Mercedes-Benz owned the world of international motor sport in 1955. The W196 grand prix car, introduced at the 1954 French Grand Prix, won 8 out its first 11 races. The 300SLR, itself derived from the W196, was equally dominant in sports car endurance events. The Mercedes works team, already led by the reigning champion, Juan Manuel Fangio, added the sport’s best young driver, Stirling Moss, to be the number two driver at the beginning of the 1955 F1 campaign. Excluding the hiccup at Monaco, when all of the W196’s suffered mechanical issues, Mercedes-Benz and Fangio were in imperious form throughout the season. And yet, the era of ‘die neu silber pfeil’ would be a short one. The tragedy of Le Mans would see to that.
In the aftermath of the Le Mans disaster, the French Grand Prix had been cancelled, so the British Grand Prix became the sixth round of the World Championship. The race had always been held at Silverstone, but for the 1955 season the Royal Automobile Club decided that the race would be held at the Aintree racecourse in the outskirts of Liverpool.
As for Mercedes-Benz’s opposition, the works Maserati 250Fs, piloted by Jean Behra and Luigi Musso, were competitive; Ferrari, on the other hand, struggled with the 555 and 625 Formula 1 cars, which evolved from the 4 cylinder 500. Vanwall, Gordini, Connaught and Cooper (with Jack Brabham making his World Championship debut) were also represented in the field. Mercedes-Benz was dominant in qualifying with Stirling Moss fastest by two-tenths over his team mate Juan-Manuel Fangio. Joining Moss and Fangio on the front row was Behra’s Maserati. The Mercedes-Benz of Karl Kling and Piero Taruffi qualified fourth and fifth respectively. The third row of the grid featured the Maseratis of Roberto Mieres and Andre Simon split by Harry Schell in the fastest Vanwall. The fastest of the Ferraris belonged to Eugenio Castellotti in 10th position.
Moss took the early lead but Fangio quickly moved ahead, only to see Moss regain the lead on the 3rd lap. Behind the leading Mercedes, Behra fought back after a poor start to edge ahead of Kling and Taruffi. Taruffi then fell to sixth place, behind the Maserati of Roberto Mieres. Behra retired on lap 10 after an oil pipe broke, and Mieres dropped out with a burnt piston just past the half-way mark, leaving the Mercedes works team in the top four spots; Meanwhile, the leaders swapped positions again; Fangio leading for a few laps and then Moss surging ahead again. The two continued to lap nose-to-tail for the rest of the afternoon; In the end, Moss was first to the flag to claim his first Grand Prix victory and the honor of being the first Briton to win the British Grand Prix. As the teammates met in the winner’s circle, Moss asked his mentor, teammate and friend, Fangio, if he let him win. Fangio replied that Moss had driven the superior race and it was his day.
As usual, we’ve tracked down footage of the race itself, an interview with Sir Stirling and some newsreel footage from the British Pathe archive. Enjoy!
Unused film footage of the 1955 British Grand Prix from the British Pathe archives.
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