First among equals

British Grand Prix, Aintree, July 1955
Mercedes controlled the first British GP at the Liverpool circuit with its historic victory for Moss – but could it have gone the other way?
Writer Simon Arron, illustrator Guy Allen

A purpose-built facility in a land of converted airfields, the three-mile Aintree circuit ran partly parallel to the famous racecourse of the same name and staged its first Formula 1 race in October 1954, a non-championship event won by Stirling Moss (Maserati 250F).

The following summer, it became the second British venue to host a round of the Formula 1 world championship – and Moss qualified his Mercedes W196 on pole ahead of team-mate Juan Manuel Fangio. Writing for the August 1955 edition of Motor Sport, Denis Jenkinson noted: “There was the possibility that the Daimler-Benz organisation might permit a reversal of normal team orders and allow Moss to set the pace ahead of Fangio, in deference to the young Britisher’s first appearance in his home country with one of the German cars.”

After a parade in which drivers waved to the crowd from the back of open Austin-Healeys, the Argentine made a better start and led until Moss worked his way ahead on the third lap. “It became pretty obvious that the British GP was under control by the Mercedes-Benz team,” wrote DSJ. “Clearly Moss was going to be allowed to set the pace, and probably win.”

Fangio took the lead on lap 18, but the Mercedes drivers swapped again on lap 26 and the order remained the same thereafter. Fangio lost a few seconds after sliding onto the grass after the Melling Crossing – he blamed Motor Sport photographer Michael Tee, who’d been a reference point until he moved to change film! – but was back on Moss’s tail by the end.

After 90 laps, Moss spearheaded a Mercedes 1-2-3-4, from Fangio, Karl Kling and Piero Taruffi. He was the second Briton after Mike Hawthorn to win an F1 world championship race… and the first to do so on home soil.

Had Fangio allowed him the honour of victory? The Argentine denied as much, but to this day the winner isn’t sure.