1954 Italian Grand Prix
- Sunday, September 5, 1954
- Gran Premio d'Italia
- F1 World Championship
In the Ferrari camp things were not at all well, for the regular "prima donnas" of the Rampant Horse cars were having their noses put a little out of joint as all attention was being given to Ascari, who had returned to the fold for this occasion, Mr. Lancia having agreed to lend him again as the Turin cars were still not ready for racing. Having tried Maserati at Reims and Silverstone with rather miserable results, Ascari was going to have a go with Ferraris again, and they realised that he was probably the only possible driver who could out-drive Fangio, though whether he could after so long an absence and with Fangio in his present high state of tune, was not certain, but it was worth a try. The Ferrari factory were still working hard when practice started with the result that there were only four cars available and they had six runners. Trintignant had a 1953/54 car with the new type of engine, now with the twin magnetos back in the forward facing position as at Rouen earlier in the year, while there were two similar cars for Ascari to use and choose the best. Gonzalez and Hawthorn had no cars as yet and had to share a normal 1953/54 car, with early type engine, with Maglioli, who was going to drive it in the race. The sixth Ferrari entry was that of Manzon who was supposed to drive a works car, he now being fully recovered from his Berne crash, but Ascari was busy trying to make up his mind about his two cars, so that Manson had to stand by to see what was left; the 1954 type engines in these cars were of 94 by 90 bore and stroke and had the 100 deg. valve layout. Not only was there a considerable amount of shuffling about going on in the Ferrari camp, but times were not very satisfying, and oddly enough it was Gonzalez who made the fastest Ferrari lap while driving the old hack car when he lapped in exactly 2 minutes. Ascari was not much off form, for he did 2 min. 0.2 sec., but he had clearly lost the art of getting a four-cylinder Ferrari away front a standstill. In the past his take-offs were perfection, but now they were far from clean.
In the Maserati camp there was more activity than ever seen before, there being no fewer than six de Dion cars being looked after officially, while a seventh Maserati under the care of the factory was the old model of Daponte. Number one runner was Moss, his own car having a works engine, though being, prepared by his own mechanic, and for the first time he had the rear-mounted oil tank with the "Heath-Robinson" pipe system as illustrated in Motor Sport last month. This tank is bolted onto the rear of the petrol tank, the whole weight being taken by bolts in shear, and as none have broken up to now, it was felt that it would probably be all right. The main advantage of this rearward placing of the tank was a reduction in temperature of the oil with resultant improved oil pressure. As second string was Villoresi with a works car, while supported by the works, but actually customers, were Mantovani, Musso and Mieres, and a surprise addition to the ranks of the Modena trident was the Frenchman Rosier. Having struggled along with his four-cylinder Ferrari until Pescara he finally got tired of it and decided to buy a Maserati, so as a preliminary outing he was driving one of the works cars under their supervision. It was painted dark blue for the occasion and in addition to the rear-placed oil tank it also had the new riveted alloy petrol tank, as had Villoresi, Mieres and Musso, the last-named also having a rather improbable looking exhaust system that was claimed to give more power at the top end. This consisted of the normal pair of three-branch manifolds, but instead of running into two tail-pipes one above the other, they fed into a large-diameter single pipe. As expected Moss did not hang about for long and his best recorded time was 2 min. 0.8 sec., which was not bad for a first practice session, but surprise of the day was Villoresi who turned in 2 min. 0.2 sec. and it was not only a question of the Maserati being very fast, but Luigi was having a real go on the corners. The speed of the Maseratis was proving to be much more than anyone anticipated and to prove this Mantovani did 2 mm. 2.7 sec. and Musso 2 min. 4.4 sec.; two times that were very good for two comparatively inexperienced drivers, though Mantovani has been making steady but rather unspectacular progress all season, his driving being very safe and certain. Mieres was learning his way round Monza pretty quickly and was between the other two with 2 min. 3.6 sec., while Rosier toured quietly round finding out what the Maserati was all about; in spite of this it broke and he waa given another red car for the race.
The fourth team of cars were the three Gordinis, driven by Behra, Bucci and Wacker, as at Berne, and apart from Behra they were rather wasting their time in this heated battle, though Behra only got down to 2 min. 2.4 sec. by tucking in behind Gonzalez while he was really trying and getting sucked along. Normally the Gordini limit seemed to be about 2 min. 0.5 sec., a time that was hopelessly out of the running. The only remaining runner was Peter Collins with the Vanwall Special and it was still fitted with the 2.3-litre engine, the new 2.5-litre one having damaged itself during some testing just prior to leaving. Mr. Vandervell deserved full marks for putting the car in the thick of the opposition, and though the four Amal G.P. carburetters were being it bit bothersome, Collins was by no means outclassed by giving away nearly a quarter of a litre in this battle where every c.c. was going to count. Knowing the Italian climate and the conditions of running at Monza, the Vandervell equipe wisely fitted a normal radiator to the car as they had not had sufficient experience with the surface-type one to try it under such extreme conditions. A small point this, but at least it showed a healthy appreciation of the job in hand and augured well for the future of the Vandervell team, for we have seen too often the results of lack of thought before leaving the home base when going to a big Continental meeting. That completed the list of runners and it was rather interesting to note the only individual entries by private owners were those of Daponte and Manson, though the former was being looked after by the works mechanics and the latter was driving a works car, so in effect the whole entry for the Italian Grand Prix came from factories. a most healthy state of affairs for Grand Prix racing in the grand manner and one that has been approaching all season; if the expected teams of Lancia, Alfa-Romeo, Bugatti and B.R.M. join in next year, then a shortage of room is going to make itself felt and someone will have to drop out, while driver shortage is already a problem.