1954 Belgian Grand Prix

The record for the Francorchamps circuit stood at 4min. 23 sec., set up by Fangio with a 159 Alfa-Romeo in 1951, and Gonzalez began to wind the new Ferrari right up and recorded 4 min. 25 sec. Fangio went out and equalled this and then there was a lull, during which time the rest of the runners recorded times anywhere up to 5 minutes. As the evening drew on, and the air became cooler, conditions were perfect and Gonzalez went out again and put in a lap at 4 min. 23.6 sec. actually catching and passing Farina in the process. Although the new car was reasonably unstrained at that pace, the oil was still getting a bit too warm and the wire-mesh grille in front of the radiator was removed, but no more very fast laps were done, the time recorded being considered good enough. Farina tried Hawthorn's 1953 car and made no secret of the fact that he thought it better than the new one, while Gonzalez was perfectly satisfied and having mastered the technique of a car with all its weight concentrated about the centre of the wheelbase, proclaimed it beautiful. The main difference between the two models was that with the new one the driver's reflexes have less time to react when driving on the limit, for road-holding is such that when the car does break away it does so very quickly and without the warning that the old cars gave, so that a driver must now anticipate the car's moves, rather than wait for them, as personal reflex times cannot be speeded up. With a lap time so close to the old record Ferraris were satisfied and went home, but Maseratis stayed on and a few minutes before the end of practice Fangio went out again and this time, trying so hard that the effect on the onlookers was electrifying, he recorded 4 mm. 22.1 sec., not only fastest of the practice session but he beat his own record set up with the 159 Alfa-Romeo.

During this fantastic lap he had strained the Maserati to its absolute limit, going to 8,100 r.p.m., which is 700 r.p.m. more than the factory recommend to private owners, and the car really looked as though it had suffered, oil leaking everywhere, brakes sizzling, the engine a vast heat haze and in fact it had the appearance of not being able to stand another lap like that, whereas the Ferrari had not been unduly stressed after being thrashed by Gonzalez. However, a new lap-record was the thing and Friday practice finished with Maserati on top, the presence of Fangio having put new life into the Trident. AII this rather overshadowed the other drivers' efforts, but Farina had recorded 4 min. 26 sec. and Marimon, with the second factory Maserati, 4 min. 27.8 sec. Hawthorn was obviously back in form but taking no risks and Moss was not happy with his Maserati, there being rather too much oil flying about the place. Mantovani was driving the third works Maserati, but still a bit out of element on a pure Grand Prix circuit and Mieres with his 1953/54 car was, also feeling his way cautiously on his first occasion at Francorchamps. Bira had a brand new de Dion car, with a new type of gear change and improved gearbox, in place of his earlier model and was quietly settling, things in and accustoming himself to the new technique, for the de Dion long-chassis cars handle very differently from the old cars. Three Gordinis were running, two works cars driven by Behra and Frere, and though both were going well they could not hope to challenge the red cars on such a fast course, especially with so many high-speed bends. The third car was the Belgian one driven by Pilette and finally the Belgian 1953/54 Ferrari was circulating slowly, driven by Swaters, as it was still rather new after a rebuild.

There remained one more practice period, on Saturday afternoon, during which there was a much calmer atmosphere though some of the slower cars improved their times. Hawthorn got down to 4 min. 29.4 sec. and Moss to 4 min. 40.8 sec., while Trintignant did some laps in the spare 1954 Ferrari in order to prepare himself for the time when the whole team would be on the new cars.

Race Results


Circuit - Spa-Francorchamps




Francorchamps, Wallonia


Temporary road course


8.774 (Miles)


Juan Manuel Fangio (Mercedes-Benz W196), 4m20.6, 121.207 mph, GP, 1955