00 pm on the radio. He didn't want to believe it".

 

Later, at 7:15 p.m. they arrived in Cavriana. The group goes to the cemetery chapel, where the bodies of De Portago and Nelson lie.

 

"I can't see him anymore?"

 

The mother asks, but the consul shakes his head in denial. A few moments later, the woman bends down to kiss the bronze cross on the coffin, then detaches herself, takes a step towards the exit, then decides to go back and kiss the cross on Nelson's coffin. And so do the Marquis' sister and Linda, who digs her red nail varnish into the plate with De Portago's name on it. Then, in a grey Mercedes, they drive to the scene of the disaster. Slowly the car passes between kilometres 21 and 22 of the provincial road between Mantua and Brescia, before setting off again for Milan. De Portago's widow arrived in Italy on the morning of May 14, 1957, having left New York in the meantime, landing at 1:00 pm at Orly airport with her six-year-old son Andrea and three-year-old son Anthony. In the meantime, during the morning in Cavriana, the wife of journalist Edmond Ourner Nelson also arrives. The woman is a native of the Bavoay Islands, and her name is Fumi. She is of medium height, pretty, with her hair pulled back over the nape of her neck, dark, with yellow-red stripes. With her is the uncle of the runner De Portago. Nelson's wife had held out extreme hope that there was another person in the box, and not her husband, because the journalist had not told her that he was taking part in the Mille Miglia race, and foreign agencies, reporting the names of the participants, had never mentioned Gurner Nelson.

 

"It could be a mistake, I want to see him. If it wasn't him, a two-year-old boy is waiting for him in St. Moritz".

 

De Portago's uncle then invited a representative from Ferrari to call the doctor so that the coffin could be opened. When the woman's wish was granted, some young men who had collected the poor limbs and laid them out in the cemetery mortuary asked her to desist, saying they were sure that the victim was the journalist.

 

"He had the documents that are now at the Public Prosecutor's Office, and in his pocket we found a tobacco pouch and a list of hotels written in French".

 

The woman clutches the tobacco pouch between her fingers, brings it to her chest and bows her head without crying.

 

"That's enough".

 

She whispers resignedly, after which, at 2:00 pm, the two coffins are loaded onto vans to be transported to Guidizzolo. When the procession from the Cavriana town hall is about to turn into the provincial road, a kilometre from Guidizzolo, a car arrives from Brescia in the opposite direction and slams on the brakes. A woman dressed in mourning got out of the car and ran up to the car where De Portago's mother and sister were standing. She is the runner's wife, the Marquise Carol Mac Daniela. Tall, blonde, slightly upturned nose, beautiful. The woman gets into the car with the other two and starts to cry. In the middle of the church, the coffins of the adults are placed side by side, and behind them, on either side, the small white coffins of the children. Shortly afterwards, the funeral Mass was celebrated in a simple way by the parish priest Fr Sarti, with the Bishop of Mantua, Monsignor Poma, in attendance. The whole church is crowded with people and others stand in the large churchyard. There were more than fifty wreaths, and each coffin was covered with flowers. De Portago's has a long cushion of carnations and white lilies, and on two white satin strips is written in English:

 

"To my beloved son, all my love, always. Veg".

 

During the Mass the Schola Cantorum of the Seminary of Mantua sang the hymn that says:

 

"The peace of the Saints grant O Lord to the dead who await the eternal Judgement".

 

Even a funeral ceremony becomes a spectacle and the curious people gradually advance, leaning against the coffins of adults and children. After the Mass, the Bishop advances to the middle of the balustrade to give the last blessing, but he remains motionless, when the secretary understands the expressive silence, and hastens to move the crowd back until the coffins of the children are free; only the mothers remain, desolate. After the service, the coffins are carried in vans: black for the adults, white for the children. The procession to the cemetery is opened by the kindergarten children, followed by the primary school children. Each of them has a flower. Two girls carry a wreath with the inscription:

 

"Your schoolmates".

 

The whole crowd follows the other eight coffins to the cemetery in Guidizzolo to attend the burial: the slow tolling of the bells fills the soul with desolation. On the provincial road, the vans that take the coffins of De Portago and the journalist Nelson back to Cavriana break away from the procession. The Marquis's coffin was transported to Milan and then left Malpensa airport by plane for Paris during the night, before continuing on to Madrid. It lands in Spain on Wednesday, May 15, 1957, shortly after 1:30 p.m., on the nearby Barajas race track the engines of the racing cars entered in the IV Gran Premio Nacional Sport are heard. The crate is carried on the shoulders of the boys from the Spanish bobsleigh team, who with Alfonso took part in the Olympics. The procession makes its way to the Sacramental de San Isidro, where the coffin is buried in the pantheon of the Marquis of Linares. Linda, who had flown in from Italy, was also among the crowd. On Thursday 16th May, a mass is celebrated in the parish of Santa Barbara. In the evening, his wife and children fly back to Biarritz. The journalist's body will be collected at dawn the next day and cremated in Milan. His wife will take the ashes to St. Moritz, where they will be scattered on the bobsleigh run, aboard a plane. The province of Mantua will erect a monument at the site of the disaster, bearing the names of the eleven victims.

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With the Monaco Grand Prix to be held on Sunday May 19, 1957 on the characteristic street circuit of the small Principality, the motor racing season continues. The moment is certainly not psychologically favourable for this risky sport, towards which public opinion is proving particularly hostile these days. On the other hand, it is not possible to condemn indiscriminately an activity which, it must be said, has not only negative or particularistic aspects. The Monte-Carlo circuit, while by no means ideal, being rather narrow in places, runs alongside pavements raised for more than a third on the edge of the small port. However, the dangers for runners are limited by the relatively low speed allowed by the winding road. Spectators mostly watch from above, from the stands, from the windows of houses and hotels, in complete safety. One of the most interesting competitive confrontations of the last few years will take place in this singular race theatre, as the eternal duel between the Italian cars of Ferrari and Maserati will now include the English threat. In 1956 Vanwall had been lying dormant, but now it seems to be able to turn into a serious contender for victory, thanks to the improvements made to the car and the hiring of a driver of Moss' class. In the first official practice, which took place on Thursday 16th May 1957, in the morning, the English driver set the best lap time, even though he was closely followed by Fangio's Maserati. The Vanwall's only unknown factor was its endurance on a circuit that was a real torment for mechanical equipment. Besides Vanwall, whose second driver was Brooks, other British cars were also present at the Monaco Grand Prix: the Connaught, the Cooper and the B.R.M.

 

Of the two Italian teams, Ferrari seems to be particularly well equipped, with drivers of the calibre of Collins, Musso, Hawthorn, Von Trirps and Trintignant. The Modenese eight-cylinder cars have also undergone important modifications that should have increased their already excellent overall performance. Although led by the great Manuel Fangio, Maserati's difficulties were greater, as - in addition to Moss, who may have switched permanently to Vanwall for Formula 1 testing - they had to give up Behra, who was injured during training for the Mille Miglia. The line-up is thus completed by Schell, Menditeguy, Herrmann and Scarlatti. The six-cylinder Maserati car is moreover a safety, while the possible debut of the new twelve-cylinder car is conditioned by the unknowns about its resistance to the distance: on the contrary there is no doubt that the reigning World Champion is still the man of major resources, even if it would be hazardous to grant him the favour of an unreserved prediction. The Monaco Grand Prix will be run over a distance of one hundred and five laps, for a total of 314.5 kilometres. In the morning training of the first day, the Ferrari team is absent and will start testing on Friday with Collins, Hawthorn, Trintignant and Trips.

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The next day the first practice session is at 5:45 a.m. on Thursday morning and as some encouragement to get drivers and teams out at this unearthly hour there is a prize of £100 for the fastest time recorded on this first outing. There are two noticeable happenings that morning; first the Ferrari team do not arrive, the cars not being ready in time, and secondly the whole circuit seems to be flooded with green cars. This is a fine sight, and whereas a Grand Prix field uses to have a preponderance of red it now has a marked preponderance of green.

There are the two Vanwalls of Moss and Brooks, with the spare car standing by; the two Connaughts of Lewis-Evans and Bueb, with their spare car; Salvadori and Flockhart with the B.R.M.s; and the two Coopers, but they are lacking drivers, neither Brabham nor Leston having arrived. Maserati have their three new six-cylinder cars out, these being shared by Fangio, Menditeguy, Schell, Scarlatti and Herrmann, and as there are no private owners ready on this first day the three cars from Modena are feeling very overwhelmed. Collins is ready to drive but has to sit and watch as no Ferrari cars are out. The bogey time for the circuit is 1'44"4, set up by Fangio in the 1956 race, though he made 1'44"2 in practice that year, after the circuit had undergone some modifications at the chicane. As a comparative figure 1'44"2 is the aim, but the main object of everyone is to be in the first sixteen.

 

Along the promenade a new cement surface has been laid and the opening of practice sees the cars raising enormous clouds of dust, and though the weather is good the surface all round the course is a bit slippery. It is Fangio who is first to get below 1'50"0 and for the first part of the period laps in 1'55"0 are considered pretty good. The Vanwalls are running nicely and Moss is settling down when he overdoes things at the chicane and cloutes the edge, bending a wheel and the front suspension. He stops at the pits and the spare car is brought out, being re-numbered to that of the bent car, and Moss goes off again. In the Maserati camp there is a race going on between Scarlatti and Herrmann, taking turns at using the third car, for the fastest of the two is to be chosen for the fourth Maserati entry. Menditeguy is going round learning the course and the two B.R.M.s are not being very impressive, having trouble with handling and brakes. Collins gets tired of sitting watching and as John Cooper is getting tired of having two cars and no drivers, the Ferrari driver offers to give them a gallop round. He is soon lapping at under 2min in the 1.500cc car, and then Salvadori thinks this a good idea so he too goes and sees John Cooper and tries the 2-litre car. Flockhart is still working hard for the Bourne team, but Salvadori is beginning to despair. The brake trouble causes Flockhart to spin at the corner before the pits, on the harbour front; by sheer luck he does not make contact with the walls and bravely carries on trying to approach times of 1'50"0.

 

After the two Maserati rabbits have had a go Schell took over the third six-cylinder car, as it is rightfully his for the race, and then about 7.30 a.m. things begin to stir up, for the £100 prizeias still at stake. Fangio has been quietly getting faster and faster and has settled for 1'45"9, while most people are still around the 1/50 mark, but then Moss goes out and soon gets down to 1'46"0, and then tries hard and puts in 1'45"8, 1min 45.3sec and 1'45"1 in quick succession. Fangio gets straight back in his car, does a quiet lap to have a look at the road conditions and then does 1'44"5, returning to the pits to see what Moss is going to do about that. Meanwhile Flockhart is still flogging round trying to make some sort of show for the B.R.M.s which are not only handling poorly but are not even going fast. Collins is still playing with the Coopers. He gets down to 1'55"0 with the 2-litre-engined car, finding it good fun and surprisingly free from vice. Just before practice ends Moss goes out again and when it is too late for Fangio to try again he does a lap in 1'44"4, which gives him f.t.d. and the bag of gold. However, more important is the fact that the Vanwall has really gone motoring in a big way and given no trouble all. During Thursday night there are some violent thunderstorms, and when practice starts again at 5.45 a.m. on Friday the roads are still quite wet. For this session the Ferrari team arrive in full force with Collins, Hawthorn, von Trips and Trintignant, and they bring with them three cars; two have the new narrow bodywork introduced at Syracuse and one the old full-width body.

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Of the new cars one has Super Squalo Ferrari front suspension and brakes and the other Lancia wishbones and coil-springs, while they both have reversed-cone megaphones. In addition to the three lightweight cars Maserati bring along one of last year’s six-cylinder models and the 12-cylinder-engined 1956 car, while the four private Maseratis of Gould, Simon, Piotti and the Centro-Sud are present. Vanwall brings along only two of his cars, while Connaught uses their spare car most of the time, keeping the other two cars at the pits as much as possible. With the roads still damp the general pace is very slow to begin with, but as the atmosphere dries out the tempo get faster and faster. The Ferrari team are at a disadvantage, having missed the first practice they have to start where the others left off, but Collins and Hawthorn bide their time until the roads dry. The V12 Maserati is proving to be a beastly thing, being quite incapable of running at low revs, so that it dies right away on the Gasworks hairpin and pops and bangs until the revs rise again. There is some assistance from the new five-speed gearbox but when things begin to happen they all happen at once, which makes its progress decidedly interesting. Fangio tries it out, and then Schell, but though it is fast uphill and along the harbour front it loses too much time on the hairpins. Fangio goes out in a six-cylinder car, these new ones seemingly ideally suited to the circuit, and as the roads dry he gets down to 1'46"0.

 

After the previous morning’s performance the Vanwall team are sitting tight and watching, for Brooks has backed up Moss most ably with a time of 1'46"0, which has given him third fastest time. The two Cooper drivers have arrived and are circulating steadily, with Leston in the 2-litre, and then Fangio begins to set the pace, making 1'45"6, while Menditeguy is now fighting with the 12-cylinder Maserati. About 7:15 a.m. the Ferrari team go out, with von Trips and Trintignant sharing the spare car. It is obvious they mean business, for both Trintignant and Collins approach 1'46"0 in a very short space of running. Hawthorn is a bit slower on the Ferrari-suspended car for the Super Squalo steering-box ratio is much too low for the hairpins and he is losing time working away at the steering wheel; von Trips is feeling his way round on the circuit, which is entirely new to him. Of the four private owners Gould and Gregory both do some quick laps which get them in amongst the works cars, ahead of both Connaughts and both B.R.M.s, and then they sit back and keep an eye on everyone’s times. Simon is not going fast enough and Piotti lends his car to Gerini, but neither has any hope of qualifying. The Coopers are not too happy, for Leston can make no sort of show at all and then Brabham takes over the 2-litre and, after getting down to 1'52"4, goes off the road and smashes the front suspension. Herrmann and Scarlatti are still continuing their feud with whatever Maseratis are available, and Scarlatti is continually coming out on top, showing a reasonable improvement in his driving.

 

The two Vanwalls continue to rest complacently at their pit until Collins gets down to 1'44"6, which makes everyone sit up and take notice. With a half-hour of practice still to go both Vanwalls go out, Fangio sets off in a six-cylinder Maserati and Collins goes out in the Lancia/Ferrari practice car. Meanwhile Menditeguy is getting a bit irritable with Lewis-Evans and nearly elbows him off the road at the Gasworks hairpin. This final battle among the big-boys sees Fangio do 1'43"7, which really makes everyone try hard, and Collins takes the lead with 1'43"3 while Moss is content with 1'43"6 and Brook’s 1'44"4. Fangio, however, is not at all satisfied with the situation and, without showing any signs of thrashing the car, he makes an all-time fastest on the 1956-57 circuit with an incredible time of 1'42"7, at which point all the young drivers decide to call it a day. The final practice is on Saturday afternoon and everyone produce all they had, so that the pits and circuit seem full to overflowing. The Scuderia Ferrari produce another pair of narrow-body cars similar to the day before, one with Super Squalo suspension and the other with Lancia/Ferrari, as well as the three cars from Friday, and in addition they bring out the Formula 2 car. The result is that the four Maranello drivers never have a moment’s rest, jumping out of one car and into another in rapid succession.

Almost as soon as practice starts someone spilt a lot of fuel on the Ste Devote corner and there are some wildly exciting moments as cars go up on pavements and slid about all over the place. Hawthorn’s car has had its steering ratio altered and he is going much faster, while Collins is lapping in 1'55"0 with the Formula 2 car.

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Coopers have taken the 2-litre engine from the crashed car and fit it into the second car and Brabham is still driving, as he is so much faster than Leston. He is now going really well and has no trouble in disposing of Scarlatti in the V12 Maserati, and leading Bueb and Gregory. This time it is the turn of Maserati to sit tight and watch the way things are going, though Herrmann has a go in the V12 car, but is not at all happy with it. The circuit conditions improve, but the air temperature is too hot to expect any improvement over the previous day’s times. Eventually Collins does 1min 46sec in his own car and then takes out the Formula II car again, and after that tries Hawthorn’s car. He has not done many laps in it before he loses it in the chicane and goes off the road into a bollard on the harbour front and completely wreckes the front of the car. He escapes unhurt, though shaken, and returns to the pits to go out again in his own car. Hawthorn is a bit piqued about this and has to take the old spare car, whereupon he begins to go really fast, finding that it is a much quicker car than the new one that has been bent. Fangio has been working away with the V12 Maserati, sliding the hairpin with the clutch out and the engine revving hard and then letting it in with a bang. This process enables him to negotiate the hairpin quickly, but sometimes the car shoots off up the road like a bullet and at other times it practically spins round. By sheer hard work he eventually gets the car round in 1'45"3 and this sets the ball rolling for another end-of-practice blind.

 

Hawthorn is really enjoying the hack car and does 1min 45.0sec, then Moss does 1'44"8, to which Hawthorn replies with 1'44"6; Brooks does 1'44"9 and then Moss equals Hawthorn’s time. Fangio gives the 12-cylinder car to Schell and goes out on a six-cylinder car, but does not join in the battle for f.t.d. and Collins is left out completely, the day ending with Moss and Hawthorn sharing honours, although neither can approach the time set by Fangio the day before, This is the final opportunity to improve on times and as a result four drivers are going to be non-starters. Brabham is determined not to be one of them, and so is Flockhart, and these two try really hard, the Cooper going round in 1'49"3 and the B.R.M. in 1'48"6. Salvadori keeps going round, but he does not look to be putting any effort into his driving and is obviously not at all pleased with the car, so that he never breaks 1'50"0 and in the final count is ruled out along with Simon, Piotti and Leston. The fourth place in the Maserati team is won by Scarlatti and the slowest time to qualify is that of Bueb who seemed to practice continuously without improving on 1/49.4. On Saturday 18th May 1957 it's rather curious what happened to Juan Manuel Fangio on the eve of Monaco Grand Prix: the Argentine driver was given a perfumed business card with the room key of a charming Parisian film actress in his hotel, but the reigning World Champion didn't show up at the appointment, preferring to stay in his room and sleep. However, because of this curious situation, the champion will think that the delicious temptation was offered to him in a devious way by Enzo Ferrari, who is obviously completely unaware of what has happened.

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On Sunday 19th May 1957 the Monaco Grand Prix, second round of the Formula 1 World Championship, gets underway. Heavy rainstorms sweep Monaco and the outlook is anything but bright, but as the cars assemble at the pits the sun comes out and things return to normal, with blue skies and dry roads. On the way to the pits Bueb’s Connaught has the bottom of the gearbox ripped out by a concrete step and there is a last-minute rush to swap the car for the reserve one which has been driven almost continuously in practice. The front row of the grid sees the interesting sight of three completely different Grand Prix cars lined up, in the order Maserati, Lancia/Ferrari and Vanwall, driven, respectively, by Fangio, Collins and Moss. In row 2 are Brooks and Hawthorn, then come Trintignant, Menditeguy and Schell, followed by von Trips and Gregory. In row 5 are Flockhart, Gould and Lewis-Evans, row 6 Scarlatti and Brabham, and in solitary state at the back is Bueb. There is a slight panic at the start when the Moss Vanwall refuses to start on the starter and has to be pushed at the last moment, but all is well and as everyone jumps the starter’s flag the sixteen cars rush away towards the Gasworks hairpin. For a moment the Vanwall hesitates as the wheels spin and then they grip and Moss shoots off into the lead, cutting smartly across from the left on the road to the right as he takes the hairpin and successfully blocking Collins and Fangio who are about to try and push him off the line.

 

Everything seems set for Moss to run right away from the rest of the field on the opening lap as he does last year with the Maserati, but though the Vanwall does not hang about, it can not shake the two rivals off. The roaring pack goes by at the end of the opening lap in the order Moss, Fangio, Collins, Schell, Brooks, Menditeguy, Hawthorn, von Trips and the rest, and up the hill to the Casino Collins goes past Fangio into second place. Lap two sees the order unchanged, but Collins is closing on Moss, and the next lap sees Schell drop back behind von Trips and Brooks in fourth place. As the cars leave the tunnel towards the end of the fourth lap Moss is only a few feet ahead of Collins, while Fangio is some way back, followed by Brooks, Hawthorn, von Trips, Schell, Menditeguy, and the others being led by Gould. This is clearly not going to be a runaway victory for Moss again, but there is the makings of a furious battle between Vanwall, Lancia/ Ferrari and Maserati. Down to the chicane come the leaders when, with very little warning, Moss goes straight on into the barriers. Poles flows in all directions and Collins swerves to avoid the debris only to hit the barricades on the edge of the harbour. In a flash Moss has jumped out and run, Fangio has gone between the two crashed cars and Brooks arrives, slowing down almost to a standstill. Next on the scene is Hawthorn who catches Brooks rear wheel, which tears the front wheel and brakes drum off the Lancia/Ferrari. The wheel bowls away into the harbour and the stricken car slides into the back of Collins car and rides up the tail. The rest of the field gets through the gap all right, leaving three shaken British drivers and three wrecked cars.

 

What has looked like being one of the best Grand Prix races of all time has changed in a flash into a gift for Fangio, for Brooks is too wise to chance having a go at beating the old man, and is content to settle for second place, and none of the other drivers are either close enough to the leading Maserati, or capable of putting up a challenge. After the dust and debris have settled down one can survey the situation more closely, and it is seen that Fangio is now settled down to a routine of lapping at 1min 50 sec, while Brooks runs smoothly along some 5 sec. behind. Then there is a gap and von Trips led Menditeguy and Schell and after the last Maserati there is a fairly long gap before a harassed Gould appears with a screaming mob right on his tail. In this bunch is Gregory, Lewis-Evans, Flockhart, Trintignant, Scarlatti and Brabham, while Bueb is bringing up the rear. It is pretty obvious that Gould is holding everyone back, for the cars are two and three abreast trying to get by on all sides. This goes on for a number of laps until Trintignant gets furious at being baulked, whereupon there is some short-sharp shoving and pushing which results in dented noses and crumpled tails, and the order is Brabham, Gregory, Trintignant, Flockhart, Scarlatti, Bueb, Lewis-Evans and Gould. As a race the whole thing now develops into a procession, with Fangio, Brooks, von Trips, Menditeguy and Schell way ahead of the rest and this order remains until the end of lap 15 when Menditeguy stops to change a bent wheel, the result of some kerb bouncing. Trintignant gets past the cheeky little Cooper but that is about all, for he can not get rid of Brabham, the Australian having a real go and leading Flockhart in the B.R.M.

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By 20 laps Fangio is still leading Brooks by 5 sec, then comes a gap of 24 sec and von Trips who is leading Schell by 37 sec, the American in turn being 59 sec ahead of the Trintignant/Brabham/Flockhart trio. Bueb has stopped at the pits with a split fuel tank and the mechanics are busy blanking off the rear tank and arranging the piping so that he can continue on the side tanks only. Fangio has made a fastest lap in a leisurely 1'45"6 and is now touring along but still Brooks is sitting quietly behind the World Champion and losing no ground at all. Schell arrives slowly at the pits pointing at the offside front wheel and as he stops the Maserati curtsies onto the floor with a broken king-post. Trintignant’s car iz beginning to misfire and he stops at the pits to investigate, during which time the crumpled nose is straightened out. The only driver who is really motor racing is Brabham, who is making the little Cooper fairly sing round the circuit; due to retirements it is now running in fourth place, though hotly pursued by Menditeguy who is making up time lost through having to change a wheel. By 30 laps Fangio is lapping the end of the field and for a while is in some pretty heavy traffic and Brooks follows him through it all very skilfully, being only 6sec behind the leader when they are clear once more. Scarlatti hands over to Schell and Bueb rejoins the race when the leader is on lap 35. The Ferrari pits then flags von Trips in and let Hawthorn take over, this car still being in third place, but after only three laps Hawthorn returns and gives the car back to the German driver, for the cockpit is so cramped for the huge Englishman that he can barely turn the steering wheel and can never find the gear-lever, his long legs being firmly wedged against the body sides.

 

This second pit stop for the Lancia/Ferrari let Menditeguy into third place, for he has at last managed to get past the flying Cooper, but it has taken an embarrassingly long time to catch Brabham. Fangio is lapping like clockwork, while Brooks now begins to lose ground, so that by lap 50, less than half-way, Fangio is going up the straight behind the pits while Brooks is coming down on the harbour side, a difference of some 20 sec. On lap 51 von Trips is back in third place for Menditeguy spun off at the chicane and joined the collection of wrecked cars and Brabham is once more fourth, followed by Flockhart, Gregory, Lewis-Evans and Schell in Scarlatti’s car; many laps behind comes Trintignant and Bueb. Brooks suddenly begins to lose 2sec a lap until the distance between Fangio and he is 48sec and there he stays, while at the same time the B.R.M. shears its camshaft drive as it goes along the back of the pits. Brabham stops to refuel and drops behind Gregory and Schell, but is very soon back in the fray going as hard as ever. He fairly shoots past Schell, whose Maserati is losing oil, and then catches and passes Gregory who has no excuse for the situation except that the little Cooper is going splendidly and Brabham is really motor racing. Schell gives up after 65 laps when the Maserati eventually loses all its oil. Fangio is going on and on, lapping quietly at 1min 50sec, as are Brooks and von Trips, and the distance between the first two cars remains at 48sec. One by one the laps ticks by, neither Fangio nor Brooks ever putting a wheel wrong and the order remains unchanged, with von Trips, Brabham, Gregory and Lewis-Evans all on the same lap, followed by Trintignant in his bent and ailing Lancia/Ferrari in last place, Bueb having given up as he was dropping too far behind for it to be enjoyable.

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Towards the end the Vanwall pit speeds up Brooks, but it is rather useless, for Fangio is too far ahead and has plenty in reserve anyway, the Maserati never having been stressed. On the 96th lap von Trips has his engine blow to pieces as he approaches the Casino and he skids off the road and demolishes a wall, but escapes unhurt, and this leaves only six cars in the race, with the persistent Brabham now in a very worthy third place, way ahead of Gregory and Lewis-Evans. As Fangio reels off the last few laps Brooks closes to a gap of 35sec and then when it all seems to be over, the engine of the Cooper cuts dead as Brabham goes past the Casino. Still game, this tough Australian coasts down to the sea front and then pushes the car the rest of the lap to the finishing line, unfortunately being passed by Gregory, Lewis-Evans and Trintignant as he does so. Fangio tours in to win a rather dull race, followed by Brooks who has proved that the Vanwall can last a full-length Grand Prix. Gregory, Lewis-Evans and Trintignant arrive and then the crowd gives Brabham a rousing cheer as he pushes the Cooper over the finishing line, a cheer that is not only for his final effort but also for the way the car has gone throughout the race, making many powerful cars look rather silly. The last tired laps followed, with the public cheering Fangio and going into delirium for Brabham, by then third. A note of merit, concerning the good Australian driver, should be given to Cooper's mechanics, as the latter have seriously risked not taking part in the race after an accident occurred during Friday practice, but the repairs made quickly allowed Jack to be among the protagonists of this Grand Prix. A beautiful fairy tale, if it wasn't that at only three laps from the end also the Climax engine of the small Cooper broke down: but the young driver didn't give up, and managed to push the car up to the finishing line finishing sixth and last.

 

In the meantime, with 25 seconds' delay, Tony Brooks is second on the finishing line at the wheel of a Vanwall, gaining a first historical podium for the English team, while Gregory, the rookie, was third at the wheel of a Maserati, thus becoming the first American driver to go up to podium, if we exclude the races run at Indianapolis valid for the Formula One World Championship. Fourth was Lewis-Evans, three laps down, in the Connaught-Alta, followed by Trintignant who finished fifth in the only Ferrari to reach the finish line. All in all, if Fangio has given an umpteenth confirmation of his superiority, and Maserati that of an extraordinary efficiency, and if Ferrari's very bad day is to be attributed essentially to the most complete bad luck, the Monaco Grand Prix has revealed that the English threat is by now a concrete reality: the Vanwalls are marching strongly, and after all this is also the moment of the drivers from across the Channel, given that out of the sixteen competitors lined up at the start, a good nine are English, and three out of six at the arrival, against Giorgio Scarlatti only who represents, for example, the Italian drivers. In the Formula 1 World Championship standings Fangio is more than ever at the top, with 17 points, ahead of Behra and Brooks with 6 points, Menditeguy and Gregory with 4, Schell and Evans with 3. A nice step forward for the Argentine ace, perhaps launched to the conquest of his fifth world title, which unfortunately will no longer see as protagonists the Marquis Alfonso De Portago, and Eugenio Castellotti from Lodi.

 

Luca Saitta

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