Maserati is one of the most luxurious car makers around today. The Italian manufacturer has always been compared to the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini for making fast, luxurious, expensive cars. Like its compatriots, Maserati has produced some gorgeous looking cars in its past. Also like its compatriots, it has raced in the world’s premier motorsport: Formula One.
Maserati competed in the early days of Formula One with little success, being outshone by both Ferrari and Alfa Romeo. By 1953, however, success started to become a reality. Coupled with the legendary driver, Juan Manuel Fangio, Maserati took the fight to the dominant Ferraris in ’53, but reliability issues meant even though Fangio finished second that season, they only won one race, the final race of the season at Monza. Without reliability issues, Fangio and Maserati could have won the championship.
1954 was an interesting season for Formula One, Maserati, and Fangio. The new 2.5 liter Formula ripped up the rule book and was an advantage to the team quickest to adapt. Maserati introduced one of the greatest F1 cars in history, the 250F. Fangio started the season in the 250F and he won the opening events in Argentina and Belgium. At the next race at Reims, Fangio, as had been agreed at the start of the season, jumped to the new Mercedes team to drive the W196. Fangio was also allowed to transfer the points gained in the Maserati over to the Mercedes. He would go on to win the title in a Mercedes, leaving Maserati to go nowhere.
At the next race at Reims, Fangio, as had been agreed at the start of the season, jumped to the new Mercedes team to drive the W196. He was also allowed to transfer the points gained in the Maserati over to the Mercedes and would go on to win the title in a Mercedes, leaving Maserati to go nowhere.
1955 was a worse year for Maserati. With their star driver gone, the team did not manage to win a race in a tragic season, which saw the Le Mans tragedy and the death of two-time world champion, Alberto Ascari.
With Mercedes leaving Formula One in the wake of the Le Mans tragedy, Maserati managed to hire Stirling Moss for the 1956 season. Moss won the Monaco and Monza Grands Prix in the still competitive 250F, but he and the team would lose out to Fangio and Ferrari.
Finally, 1957 would be the year for Maserati. With Moss leaving to join Vanwall, the seat was open for Fangio to make a sensational return. For the third successive season, the 250F was competitive and Fangio drove brilliantly to win the championship, again ahead of Moss. Fangio won the races in Argentina, Monaco, France, and Germany.
The win at the Nurburgring in Germany would be Fangio and Maserati’s greatest achievement. Having made a botched pit stop, Fangio rejoined the race 45 seconds behind the leaders. Even though he had a heavier fuel load, Fangio took six seconds a lap out of the leaders, before storming past them both on the final lap to win by just over three seconds. It was an incredible drive, to which Fangio said he never wanted to have to drive like that again. Such was the brilliance of the drive, Fangio broke the lap record at the Nurburgring 10 times on his way to victory. To put that in perspective, the Nurburgring was 22.8km long and had 160 corners. It was also the most dangerous track on the calendar. The race was a testament to Fangio’s brilliance and bravery, and to the engineering of the 250F.
By 1958 the factory Maserati team was no more. Financial issues had forced it to pull out of Formula One. Incredibly, the 250F was so popular and competitive, that it remained in the series in the hands of privateers, before finally being made obsolete by rear and mid-engined cars.
Maserati, while they never formally won a constructors championship because it didn’t exist until 1958, had a successful few years in Formula One, finally getting the ultimate reward in their last season. Going up against the mighty Ferrari and Mercedes was tough for Maserati, but they were nearly always competitive. A successful team that constructed one of the most iconic cars of all-time, Maserati may not have been the most successful in terms of numbers, but they should never be forgotten.