1954 Swiss Grand Prix race report: Fangio claims title no 2

Juan Manuel Fangio takes his second world title with two races to spare; first title for Mercedes

Berne, August 22nd.

Cold and damp weather was the chief factor at the Swiss Grand Prix, held over 66 laps of the Bremgarten Circuit on the edge of Berne. As is becoming more and more evident as the new Formula 1 gathers strength, big Grand Prix events are fast becoming the preserve of the factory teams, which, of course, is normal. Of the 16 starters only two were non-factory, these being the Belgian Swaters with his Ferrari and Wharton in the Rubery Owen Maserati, now very much modified.

Since Silverstone this last car has been fitted with Dunlop disc brakes and alloy wheels, similar to the Le Mans Jaguars, the oil tank has been removed from below the carburetters and placed on the left of the cockpit, the exhaust tail-pipes considerably shortened, and many other detail modifications made to the engine, while the bodywork has now turned olive green.

Of the factory teams Mercédès-Benz had three Nurburgring single-seaters driven by Fangio, Kling and Herrmann, ostensibly the same as at the previous race, though the rear suspension was strengthened at the point where Kling's broke up in the German GP. Ferrari entered two 1954 cars, now with new front brakes that were larger and wider, but in practice Manzon had a bad crash in one of these, while having his first try-out in the factory team.

Gonzalez practised in the other Ferrari, but Maglioli drove it in the race. Hawthorn practised in a 1953/54 model fitted with a high tail fairing as on the 1954 cars, with a slightly larger fuel tank, and Trintignant had a normal 1953/54 car, both these last two cars having the new engines as at Nurburgring.

With Manzon's car out, Gonzalez took the 1953/54 one with the headrest and another normal 1953/54 car was produced for Hawthorn. The full team of three Gordinis were running, Behra and Bucci on the five-speed models and the American driver Wacker being on the four-speed one. Mainstay of the Maserati team was naturally Moss, driving his own car, but having three others at his disposal should the need arise.

Two of the other three cars were all fitted with the rear-mounted oil tank and handled by Mieres and Schell, the last named having his first drive with a de Dion car, this particular one being fitted with a right-hand accelerator pedal, similar to that of Moss, the idea being that the number one driver should have another car in reserve. Mantovani was on the fourth works entry.

Qualifying

The first practice was damp but not raining and though times were good they could not approach the long-standing record that Rosemeyer set up in 1936 with an Auto-Union. This still stands at 2 min 34.5 sec, and the best the 2 1/2-litres could do under the conditions was 2 min 39.5 sec by Gonzalez and 2 min 39.7 sec by Fangio, with Moss third fastest with 2 min 41.4 sec.

The second practice period, there were only two, was held in continuous rain and for a long time no one could get below three minutes, and by the end of the period the weather was so dull that going through the wooded parts of the course visibility was at a minimum for high-speed motoring.

Nevertheless all three Mercédès-Benz drivers got below three minutes, as did Trintignant, while Moss was fastest of the lot with 2 min 56.0 sec, Kling being 0.1 sec behind, followed by Herrmann at 2 sec and Fangio at 2.7 sec.

However, none of these times affected the grid position as they were slower than the previous day and on Sunday afternoon the front row saw Gonzalez, Fangio and Moss side by side, with Trintignant and Kling in row two, followed by Hawthorn, Herrmann and Wharton in the next row, Mantovani and Bucci in row four, Maglioli driving in place of Manzon in row live along with Mieres and Schell, and Behra, Wacker and Swaters bringing up the rear.

Race

At the fall of the flag it was Fangio who went into the lead, and Kling, also profiting by having a five-speed gearbox, nipped through from row two and Moss tucked in behind him. By the end of the lap Fangio had got clear of the pack and Gonzalez and Moss were nose to tail some three seconds behind him, they being followed by Kling, Trintignant, Wharton, Behra, Hawthorn, Herrmann and the rest.

Only Bucci failed to complete the first lap, he stopping shortly after half a lap. Fangio gained a few yards on the next lap but Moss was still breathing on the tail of Gonzalez' Ferrari, while Kling had run into the straw bales approaching the end of the lap and had dropped right to the back of the field, more than 30 seconds behind Swaters, who had already been left behind. There was no holding Fangio now and yard by yard he increased his lead, while Moss got past Gonzalez though there was still only a few feet between them.

"There was no holding Fangio now and yard by yard he increased his lead"

Hawthorn had made a hesitant opening lap and was running in company with Trintignant and Herrmann, but after five laps he began to put on speed and shook these two off, at the same time closing rapidly on Moss and Gonzalez, who were now six seconds behind Fangio. On the fourth lap Wharton spun and dropped almost to the back of the field and by lap eight, when Behra retired at the pits with no clutch, the race had divided into two parts.

The first six were Fangio, in complete command of the race, Moss, Gonzalez, Hawthorn, Trintignant and Herrmann, after these there was already a long gap and then came Mantovani, Mieres, Wharton, making no ground on the two Maseratis in front of him, Schell, Maglioli and Kling, the Mercédès-Benz driver fairly eating his way through the tail-enders. Completely outclassed were Wacker and Swaters, who brought up the tail.

With the race having sorted itself out a bit, there now started an absolute spate of fastest laps, Fangio being first on lap nine in 2 min 44.2 sec, then again on lap 11 in 2 min 43.5 sec. On lap 12 it was Hawthorn with 2 min 42.3 sec, and the following lap Gonzalez did 2 min 42.0 sec.

"With the race having sorted itself out a bit, there now started an absolute spate of fastest laps"

This brought Hawthorn closer to Gonzalez and by lap 15 he was almost alongside, actually passing him on the next lap, and the lap after that he passed Moss, getting his own back for the Silverstone incident. Meanwhile Kling had completed his job of working his way through the second half of the field and now set about reducing the gap between himself and Herrmann, and started this by setting a new fastest lap in 2 min 41.8 sec.

By 20 laps, less than a third of the total distance of 480.480 kilometres, Fangio had lapped Wharton, who was lying in 10th place, and Wacker had stopped, the complete Gordini team now being out. Moss began to lose ground rapidly and on lap 22 he came to a sudden stop when his oil pressure failed, and on the same lap Hawthorn was overdue, all this letting Trintignant into third place.

Hawthorn arrived at his pit at low speed with what appeared to be a throttle that would not open but a few moments' work under the bonnet had him back in the race again going as well as ever. Moss walked back to the pits and it had been arranged previously that if his car should fail be would take over Schell's but by this time his second string had also retired with a loss of oil pressure, so Moss had to become a spectator yet again.

"As if to make his lead even more convincing Fangio set up yet another fastest lap in 2 min 39.7 sec"

The race now developed into a procession, the only interest being on the progress Kling was making, which was still very steady. Hawthorn's fortunes did not last long for on lap 30, less than half way, he failed to appear and walked back later to report that the Ferrari had come to rest out on the circuit. Just after this Kling overtook Herrmann and a lap later, at half-distance, the order was Fangio leading comfortably, 20 sec ahead of Gonzalez, with Trintignant a long way back in third place, followed by Kling and Herrmann, the remaining runners being a lap behind.

No sooner had this point been reached than Trintignant coasted into the pits with a stream of oil pouring from the bottom of the engine and the car was immediately withdrawn. As if to make his lead even more convincing Fangio set up yet another fastest lap in 2 min 39.7 sec and provided the Mercédès-Benz could keep going he was a certain winner. On lap 39 Kling was firmly in third place when his engine just died on him and he was forced out with suspected fuel feed trouble, and this left only eight cars still running.

This year's Swiss Grand Prix had been extended to 66 laps and the extra ones now ticked slowly away, there being no hope of anyone catching the car in front of him and it was once more a question of endurance. Right from the start of the race the weather had been improving and the circuit had now dried out considerably, while for a very brief moment the sun shone.

Mieres and Mantovani in the remaining factory-supported Maseratis had been running in close company throughout the race and now that Mieres was getting used to the do Dion car he began to draw away a little.

Fangio was lapping at 2 min 43 sec, having eased just a very small amount, while Gonzalez was losing two seconds a lap on him. They had both lapped Herrmann, who was safely in third place, a lap ahead of the three Maseratis. Wharton being sixth, unable to make up any ground on the two red six-cylinder cars, even though the Rubery Owen Maserati was sounding as healthy as at the start.

With five laps to go a few spots of rain fell, just to prevent any feeling of confidence spreading as regards 1954 weather, but by now everyone was motoring steadily to finish, and a few seconds after the three-hour mark was passed Fangio was flagged home the winner of the Swiss Grand Prix, 50 seconds ahead of Gonzalez, having led the race from start to finish, not only proving his complete mastery as a driver, but proving for the third time out of four races that the new Mercédès-Benz is not such a bad racing car after all.

Herrmann supported this theory by finishing third, one lap behind, and Mieres, Mantovani and Wharton finished in that order all on the same lap. Bringing up the rear was Maglioli with the 1954 Ferrari and, many laps behind, came Swaters with his private Ferrari. What had looked like being a battle royal had proved to be a procession and, as at Nurburgring English hopes were right out of luck, both Hawthorn and Moss having shown good form until they were forced out.

1954 Swiss Grand Prix Race Result 

1. Juan Manuel Fangio (Mercédès-Benz) 3:0:34.5

2. Jose Froilan Gonzalez (Ferrari) +0:57.8

3. Hans Herrmann (Mercédès-Benz) + 1 lap

4. Roberto Mieres (Maserati) + 2 laps

5. Sergio Mantovani (Maserati) + 2 laps

6. Ken Wharton (Maserati) + 2 laps

7. Umberto Maglioli (Ferrari) + 5 laps

8. Jacques Swaters (Ferrari) + 8 laps

9. Karl Kling (Mercedes) Retired - Fuel system

10. Maurice Trintignant (Ferrari) Retired - Engine

11. Mike Hawthorn (Ferrari) Retired - Oil leak

12. Harry Schell (Maserati) Retired - Oil pump

13. Stirling Moss (Maserati) Retired - Oil pump

14. Fred Wacker (Gordini) Retired - Transmission

15. Jean Behra (Gordini) Retired - Clutch

16. Clemar Bucci (Gordini) Retired - Fuel pump

17. Robert Manzon (Ferrari) Retired - Accident

Championship Standings

1. Juan Manuel Fangio - 42 (45 1/7)

2. Jose Froilan Gonzalez - 23 9/14

3. Maurice Trintignant - 15

4. Mike Hawthorn - 10 9/14

5. Karl Kling - 10