1957 Argentine Grand Prix race report: Fangio the home hero

Juan Manuel Fangio takes his fourth Argentine Grand Prix win in 1957 season opener

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52

South America was enjoying the intense heat of summer when the annual series of races were held in Buenos Aires. The first event was held on January 13th and was the Grand Prix of the Argentine, counting in the World Championship series. The two Italian teams were out in full force, and in fact no other nation was represented mechanically in this first important event of 1957.

The Maserati team took three new cars, more or less as used during 1956, but combining ideas from the normal 250/F1 cars and the special “Monza” models of last year, the result being lighter and lower cars, but not using the offset prop.-shaft principle of obtaining a low driving seat. These new cars were driven by Fangio, Behra and Moss, while 1956-type cars were driven by Menditeguy and Bonnier. To support these five works cars there were the semi-works models of Schell and Piotti.

The Scuderia Ferrari had five of their V8 Lancia/Ferrari models competing. Collins, Hawthorn and Castellotti on new ones and Musso and Perdisa on old ones, and standing in as reserve drivers for this array of Ferrari talent were de Portago and von Trips. To make up the number of starters to a round fourteen there was de Tomaso with an old four-cylinder Ferrari.

Qualifying

In practice the Maserati team were far and away superior, the Lancia/Ferraris with their modified inductions and reputed higher power outputs not coming up to expectations. Maserati were very much top dogs and practice times saw Moss beating Fangio on his home ground, with Behra third fastest.

Race

As the cars got away from the start the throttle linkage on the Moss car broke and he drew into the pits to spend an infuriating nine laps having it repaired. Meanwhile the Ferrari drivers pressed on and harried the Maseratis of Fangio and Behra. However, Ferrari fortunes were not high and one by one they ran into trouble, Collins and Musso having their clutches burn out, while Hawthorn had his clutch start slipping.

Castellotti was going hard in an endeavour to fight the Maseratis but then his car sheared a hub shaft and a rear wheel parted company from the car, the driver coming to rest shaken but unhurt. Perdisa shared his car with Collins and von Trips, but the end of the three-hour race saw Maserati with a sweeping victory, being placed 1-2-3-4 in the order Fangio, Behra, Menditeguy and Schell.

After having his car repaired Moss drove at terrific speed, making up a whole lap on Fangio and setting fastest lap of the day, but it only availed him eighth place. The pace of the race, like the weather, was hot, and spins and sideways motoring were rife, but everyone managed to keep on the road.

1957 Argentine Grand Prix race results

Position Driver Team Time Points
1 Juan Manuel Fangio Maserati 3hr00min55.900sec 8
2 Jean Behra Maserati +18.000sec 6
3 Carlos Menditeguy Maserati +1 lap 4
4 Harry Schell Maserati +2 laps 3
5 Jose Froilan Gonzalez Ferrari SHC 1
5 Alfonso de Portago Ferrari +2 laps 1
6 Cesare Perdisa Ferrari SHC 0
6 Peter Collins Ferrari SHC 0
6 Wolfgang von Trips Ferrari +2 laps 0
7 Jo Bonnier Maserati +5 laps 0
8 Stirling Moss Maserati +7 laps 1
9 Alessandro de Tomaso Ferrari +9 laps 0
10 Luigi Piotti Maserati +10 laps 0
NC Eugenio Castellotti Ferrari DNF 0
NC Mike Hawthorn Ferrari DNF 0
NC Luigi Musso Ferrari DNF 0
NC Peter Collins Ferrari DNF 0

Other Races

Maserati 450S of Stirling Moss/Juan Manuel Fangio rounds the bails in the 1957 Buenos Aires 1000km

The Moss/Fangio Maserati 450S failed to finish despite leading early on

Motorsport Images

One week later the galaxy of Grand Prix drivers was joined by a miscellaneous collection of sports-car drivers and the first event in the Manufacturers’ Sports-Car Championship took place, on another circuit just on the edge of town. This was another Ferrari versus Maserati match, with the addition of Jaguars entered by Ecurie Ecosse, plus numerous private owners with lesser cars. Apart from being a thinly disguised Grand Prix event, except that it lasted for 1,000 kilometres, this race turned into one of those absurd games of team-managers general-post with drivers and cars. The Maserati team fielded their latest weapon, the 4½-litre V8 sports car, now much less of an uncontrollable monster than when it first appeared in Sweden last August, and it was in the capable hands of Fangio and Moss. A normal 3-litre 300S was driven by Behra/Menditeguy and the Ferrari opposition was supplied by Castellotti/Musso, Collins/Hawthorn and de Portago/von Trips, all with new 3½-litre V12 cars with four overhead camshafts, while American Masten Gregory had an early 3½-litre V12 with Perdisa as co-driver. The Scottish team had two D-types entered, but only one started the race, driven by Sanderson/Mieres, as Flockhart crashed the other one in practice.

Moss shot off from the start in the 4½-litre Maserati and, driving well below the rev.-limit, built up an enormous lead, this car without doubt being the most powerful racing/sports car in use at present. The four-cam Ferraris were not going as well as they might, and Gregory was holding second place with his earlier car. After 33 laps Moss was more than two minutes ahead of Gregory and he then handed the V8 Maserati over to Fangio, but it was not long before Fangio was in trouble and the car eventually went out with transmission trouble. Meanwhile the Ferrari team men were in a parlous state and Castellotti gave his car to von Trips and took over from Gregory.

With the V8 Maserati out it left Castellotti in the lead, but then Moss took over on the Behra/Menditeguy 3-litre and started a searing chase, all but catching the leading Ferrari, which was finally driven by Musso. During this chase Moss set a fastest lap, which rather indicated just how easily he had been driving the V8 car, in spite of gaining seven seconds a lap over his nearest rival. No doubt had he used the full power of the V8 engine he would have recorded a much higher fastest lap speed than he did with the 3-litre Maserati, but equally he might have blown the car up. This win by the V12 Ferrari, driven by Gregory, Castellotti and Musso, was some compensation for the debacle of the Grand Prix the week before. The rest of the runners hardly counted, apart from the lone Jaguar, which finished fourth, for in fifth place was the dreary 1956 Maserati 3½-litre, driven by Piotti and Bonomi, and we know just how slowly that car can be driven.

1000kms of Argentina

1st: Gregory/Castellotti/Musso (Ferrari 3½-litre V12), 6 hr. 10 min. 29.9 sec.

2nd: MenditeguyBehra/Moss (Maserati 300S), 6 hr. 11 min. 53.4 sec.

3rd: de Portago/Collins/Castellotti (Ferrari 3½-litre V12), 6 hr. 12 min. 59.6 sec.

4th: Sanderson/Mieres (Jaguar 3½-litre D-type).

5th: Piotti/Bonomi (Maserati 3½-litre 6-cyl.).

6th: Miss Haskell/de Tomaso (Osca 1½-litre).

Fastest lap: S. Moss (Maserati 300S), 3 min. 36 sec.

To complete the Argentine season a further Formula 1 event was held back on the Autodrome, but this time on a different circuit to that used for the Argentine Grand Prix, and this event was titled the Buenos Aires Grand Prix. The weather then turned to a most intense heat wave and the race was held in two races of 30 laps each, everyone driving in both heats and the aggregate of the times deciding the General Classification. More or less the same drivers and cars as competed in the Argentine Grand Prix took part and this time the Lancia/Ferraris behaved themselves. Each heat took just over one hour to run and between the two races the pits were a scene of prostration, with drivers lying comatose in all directions trying to recover sufficient strength to get back into the red-hot cars.

Heat 1 saw Fangio the winner, with Collins and Moss being overcome by the temperature and retiring, the Lancia/Ferrari driver giving his car to Masten Gregory, who was having his first try-out in a Formula I machine following his excellent driving in the sports-car race. Behra was second in this race, followed by Castellotti, Hawthorn and Musso, and though Maserati won they were not so dominating as they had been during the first race of the season.

After a rest the cars lined up again for Heat 2, but Moss was a non-starter not having recovered from the temperature sufficiently, and Gregory was using the Collins car of Heat 1, Collins himself being on another Lancia/Ferrari. Hawthorn set the pace as fast as conditions would allow, but the strain was too much and he dropped back, letting Collins win the race, he having recovered fully. Moss joined in the fray after a time, having taken over from Menditeguy, but altogether the temperature that day was so great that no serious motor racing could be indulged in, it being more a question of the survival of the fittest human being. Once again Behra was second. Fangio finished third, ahead of Hawthorn, but the addition of the times gave the reigning World Champion an over-all first place, the final order being Fangio, Behra, Collins/Gregory and Hawthorn. One would have thought that Behra’s two second places under such difficult conditions was more meritorious than Fangio’s first and third, but the addition of the times saw Fangio 24.5 sec. ahead of his team-mate.

General Classification:

Buenos Aires Grand Prix — Two Heats, result by addition of times — Sweltering Heat

1st: J. M. Fangio (Maserati) 1st, Heat 1; 3rd, Heat 2.

2nd: J. Behra (Maserati) 2nd, Heat 1; 2nd, Heat 2.

3rd: P. Collins/M.Gregory 7th, Heat 1; 1st, Heat 2.

4th: J. M. Hawthorn (Lancia/Ferrari) 4th, Heat 1; 4th, Heat 2.

5th: E. Castellotti/L.Musso (Lancia/Ferrari) 3rd and 5th, Heat 1; 7th, Heat 2.

6th: C. Menditeguy/S. Moss (Maserati) 6th and 12th, Heat 1; 6th, Heat 2.

7th: C. Perdisa (Lancia/Ferrari) 8th, Heat 1; 5th, Heat 2.

8th: W. von Trips/P. Collins (Lancia/Ferrari) 9th, Heat 1; 8th, Heat 2.

9th: A. de Tomaso/L. Piotti (Maserati) 10th, Heat 1; 10th, Heat 2.

10th: H. Schell (Maserati) 13th, Heat 1; 9th, Heat 2.

As a prelude to what is to come in European racing the Argentine season was most instructive. Maserati produced remarkable reliability from their Grand Prix cars, Ferrari’s V8 Lancia-based cars were disappointing, not being as fast as might have been expected, and in racing/sports cars the new V8 Maserati is certainly one to watch. The South American season also gave some newcomers their first taste of Grand Prix racing, notably Bonnier (Maserati) von Trips and Gregory (Lancia/Ferrari), and seasoned driver Hawthorn a restart with the Scuderia Ferrari.