This gathering of some important members of the Ferrari team is at practice for the non-Championship Syracuse Grand Prix which took place on April 14, 1954 at the Syracusa public road circuit in Sicily. The car is the all new Ferrari 553F1 “Squalo,” so called because of its shark-like look, a 2.5 liter F1 car which it was hoped would be a step forward from the 625F1, an F1 carry-over of the 500F2 car which had been very successful over the prior two seasons. This particular 553F1 was used as the training car for Syracusa and, having blown its engine, Giuseppe “Nino” Farina here in the car would drive an older 625F1 with the number 2 in the race. There was a second 553F1 which would be driven in the race by Froilán González who is standing at the left above.
The 553F1 had first appeared in F2 1.5 liter form at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in September 1953 where it finished fourth (Mike Hawthorn) and eighth (Umberto Maglioli). being two of Ferrari’s six entries. That race had an astounding finish as Alberto Ascari and Farina, each driving Ferrari 500F2s, both led Juan Fangio’s Maserati A6GCM into the final corner on the last lap. At this point Ascari spun and Farina had to go onto the grass temporarily to avoid him which allowed Fangio to take the win.
With González at the left and team leader Giuseppe “Nino” Farina in the car, the others are: to Farina’s left leaning on the tail of the car with coat and tie is “Maestro” Nello Ugolini, Ferrari’s team manager, while standing next to Ugolini with his foot on the rear tire is Ferrari’s head of design Aurelio Lampredi. The 553F1 was a Lampredi creation with a new shorter multi-tube chassis which featured side fuel tanks to reduce polar moment and hopefully make for more precise handling. The new F1 car also featured a new four cylinder Lampredi-designed motor which was a short stroke “over square” design with a new cylinder head with the valves inclined at 84° versus the 58° of the earlier F2 motor. Unfortunately, the new engine would suffer from various reliability issues, many seemingly deriving from the high internal stresses of its short stroke design.
In the Syracusa race Hawthorn backed his 625F1 into a wall due to being temporarily blinded by straw which had been thrown up by Marimon’s Maserati when it hit some bales. Hawthorn’s car then caught fire but he escaped with mild burns. González stopped in the same area to see if Hawthorn was all right, but his 553F1 then rolled into Hawthorn’s car and both machines were destroyed by the fires seen at the left.
In addition to its engine woes, the handling of the 553F1 did not show outstanding stability and some of the fuel tankage had been moved back to the tail for the Syracusa race. Eventually at the Spanish Grand Prix late in the year, Ferrari made a long overdue switch to coil spring front suspension, replacing their classic transverse front leaf spring, and Hawthorn won with his updated 553F1, ahead of Juan Fangio’s Mercedes W196.
Photos by Archivio Corrado Millanta ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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