The Master at Tabac

Fangio, Maserati, Monaco, klemcoll

Here is Juan Manuel Fangio in his lovely Maserati 250F sweeping into Tabac corner during the Monaco Grand prix on May 19, 1957. Tabac, still used today as the left-hander before the swimming pool complex, was so called because a tabaconist’s shop used to be located there. 1957 was Fangio’s fifth and final Championship year, maximizing both his indomitable talents and setting the high water mark of competitiveness for the Maserati 250F.

In practice for the Monaco Grand Prix Maserati had experimented with extending the life of their 250F by adding a powerful engine, a four-cam 60º V12 2,5 liter motor with the carburetors mounted on top of the cylinder heads between the camshafts. This motor was considerably heavier than the well-proven straight six and it was also very “peaky” with its extra power only at the top of the rev range and being rather intractable lower down. Fangio would slip the clutch brutally around the Gasworks hairpin to keep the revs up then drop it in brutally to snake up the road toward Ste. Devote. The entire Maserati team of Fangio, Harry Schell, Carlos Menditeguy and Giorgio Scarlatti all tried the V12 car, but then reverted to their standard sixes for the race. Maserati would try the V12 a few more times on faster circuits such as Monza, but it never proved an effective modification to what was otherwise a fully developed and very reliable Grand Prix car. The V12 would see further life at larger displacement under the 3 liter F1 formula in the 1966 Copper 81 which saw some success in the hands of John Surtees, Pedro Rodriguez and Jochen Rindt.

For the Monaco weekend, practice started early on the Thursday morning. Ferrari failed to get to Monaco in time, so the British teams were there in numbers along with the Maserati team. There would be some serious running during each practice period because provisional entries had been accepted from 20 cars, but only 16 would be allowed to start. After it had all been done, Frangio was on pole, sharing the front row with Peter Collins’ Ferrari, still basically a Lancia D50 but now highly modified, and a Vanwal driven by Stirling Moss. Tony Brook’s Vanwall and Mike Hawthorn’s Ferrari filled the second row.

Maserati, Ferrari, Monaco

After the start Moss led from Collins and Fangio. On the fourth lap everything came unglued as Moss crashed at the Chicane displacing one of the long poles used to mark the harbor edge. Collins hit that pole and crashed on top of more of them and was then hit by Hawthorn’s car, so all three of them were out in an instant. Fangio, seen at left passing the wrecked Collins and Hawthorn Ferraris, managed to avoid the carnage and led all the way to the finish, followed home by Brooks. Jack Brabham in a 2 liter Cooper 43 made a real run for third place until his car’s fuel pump failed with five laps to go and he pushed it across the line for sixth and last place.

Photos by Yves Debraine ©The Klemantaski Collection –

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One comment

  1. Jim sitz · · Reply

    Never forget the sight of Moss, Collins and Hawthorn walking back to pits looking chagrined after all of them crashing out early

    Her Majesttes Finest !

    jim sitz


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