August 4, 1957: An Epic German Grand Prix, Juan Manuel Fangio’s Greatest Drive

Passion, by definition, is irrational and illogical while Juan Manuel Fangio was a cold, calculating, and steely man. On this day, he started the race with a plan: with his Maserati team, he was going to outsmart the Scuderia Ferrari and its young British lions, Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins. Starting with a light load of fuel, he was going to outpace his Ferrari rivals and, with just a quick refuelling stop, he was going to keep the lead until the end. Despite a fierce fight put up by the Ferrari drivers, the plan seemed to have worked….. But that quick pit stop turned into an unmitigated disaster and Fangio found himself an impossible 50 seconds behind the Ferrari duo who, in a fatal moment of British hubris, took Fangio as done for the day.

A famous painting by Michael Turner captured the moment as with a nod, Collins signals to Hawthorn to precede him in victory in order to have a chance at beating Fangio for the World title. However, as that ominous little red speck of a car behind them indicates, Fangio was not done.

Somehow, Fangio the man of steel, turned into a man possessed, charging obsessively, bend after bend, into the thick German forests of the Nurburgring. With his Maserati 250F, he broke the track record again and again in that comeback; 9 times in 10 laps, to be precise.

The vivid reports of the last two laps, narrating the titanic duel with his rivals, brings to mind the bloody battles described by Homerin the Illiad. Fangio triunphed in the end, the 46 year old veteran had defeated the two young and up and coming British drivers who, in a magnificent display of sportsmanship, celebrated their podium finishes with no sign of bitterness.

Later in life Fangio said that after the race he could not sleep for two days, the images of those blind corners, dark leaps, kept flashing into his mind. More poignantly he also said, “ Never before I had the courage to push things so far, never in my life I had driven to my ultimate limits and over”. This win gave Juan Manuel Fangio his fifth and last World Drivers’ Championship.

Submitted by: Antonio Lombardi, Lombardi Historic Motoring LLC


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