For the Monaco Grand Prix on May 22, 1955 Mercedes-Benz entered three of their new short-chassis W196 F1 cars, to be driven by Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss and André Simon. There was plenty of opposition, even though the Mercedes were unquestionably very fast and benefitted from their usual immense support structure. Lancia had replied with four of their new D50s for Alberto Ascari, Eugenio Castellotti, Luigi Villoresi and Louis Chiron, the latter a kind of honorary drive for the old Monégasque racer. Four cars each were also entered by Ferrari and Maserati, so it was sure to be a hotly contested race.
What ensued was a series of surprises. Fangio (above, accelerating out of the old Gazometer hairpin at the end of the harbor straight) led the early going from pole position, but his transmission failed at the Station hairpin, with Moss taking over the lead ahead of Ascari’s Lancia. Then Moss had his motor blow up right before the pits while on the same lap Ascari went straight at the Chicane and flew into the harbor, fortunately being recovered from the water without injury. This left an unexpected runner in the lead, Maurice Trintignant with an older Ferrari 625F1, but fitted with one of the newer wide-angle head “Squalo” motors. Castellotti came in second and was the only remaining car on the lead lap.
Although this was not Mercedes’ day, it did not slow the German team which dominated the rest of the 1955 European F1 season with Fangio taking his third World Championship. Ascari, was fortunate at Monaco, but not so lucky four days afterwards when, borrowing Castellotti’s helmet to test a new Ferrari sports car at Monza, he lost control at the Vialone curve and was killed in a crash which has never been explained.
Photo by Alan R. Smith ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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