Grand Prix Racing Prospects
At the time of writing, the immediate future of Grand Prix racing appears to be in a rather unbalanced state–brought about by the announcement by Maserati that they would not be entering a team of cars for the 1958 World Championship races. This set off a spate of rumour and counter-rumour, wild guesses, mis-interpretation and—that old favourite—incorrect translation of Italian writings. One minute Maserati were said to have given up all racing activity, the next minute Vandervell had done likewise, then the Argentine races were said to have been cancelled, and, within a few days, Grand Prix racing prospects had come crashing down around our cars. In view of the unsettled state of affairs, it is worth reviewing the situation without getting hysterical or looking for “attractive” headlines. The likelihood of the Maserati factory giving up racing completely is remote in the extreme, for there is little else they understand; racing is the very lifeblood of Maserati. What seems more likely is the fact that they will no longer have Fangio and Behra as team-drivers and, because of that, they could not see much future in fielding a works team using people like Schell, Scarlatti, Bonnier or Trintignant to try and beat the Vanwall team in 1958. What is probable is that they will return to the state they were in during 1954, when drivers such as Moss, Schell, Mieres, Marimon and Mantovani bought, or partly bought, Formula I cars and the factory supported them with preparation and development. In his book “Racing Mechanic,” Alf Francis gives an excellent description of the Maserati set-up in those days, and it is probable that they wish to return to such arrangements, in order to spend a bit less on racing, for 1957 cost them a very great amount of money. In 1949 there was a South American team called the “Scuderia Achille Varzi,” with Fangio. Gonzalez and Campos as drivers, and they used Formula I Maseratis, and while the works supplied them with development the Argentinians kept the “Trident” well to the fore in Grand Prix racing. The past few seasons have seen the growth of the Scuderia Centro-Sud, run by Gugliemeno Dei of Rome, and 1957 saw him with two Formula I Maseratis in most of the races. In all probability he will either take over the 1957 works cars, or get now ones for 1958, and the factory will continue to service the cars and supply new parts and development. Then there are the private owners, such as Giulia, Piotti, Gould, Raiford and Volonterio; if they continue to race the factory have already said they will support them with a fully-manned racing department, and the owners will continue to pay as they have done in the past. The latest move is that Fangio has an idea for forming a Scuderia Sud-Americana, with himself as leader and his manager, Marcello Giambertone, as the organiser. This is a worthy nationalistic idea, and everyone will be pleased to see Fangio racing under his own colours of blue and yellow. Obviously, they will use Maseratis for the team, and they should keep the Modena racing department fully occupied throughout the season.
If, for example. Fangio is offered £1,000 to appear at a Grand Prix, then it is a reasonable proposition for him to hire a car from someone, providing it is the right car for the circuit, such as a Maserati at Rouen or Nurburgring, and it would be worth £600-700 for the loan, which would still leave him £300 personal starting money. Behra has been talking of doing the same thing for certain races: this was what he did at Caen last year, when he “hired” a B.R.M.
The apparent withdrawal from Grand Prix racing by Maserati really means that the official works team has been withdrawn, but there is every possibility of just as many Maseratis taking part in 1958, and with first-class drivers, but it will mean that someone other than Maserati will be paying. The suggestion by Mr. Vandervell that he might withdraw was a logical and reasonable remark in the face of the suggestion that Maserati had packed up altogether. Obviously he does not consider the B.R.M. team a serious rival, nor, of course, the enlarged Formula II cars of Cooper and Lotus, so that without Maserati Grand Prix racing would develop into a straight fight between Ferrari and Vanwall, and this would very soon become a personal vendetta between Mr. Ferrari and Mr. Vandervell, a situation that would give the Bearing-King no pleasure at all. As Mr. Vandervell races for his own amusement, no one would blame hint for withdrawing, but just how serious are the possibilities of this happening can be appreciated from the fact that the four-cylinder Vanwall engine is giving over 250 b.h.p. 130 octane, and Lewis-Evans has lapped Silverstone at speeds around the existing lap record without really trying—all since the Maserati announcement.
Although many firms give up the racing game, very few of them disappear from it completely; they usually undergo a major alteration of policy, but continue to have a competition or racing department active in the factory. Alfa-Romeo withdrew from Grand Prix racing, but the development work on the Giulietta Sprint Veloce continues, and the same engineers and mechanics are involved no were working on the 159 Alfa-Romeos. Then Mercedes-Benz withdrew, but Neubauer, Kling and many of the Grand Prix personnel continued to run a racing department for the owners of 300SL competition models. Jaguar withdrew. but last year, at Le Mans, “Lofty” England and many of the works Mechanics were looking after D-types bought by special customers. It is only the very small firms, like H.W.M. and Connaught, who really fold up completely, not being big enough to support a competition deportment as a luxury. Clearly the Maserati organisation can afford such a “luxury,” and it is their intention to operate it as a paying proposition for, as long as they go on building Formula I Maseratis, there will be people ready to buy or ”hire” them.
Taking the blackest possible view, the immediate future of Grand Prix racing would not appear bright, but thinking about things more reasonably makes the situation look a lot less serious and certainly there is no cause for alarm and despondency. In the 1958 International Calendar there are 23 events scheduled for Formula I cars and if 10 are cancelled it will leave sufficient to make a very busy season of Grand Prix racing.