1957 F1 Season Review

© P-H Cahier / F1-photo.com

The 1957 Formula One season was the eighth season of FIA Formula One motor racing.  Once again, Juan Manuel Fangio drove to victory, marking his fourth consecutive title and fifth in total – an astonishing achievement and one which would not be matched for nearly fifty years.

Both Fangio and Sterling Moss switched teams from the previous season.  By this stage, Vanwall had developed their car into a serious prospect for the championship and Moss joined them to help refine the machine.  Fangio, meanwhile, replaced Moss’ previous role and found himself driving the sensational looking Maserati 250F; a car which perfectly complimented his elegant driving style.
Ferrari’s 1957 season was an unmitigated disaster.  Their line-up of Peter Collins, Eugenio Castellotti and the returning Mike Hawthorn failed to win a single race. Even worse, Castellotti and Alfonso de Portago (driving in the Mille Migila) were killed in action, causing massive disruption at Ferrari HQ.

At the Argentinian Grand Prix, Moss’s throttle linkage broke on the start line and he lost ten laps while it was repaired. The Ferraris were all suffering from issues with their clutches – both Collins and Musso burnt theirs out, whilst Hawthorn’s was slipping badly. The Maseratis took the first four places, despite Ferrari’s best efforts to stop them. Moss rejoined and set the fastest lap, eventually battling his way back up to 8th place.

At Monaco, Moss led away on the first lap despite a hesitant start.  On lap 4 coming through the tunnel, there was mayhem. Moss went straight on at the chicane, sending debris flying across the track.  Collins crashed into the barriers trying to avoid it and Brooks was hit by Hawthorn, tearing off his front wheel which was launched into the harbour.   Typically, Fangio slowed down and picked his way through the carnage to lead to the flag.  On lap 96, von Trips lost a certain third place when his engine blew up. Brabham inherited it, but he in turn lost the place when his engine cut out at Casino on the last lap – ended up pushing his car across the line for 6th place.

The Indianapolis 500 again had very little European interest – Giuseppe Farina was the only European driver on the entry list for the race, although he never made it to the start of the race, after teammate Keith Andrews crashed in testing. The car was destroyed and Andrews died soon after.  Jim Rathmann took the fastest lap of 1:02.75.  Sam Hanks took the victory.

Fangio found himself on Pole for the French Grand Prix and won by over fifty seconds.  Luigi Musso put in the fastest lap of the race, blazing round in just 2:22.4.  This was the only Grand Prix appearance for Herbert MacKay-Fraser; F1 was once again robbed of another driver when he was killed a week later during a Formula 2 race in Reims.

The British Grand Prix was held on 20 July 1957 at the Aintree Circuit, near Liverpool.   It was won by Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks  who shared driving duties in for Vanwall.  This was the first occasion that a British-built car won a World Championship race, a feat achieved with two British drivers at their home Grand Prix.

Fangio’s performance at the Nurburgring is the stuff of legends. Earlier in the race, he had taken notice of the tire and fuel-level selection of the Ferrari drivers, and realized they were probably going to run the entire race without a pit stop. Fangio decided he would use softer tires, and only a half tank of fuel. This would allow the car to take corners faster, but also require a pit stop. Fangio took his pit stop on lap 13, in 1st place, and 30 seconds ahead of Hawthorn and Collins.

The pit stop was a disaster: the pit crew struggling to remove one of the wheels. Fangio slipped into 3rd place, a massive 48 seconds behind Collins who was in 2nd place. Over the following 10 laps, Fangio broke and rebroke the lap record 9 times.  Early in the 21st lap, Fangio drew alongside Collins down a long straight which ran under a bridge barely wide enough for both cars to fit side by side. Collins backed off, and Fangio took 2nd place. Later in the same lap, during a left corner, Fangio cut past Hawthorn on the inside with only his right tires on the track and his left tires scrubbing the grass. Fangio manged to make the car cling on and maintained his lead through to the end of the race.

Afterwards, he commented, “I have never driven that quickly before in my life and I don’t think I will ever be able to do it again”.

The Italian Grand Prix at Prescara Circuit was best remembered for being held on the longest ever F1 circuit: the track is a monstrous 16 miles long (25KM)  It drew in an enormous crowd in excess of 200,000 spectators.  Fangio took Pole but Moss worked his way past him to take the victory, Fangio having to settle for second place.

The second Italian Grand Prix  at Monza saw Stuart Lewis-Evans take Pole.  Tony Brooks dropped in the fastest lap, but in the end Moss took P1 and Fangio came in second, just like the previous race as Percasra.

At the end of the year it was announced Fangio would not return for another season. Maserati also pulled out, citing financial reasons. This was also the final year in which points were awarded for shared drives.

Between them Fangio and Moss won every Grand Prix of the season, Fangio taking four victories to Moss’ three.