1955 Formula One World Championship (partially found footage of Formula One races; 1955)
The 1955 Formula One World Championship was the sixth FIA-sanctioned top-level Grand Prix racing season. It saw Juan Manuel Fangio achieve his second back-to-back title with Mercedes-Benz, and his third World Championship overall, in Mercedes' final season as a constructor until 2010. Three races were televised, including the Monaco, Dutch, and Italian Grand Prix. The Dutch Grand Prix is the the earliest known race to receive full live television coverage.
1955 Monaco Grand Prix
The 1955 Monaco Grand Prix was the second race of the 1955 Formula One Season. Occurring on 22nd May at the Circuit de Monaco, the race was ultimately won by Ferrari's Maurice Trintignant, achieving his first victory in the sport. The event is also famous for a crash involving Lancia's Alberto Ascari, who ended up falling into the harbour.
It was the 2nd running of the event as part of Formula One following its debut on the calendar in 1950. It was also the 13th in Grand Prix history. Lasting 100 laps, the Monaco Grand Prix remains an integral event of the Formula One calendar, including being prestigious enough to be classified as part of the Triple Crown of Motorsport, alongside the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500.
Heading into the race, Mercedes-Benz entered two special versions of its W196. Both had shorter wheelbases, with the inboard brakes mounted on the wheel hubs. This helped save weight, while also being an attempt by Mercedes to handle the difficult turns present at Monaco. But because the German manufacturer lacked much knowledge on the handling of their new designs, they opted to modify them further to accommodate its drivers Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss. Elsewhere, Lancia were seeking to challenge Mercedes, including by providing a fourth car to Monégasque driver Louis Chiron. Ferrari entered both 625s and new 555s for the race, with the majority of its drivers relying on the older car.
In qualifying, Fangio set the pace by claiming pole position with a time of 1:41.1. Lancia's Alberto Ascari was narrowly behind in second, being joint-fastest with Fangio but having set his later than the Argentine. In third was Moss, who was finding his Mercedes to be less competitive than Fangio's. Indeed, whereas his car was more than two seconds slower than Fangio's, when he drove his teammate's car, he found he was only one-tenth behind. Trintignant meanwhile qualified ninth in a Ferrari 625 with a time of 1:44.4, while Chiron successfully made the grid by qualifying 19th out of 20 competitors. At 55 years and 292 days, he became the oldest driver to start a Grand Prix, a record that still stands today. With only 20 spots on the grid available, it meant that Maserati's Lance Macklin and HWM-Alta's Ted Whiteaway failed to qualify after setting the slowest times, Macklin hampered by an oil leak during one session. Additionally, Mercedes' Hans Herrmann injured one of his legs and lungs in an accident, preventing him from starting the event.
With the starting order decided, the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix commenced on 22nd May. Fangio maintained his lead from the start, while fourth place Lancia driver Eugenio Castellotti passed both Moss and Ascari to move into second. Moss would move into second by lap 5, but by that point, Fangio already had a 7-second lead that he was continually extending. Both Mercedes outclassed the field, with the gap between Moss and the others being nine seconds, Moss himself nine seconds behind his teammate. Castellotti and Ascari duelled for third, while Trintignant challenged for sixth on lap 23. By lap 35, Ascari was in third after Castellotti suffered a puncture from hitting a kerb, with Maserati's Jean Behra also encountering issues that required a pit stop.
By this point, Fangio was more than 40 seconds ahead of Ascari, although Moss had since closed the gap. 15 laps later however, Fangio retired following a transmission failure. Moss took over in front, and had built such a gap over Ascari that he was soon to lap him as the race reached lap 81. Ascari meanwhile was challenged by lapped Maserati driver Cesare Perdisa, with Moss looking to lap both Italians. But after completing 81 laps, Moss' engine failed, forcing him into the pits. Ascari therefore was set to inherit the lead, but not long afterwards slipped on oil from Moss' blown engine coming down the hill that saw him crash through a straw hale and sand-bag barrier. Him and his car ending up falling into the harbour. Ultimately, Ascari escaped drowning, but suffered shock and a broken nose. This proved to be the two-time champion's final Formula One start; four days later, he was killed testing a Ferrari 750 Monza at the Monza Circuit, aged 36.
With Moss and Ascari out, Trintignant moved into first, and remained there for the final 20 laps of the race. He therefore claimed his first victory and eight points in the Drivers' Championship, which also led to him topping the Championship with 11.33 points. It was a result considered unlikely by most, considering the performances of the Mercedes and Ascari relative to the Ferraris. In second was Castellotti, with Behra finishing third after overtaking Ferrari's Nino Farina with 10 remaining. Farina and Lancia's Luigi Villoresi finished in the final points positions of fourth and fifth respectively, while Chiron came home in sixth. Moss pushed his Mercedes over the line to be classified ninth.
1955 Dutch Grand Prix
The 1955 Dutch Grand Prix was the fifth race of the 1955 Formula One Season. Occurring on 19th June at the Zandvoort Circuit, the race would ultimately be won by Juan Manuel Fangio in a Mercedes-Benz, with him and teammate Stirling Moss achieving a controlling 1-2. The event is also the earliest known race to receive full live television coverage.
It was the third running of the event within the Formula One calendar, as well as the fifth in Grand Prix history. Having missed the 1954 Season, the 100-lap race returned the following year once Zandvoort's surface was restored to a good condition. The race ran on a frequent basis until being dropped from the Formula One schedule following financial difficulties in 1986. Nevertheless, both the track and event would make a return to Formula One from 2021 onwards.
Heading into the race, Formula One and the entire motor racing world was shaken following the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans disaster, which claimed the lives of Mercedes driver Pierre Levegh and 84 spectators. Four races, including the French, German, Swiss, and Spanish Grand Prix, were all cancelled. Additionally, only 16 cars were entered, with both Lancia and Vanwall withdrawing from the event. 1950 World Champion Nino Farina meanwhile retired following the previous race at Belgium. This enabled Ferrari to hire Eugenio Castellotti and Mike Hawthorn to drive alongside 1955 Monaco Grand Prix winner Maurice Trintignant and replace Farina. They would all be driving the Tipo 555, which following teething problems, was reportedly improving. Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz's line-up was unchanged, with the team also gaining an advantage by privately booking the circuit to conduct tests on the morning of qualifying.
In qualifying itself, Fangio achieved pole position with a time of 1:40, which was over 10 seconds faster than the record time set by a 2-litre Ferrari. Directly behind Fangio were his Mercedes teammates Moss and Karl Kling, in second and third respectively.
With the starting order decided, the 1955 Dutch Grand Prix commenced on 19th June. Fangio actually jumped the start, although did not pull out a substantial lead to convince anyone to file a complaint. Meanwhile, Maserati's Luigi Musso made a strong start from fourth to overtake Moss and Kling for second. Moss would quickly move back into second however and closed the gap to Fangio. Nevertheless, while Mercedes would begin to pull away, Musso remained in contention to give the German team some concern. Fangio controlled proceedings, his short car designed for Monte Carlo gaining advantages during the pit hairpin as opposed to Moss' medium-length design.
By the halfway point, Fangio and Moss were close to each other, while being 17 seconds ahead of Musso. Even by lap 60, Musso was still considered a threat to Mercedes. However, light rain began to pour down, which caused Musso to drop back. Gradually, Mercedes extended their lead until by lap 85 they were more than a minute ahead of Musso. While Moss' engine was experiencing issues on the last lap, it was the only real concern Mercedes had all race, with Fangio leading from start to finish to claim victory and eight points in the Drivers' Championship. Moss was just a length behind in second, with Musso taking third. Maserati's Roberto Mieres and Castelotti claimed the final points positions in fourth and fifth respectively. Ferrari's drivers were unhappy with the 555's performance in the race, complaining of significant understeer. Ferrari would therefore re-enter the 625 for the following race, the British Grand Prix.
1955 Italian Grand Prix
The 1955 Italian Grand Prix was the seventh and final race of the 1955 Formula One Season. Occurring on 11th September at the Monza Circuit, the race would ultimately be won by Juan Manuel Fangio in a Mercedes-Benz, in what was the final race for the original Mercedes Formula One team.
It was the sixth running of the event as part of the Formula One calendar, with the race lasting 50 laps. The 25th edition in Grand Prix history, the Italian Grand Prix has been held at Monza for all bar one instance in 1980 since Formula One's inception in 1950, and has garnered a reputation for being the "home" grand prix of Ferrari. Monza itself was rebuilt for 1955, with the full circuit now being 10 km in length.
Heading into the race, Formula One had not hosted a Grand Prix since the British Grand Prix on 16th July. The reason for the gap between races was that four events, including the French, German, Swiss, and Spanish Grand Prix, were all cancelled following the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans disaster that claimed the lives of Mercedes driver Pierre Levegh and 84 spectators. Meanwhile, the race would also mark the end of an era, as Mercedes were to withdraw from Formula One. The decision had been made prior to the Le Mans disaster, with the German company intending to concentrate on its production of passenger cars that was suffering due to its vast racing investment. For its final race, three different designs would be entered for its drivers Fangio, Stirling Moss, and Karl Kling, including a new streamlined long-chassis for the now-three-time World Champion Fangio. Meanwhile, Ferrari had bought out Lancia's D50s and entered them for the race alongside three of its Tip 555s. Additionally, 1950 World Champion Nino Farina came out of retirement to drive once more, competing in one of the D50s.
In qualifying, Fangio achieved pole position with a time of 1:46.5. Directly behind him were his teammates Moss and Kling, in second and third respectively. The Lancia-Ferraris also proved competitive, with Farina placing his car fifth out of 23 competitors. However, Farina also experienced a major crash when a rear tyre tread broke away, causing his car to spin and total the car's rear. While he escaped uninjured, a front tread fell off during another session, although this time a crash was avoided. Enzo Ferrari attempted to have the D50s' tyres be replaced with Pirellis, but contracted tyre supplier Englebert refused to allow this. Thus, Ferrari withdrew the D50s from the event, meaning Farina would not start his final Grand Prix.
With the starting order decided, the 1955 Italian Grand Prix commenced on 11th September. Moss jumped Fangio into first on the opening lap, but team orders forced him to relinquish it back to his teammate. Fangio led a Mercedes 1-4, with Piero Taruffi having passed Kling. Even by lap 2, the Mercedes cars were already dominating the field, with only Ferrari's Eugenio Castellotti capable of hanging with them. This only lasted for four laps however, with Castellotti also losing ground to the German vehicles. On lap 8, Moss briefly led, before Fangio moved back into first a lap later. By lap 19, it appeared Mercedes would have no issues, with the 1-4 line-up just separated by four seconds. However, Moss' windscreen soon shattered, forcing him to pit, which dropped him back to eighth. But because he was no longer constrained by team orders, Moss was able to demonstrate his and his car's full potential, including setting a lap record at Monza.
On lap 25, Maserati's Luigi Musso passed Castellotti after a long duel for fourth. Three laps later, Moss was out following an engine failure. He was not the only Mercedes driver to be eliminated; on lap 32, Kling suffered a gearbox failure. But with Musso having also retired a lap prior to Kling because of a faulty gearbox, Fangio and Taruffi remained unchallenged, with only Castellotti and Maserati's Jean Behra also being on the lead lap. Fangio, who was fatigued and bruised negotiating the new track and its bankings, therefore claimed victory and a final eight points in the Drivers' Championship. Taruffi made it a Mercedes 1-2, the last until the 2014 Malaysian Grand Prix. Indeed, Mercedes would only return as a manufacturer when it supplied the Sauber team engines in 1994, and it would take until 2010 for it to become a constructor again. Castellotti took third, with Maserati drivers Behra and Carlos Menditeguy claiming the final points positions in fourth and fifth respectively.
The 1955 Monaco Grand Prix was reportedly televised by TMC, although it is unknown whether it provided live coverage or race highlights. Meanwhile, the 1955 Dutch Grand Prix is the earliest-known race to receive full live coverage, courtesy of Dutch channel NTS. It also received highlights from Belgian channel BRT. The 1955 Italian Grand Prix is likewise reported to have received full live coverage from RTE.
These broadcasts have yet to publicly resurface, however, having originated from an era where telerecordings were rare until video tape was perfected in the late-1950s. Nevertheless, substantial footage of the races are available from films, documentaries, and newsreels. Some photos can also be found online.
- F1 Chronicle detailing the history of the Monaco Grand Prix. Retrieved 10th Aug '22
- Ultimate Car Page providing a list of Monaco Grand Prix. Retrieved 10th Aug '22
- Racing-Reference detailing the qualifying and race results of the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix. Retrieved 10th Aug '22
- Topend Sports detailing the Triple Crown of Motorsport. Retrieved 10th Aug '22
- Motorsport Magazine providing a detailed 1955 Monaco Grand Prix report. Retrieved 10th Aug '22
- Grand Prix Ferrari summarising the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix and Ferrari's performance in it. Retrieved 10th Aug '22
- Concept Carz detailing the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix and Trintignant's first victory. Retrieved 10th Aug '22
- The Forgotten Drivers of F1 detailing the career of Chiron and noting he became the oldest driver to start a Grand Prix. Retrieved 10th Aug '22
- Motorsport Memorial page for Alberto Ascari. Retrieved 10th Aug '22
- Stats F1 detailing the Drivers' Standings following the race. Retrieved 10th Aug '22
- Circuits of the Past detailing the history of Zandvoort and the Dutch Grand Prix. Retrieved 10th Aug '22
- Motorsport Magazine providing a detailed 1955 Dutch Grand Prix report. Retrieved 10th Aug '22
- Racing-Reference detailing the qualifying and race results of the 1955 Dutch Grand Prix. Retrieved 10th Aug '22
- Autoweek reporting on the return of the Dutch Grand Prix to the Formula One calendar. Retrieved 10th Aug '22
- Grand Prix Ferrari summarising the 1955 Dutch Grand Prix and Ferrari's performance in it. Retrieved 10th Aug '22
- Racing-Reference detailing the qualifying and race results of the 1955 Italian Grand Prix. Retrieved 11th Aug '22
- Ultimate Car Page listing all instances of the Italian Grand Prix. Retrieved 11th Aug '22
- F1 Experiences detailing facts regarding the Italian Grand Prix. Retrieved 11th Aug '22
- Scuderia Ferrari Club detailing how Monza is considered the home of Ferrari. Retrieved 11th Aug '22
- Motorsport Magazine providing a detailed 1955 Italian Grand Prix report. Retrieved 11th Aug '22
- Grand Prix Ferrari summarising the 1955 Italian Grand Prix and Ferrari's performance in it. Retrieved 11th Aug '22
- Silver Arrows detailing Mercedes' withdrawal from Formula One, and its eventual return. Retrieved 11th Aug '22
- Grand Prix noting the 2014 Malaysian Grand Prix 1-2 was Mercedes' first since 1955. Retrieved 11th Aug '22
- List of Formula One television broadcasts detailing the broadcasts of the 1955 races. Retrieved 10th Aug '22
- Web Archive article discussing how most early television is missing due to a lack of directly recording television. Retrieved 10th Aug '22