Thursday, 17 July 2014

On This Day In Formula One - 17 July

Luigi Chinetti upon receiving the official race plate license.
Luigi Chinetti, who was born near Milan on this day, fled Italy to avoid the rise of fascism where his work as a mechanic for Alfa Romeo led him to race for them and in 1932 he won his first Le Man 24-Hour, repeating the achievement in 1934. He moved to the USA in the war but returned to Europe to win his third Le Man 24-Hour in 1949 in a Ferrari as well as other sports car events. In 1954 he opened the first Ferrari dealership in the USA and was the founder of the North American Racing Team, an official arm of Ferrari. It became the team that established the high ranking of Ferraris in American racing circuits, and largely, was responsible for Ferrari's survival as a retailer of cars through the quantity he sold to wealthy individuals in North America. He died in 1994.

As was the case at the time, the big guns were supplemented by local talent for the wet British Grand Prix but it was the Italians who dominated, taking five of the first six places. The Maserati team were late arriving and so started from the back of the grid, but gradually their drivers worked their way through the field - Onofre Marimon overtaking 19 cars on the first lap alone. Fangio took an early lead before transmission problems saw him overtaken by Froilan Gonzalez, Stirling Moss and Mike Hawthorn. Gonzalez held on to win but Moss suffered rear axle failure, so Hawthorn finished second with Marimon third and Fangio fourth.

The British Grand Prix was overshadowed by the death of BRM's Pedro Rodriguez the previous weekend in a sports car event. Jackie Stewart, who was all but champion, led from the fourth lap to take the chequered flag by more than half-a-minute from Ronnie Peterson, who completed the race without his rear roll-bar. "The Ferraris were ahead of me at the start but they kept making mistakes," Stewart said. The improving Tim Schenken seemed set for a podium finish when he suffered transmission failure near the end, and Graham Hill's race ended within feet of the start when he was rear-ended by Jack Oliver's McLaren.

Stirling Moss congratulates Juan Manuel Fangio on winning the championship.
Juan Manuel Fangio, widely regarded as the greatest driver of all time, died in Buenos Aires aged 84. Known universally as "the maestro", he won five world titles and 24 races from 51 starts and between 1951 and 1957 dominated Formula One. Tributes poured in, led by his former Mercedes team-mate Stirling Moss. "He was not only the greatest racing driver who ever lived but also a great man," Moss said. "He was a great artist of driving. He taught me how to live, how to behave, how to care about those around us. He was essentially such a good human being, mature, modest, quietly spoken and kind, always prepared to help the younger drivers."

"Decades after their prime, the immortals can still change the mood of a room simply by their presence: Bradman, Pele, Ali. In motor racing it was Juan Manuel Fangio," said the Guardian. "More than 30 years after he last acknowledged a chequered flag, fans who had never seen him in action would jostle to glimpse the unprepossessing little Argentine who, by most available yardsticks, had been the greatest racing driver of all time."

A sign of how respected he was came when Ayrton Senna scored his first home victory in Brazil in 1991 and invited Fangio to join him on the victory rostrum.

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