The Argentine Grand Prix inaugurates the Formula 1 season once again. The reigning world champion is Juan Manuel Fangio, the first driver in history to be able to put three titles on the bulletin board. But at the end of the 1955 season, Mercedes decided to retire. Fangio then finds an agreement with Enzo Ferrari even if the two will never be fully in harmony. At the first race in Buenos Aires, Fangio still wins his first race in red, the third in a row in front of the home crowd. However, it will not be a full victory, both because it comes despite an appeal (this time from Maserati), and because Luigi is on the top step of the podium. Musso, with whom he shared the cockpit.
Ferrari faces the 1956 World Championship strengthened both on the technical and on the drivers front. Before hiring Fangio, in fact, the Lancia cars and technical staff had arrived from Turin, retired from Formula 1 after Ascari’s death. Enzo Ferrari can thus aim to redeem a disastrous 1955 and regain the title he has been missing since 1953.
In Argentina there are only the two Italian manufacturers, Ferrari and Maserati: the Cavallino ranks Fangio, Castellotti, Musso, Collins and Gendebien; the Trident responds with Moss, Behra, Menditeguy, Piotti, Landi / Gerini, Froilan Gonzales, Hawthorn and Uria / Gonzales. The race weekend is characterized by the usual scorching heat that brings to mind the ghosts of the previous year, when the race had proved unsustainable for many drivers. The qualification rewards Fangio, on his first pole on his home track. They follow him, with abysmal detachments, Castellotti (at 2 “2), Musso (+2 “2), Behra (+2 “6). Gonzales opens the second row (at 2 ”7), preceding Menditeguy (+3” 1) and Moss (+3 ”3). However, the race will not be a walk in the park for Fangio, as well summarized by Carlos Menendez in the Press on January 24: “The world champion has accomplished a superb ride, very different from the monologues to which the clear superiority of the mechanical means entrusted to him in the last two years had accustomed us: this time he had to fight with all the energies and resources of his very high class to recover an initial disadvantage that had seemed insurmountable to all“. Let’s see how.
98 laps scheduled on the 3,912 km circuit. Departure at 16.00 local time. Gonzalez takes the lead, followed by Menditeguy, Musso, Fangio and Castellotti. On the third lap Menditeguy takes the lead, while behind him Fangio, initially slipped sixth, finds himself fighting with Moss with whom he is playing for second place. On lap 12, Fangio’s Ferrari-Lancia D50 number 30 begins to blame those engine problems already manifested during the tests: the Argentine stops in the pits, loses more than a minute and starts again in 11th position. Ten laps later, he is back in the pits: the carburetor problems are irreparable and the Argentine promises to retire, but Ferrari decides to stop the excellent Musso, at that moment 5th, who sells his car to the Argentine.
Fangio is back in the race, but Menditeguy now has a lap of advantage. It is from this moment that the Argentine’s masterpiece begins: lastly, on lap 30 he is already in sixth position, at 41st he overtakes Hawthorn and is third, thanks also to Castellotti’s retirement due to the gearbox failure, at 43rd he takes advantage of a Menditeguy off-track, until there undisputed leader, and climbs to second position. Halfway through the race, Maserati drives with Moss, Behra is 3rd and Hawthorn is 4th. Ferrari is still in the race with Fangio 2nd and Collins 5th. On lap 67 fate still smiles at Fangio: the 6-cylinder Maserati begins to show signs of slowing down and Moss has to slow down (he will then retire at the 82nd step).
Fangio is in command, has a good margin over Behra, but on lap 78 he spun, and his Ferrari stops on the escape route, blocked by mud. But Fangio’s race does not end this time either: with the irregular help of the fans, Fangio returns to the track and ten laps later crosses the finish line as a winner, with 24 ”on Behra and two laps on Hawthorn. Fangio also takes the fastest lap, for the fourth hat trick of his career. As in 1954, the grand prix does not end with the checkered flag. The Maserati box, driven by Nello Ugolini, makes a complaint, which is rejected. For Ugolini, who two years earlier held the same position in Ferrari and had asked for the disqualification of Fangio, then in Maserati, for an irregularity in the pits (read here), is another bitter disappointment.
Article photo: Revista El Gráfico
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