1956 Italian Grand Prix (partially found footage of Formula One World Championship race; 1956)

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Juan Manuel Fangio ahead of Harry Schell, Stirling Moss, and Peter Collins.

Status: Partially Found

The 1956 Italian Grand Prix was the eighth and final race of the 1956 Formula One Season. Occurring on 2nd September at the Monza Circuit, the race would ultimately be won by Maserati's Stirling Moss despite experiencing fuel and tyre issues late-on. The race is famous for Lancia-Ferrari driver Peter Collins sacrificing his chance to win the Drivers' Championship by giving his car to teammate Juan Manuel Fangio, who promptly claimed his fourth title.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1956 Italian Grand Prix was the seventh running of the event as part of the Formula One calendar, with the race lasting 50 laps.[1] The 26th edition in Grand Prix history,[2] the Italian Grand Prix has been held at Monza for all bar one instance in 1980 since Formula One's inception in 1950,[3] and has garnered a reputation for being the "home" grand prix of Ferrari.[4] The 1956 edition also became the Grand Prix of Europe.[5]

Heading into the race, Fangio led the Drivers' Championship with 30 points.[6][7] The only drivers that could defeat him were Collins and Maserati's Jean Behra, who were both on 22 points.[6][7] Fangio only needed to finish fifth to secure the title, while Collins and Behra needed him to retire while they won and achieved the fastest lap.[8] Ferrari entered six cars, including for the debuting Wolfgang von Trips.[5] Despite experiencing the same tyre tread issues as in the previous year's event, the Ferraris proved competitive, with Fangio achieving pole position with a time of 2:42.6.[5][1][7] In second and third respectively were his teammates Eugenio Castellotti and Luigi Musso, with Collins qualifying seventh.[1][5][7] Behra and Moss started fifth and sixth respectively, with qualifying being Moss' first time in the new Maserati design that at the time did not suit his desired driving position.[5][1][7] Von Trips meanwhile suffered a heavy crash after spinning off at Curva Grande at around 130 mph, although he escaped without any injuries.[5] Von Trips withdrew as no backup car was available; he tried explaining to Ferrari that the car suddenly darted right for no explainable reason, but Ferrari assumed that von Trips made a rookie error.[5][1]

Before the race commenced, Enzo Ferrari phoned Collins regarding the title race.[9] He promised Collins that he would not force him to give up his car to Fangio if the latter required it, but did request Collins' opinion surrounding winning the World Championship.[9] Collins responded that at age 25, he would not be able to handle the burden of being World Champion, and stated that the 45-year-old Fangio deserved it.[9] He also assumed that he would have plenty of time to win the World Championship eventually.[9] Fangio also requested that Castellotti and Musso conserve their tyres for this race, so that he can set the pace and successfully achieve victory in front of Ferrari's home crowd.[8][5]

The Race[edit | edit source]

With the starting order decided, the 1956 Italian Grand Prix commenced on 2nd September.[1] Musso and Castellotti started strongly, overtaking Fangio and immediately ignoring Fangio's request by engaging in a personal duel.[8][5][1] Vanwall's Harry Schell also had a good start, passing Fangio for third.[5] He would however quickly drop back to sixth, although remained a contender for the lead.[5] Musso and Castellotti maintained their 1-2, which also became a 1-4 with Fangio and Collins not far behind.[7][5] However, their duel resulted in them losing their left rear tyre treads on lap 5, forcing them to pit.[5][7][1] Moss assumed the lead, but engaged in a duel with Schell, the duo passing each other for first several times as Schell's Vanwall was quicker on the straights but slower on the bankings.[5] Schell led a full lap on lap 11, but was re-passed by Moss.[5][1] Collins meanwhile suffered a left rear tyre burst, forcing a prompt pitstop.[5]

Fangio also experienced issues; on lap 18, he was forced to pit following a broken right hand steering arm.[5][8][7] He decided to give his car up to Castellotti, who had originally retired following another tyre blowout.[5][1] Based on Motor Sports' comments surrounding tyre treads, Ferrari possibly could have limited the threat of blowouts had they taken von Trips' concerns seriously.[5] After 23 laps, Behra's title campaign ended following a magneto failure.[5][1] He took over teammate Umberto Maglioli's car, but now would not score enough points to win the Championship regardless of result.[7] Meanwhile, Musso refused to let Fangio take over his vehicle; with both his title rivals out, Collins, who was running fourth, could theoretically become champion if he could reduce the 55-second gap between himself and Moss.[5][8][7] But on lap 35, Collins came into the pits, and suddenly proved true to his word with Ferrari by letting Fangio take over his car.[8][7][5][9][1]

Meanwhile, Moss ran out of fuel on lap 45, but he and teammate Luigi Piotti exploited a loophole in the rules by having Piotti push Moss' Maserati into the pits.[5] Had his car been pushed by a human, Moss would have been disqualified.[5] The move allowed him to gain the fuel required for the remaining laps, although he not only lost the lead to Musso, but also had to contend with a near-bald rear tyre.[5][8] However, he regained the lead when Musso retired with three laps remaining due to a broken left steering arm.[5][8][1] While Moss had to considerably slow down to ensure his tyre lasted, enabling Fangio to close the gap to 10 seconds by the final lap, Moss managed to keep the lead with a 6-second margin.[5][8][1] He therefore claimed victory and eight points, while also scoring another for setting the fastest lap, which was also the lap record.[5][8][7][1] Fangio secured his fourth title with second, with Ron Flockhart scoring Connaught-Alta's only podium with third.[5][7][8][1][10] Maserati's Paco Godia and Connaught-Alta's Jack Fairman claimed the final points positions by finishing fourth and fifth respectively.[1][5]

Post-race, Collins explained that he was not ready for the burden of becoming World Champion, stating "All I could think of was that if I won the race and the championship I would be an instant celebrity. I would have a position to live up to. People would make demands of me. Driving would not be fun any more, so I handed the car to Fangio. I am only 25 years old and have plenty of time to win the championship on my own."[8] He also believed Fangio deserved to win his fourth title.[9] Fangio himself was elated by Collins' decision, stating "When Collins came in, he saw me stuck there, and without being asked he got out of his car and offered it to me to finish in. That was a fantastic gesture. My anxiety and misery gave way to joy, so much so that I threw my arms around him and kissed him. After that I finished second to Moss, and that was enough."[8] Following his fourth title victory, Fangio was deemed by Autosport as one of the greatest drivers of all-time.[8] Enzo Ferrari, despite his personal conflicts with Fangio that saw the Argentine depart Ferrari for Maserati in 1957, felt Fangio was indeed an all-timer, stating "I think it unlikely we will ever see again a champion capable of such a sustained series of success."[8]

Availability[edit | edit source]

The race reportedly received highlights from RTE.[11] However, the broadcasts have yet to publicly resurface, having originated from an era where telerecordings were rare until videotape was perfected in the late-1950s.[12] Nevertheless, footage can be found in some publicly available newsreels and documentaries.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Videos[edit | edit source]

British Pathé newsreel of the race.
Movietone News newsreel of the race.
British documentary providing colour footage of the race.

Images[edit | edit source]

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 Racing-Reference detailing the qualifying and race results of the event. Retrieved 15th Aug '22
  2. Ultimate Car Page listing all instances of the Italian Grand Prix. Retrieved 15th Aug '22
  3. F1 Experiences detailing facts regarding the Italian Grand Prix. Retrieved 15th Aug '22
  4. Scuderia Ferrari Club detailing how Monza is considered the home of Ferrari. Retrieved 15th Aug '22
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 5.17 5.18 5.19 5.20 5.21 5.22 5.23 5.24 5.25 5.26 5.27 5.28 5.29 Motor Sport providing a detailed race report. Retrieved 15th Aug '22
  6. 6.0 6.1 Stats F1 detailing the Drivers' Championship standings heading into the race. Retrieved 15th Aug '22
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 Car Throttle summarising the race and Collins giving up his car to Fangio. Retrieved 15th Aug '22
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 8.11 8.12 8.13 8.14 ESPN summarising the race and post-race comments from Fangio, Collins, and Ferrari. Retrieved 15th Aug '22
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 Motor Racing Heroes detailing Collins' and Ferrari's conversation prior to the race. Retrieved 15th Aug '22
  10. GP Racing Stats noting Flockhart's third place was Connaught's only podium in Formula One. Retrieved 15th Aug '22
  11. List of Formula One television broadcasts noting RTE provided race highlights. Retrieved 15th Aug '22
  12. Web Archive article discussing how most early television is missing due to a lack of directly recording television. Retrieved 15th Aug '22