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1954 French Grand Prix

The third round of the 1954 World Championship took place on July 4 in France at the Reims circuit. Compared to the previous year, the last turn of Thillois underwent changes, which became smoother, due to which the length of the track was slightly reduced and now amounted to 8.3 km. As in the previous year, the "12 Hours of Reims" sports car race was also held on the same circuit alongside the Grand Prix, with some drivers taking part in both events.

Reims 1954.jpg

In between the Belgian and the French Grand Prix, a Supercortemaggiore sports car race took place in Monza, during which Nino Farina's car caught fire, and the Italian received multiple burns, being taken out of action for a long time.


Thus, only three drivers represented Ferrari in France: Jose-Froilan Gonzalez, Mike Hawthorn and Maurice Trintignant, while the Argentine and the Englishman received the new Ferraris 553 at their disposal, and the Frenchman performed on the intermediate model 625.


However, the absence of the first Formula 1 champion went almost unnoticed, since all the paddock's attention was turned to the German team Daimler Benz, which in France returned to the world of the Grand Prix after a 15-year break with new "silver arrows" and former head Alfred Neubauer.


Considering the high-speed configuration of the Reims circuit, Neubauer brought to France three Mercedes cars of the W196R Streamliner modification with a streamlined body covering the wheels and allowing for maximum speed on the long straights. And when these new "silver arrows" first appeared in front of the public, everyone present gasped: these cars looked so futuristic against the background of rival cars.


As for the drivers of the German team, the honor of bringing these miracle cars onto the track went to the championship leader Juan Manuel Fangio, as well as two German stars Karl Kling and Hans Herrmann.


Meanwhile, the Maserati team, having lost Fangio, found an equally worthy replacement in the person of the current world champion Alberto Ascari. The Italian could not calmly watch Fangio win one Grand Prix after another, and since his Lancia team kept postponing its debut, Alberto temporarily joined Maserati, hoping to intervene in the fight for the championship title.


In addition to Ascari, his friend and Lancia teammate Luigi Villoresi also joined the Italian team, being also temporarily out of business.


At the wheel of the third car was the main Maserati driver Onofre Marimon.


The Gordini team, as usual, fielded three cars to participate in the Grand Prix, but the team line-up changed again, and this time the debutant of the World Championship, Jacques Pollet, became the teammate of Jean Behra and Paul Frere.


In addition to the main teams, the British HWM team was present in France, which made an attempt to return to the World Championship with its last year's Formula 2 car and unchanged driver Lance Macklin. Also, two new British teams took part in the French Grand Prix, using, however, Italian Maserati 250F cars. The first was the team of Alfred Owen, created on the basis of the failed BRM, and its only driver was the Englishman Ken Wharton. The second team, Gilby Engineering, was created by Sid Green, and it was also represented by the only driver Roy Salvadori.

The rest of the Grand Prix participants were private drivers in Maserati, Ferrari and Gordini cars, while even Roberto Mieres was present in France, who managed to restore his car after a fire at the previous stage in Belgium.


The very first qualification with the participation of "silver arrows" showed the superiority of German cars over all rivals. The fastest on the French circuit was Juan-Manuel Fangio, who showed a time of 2’29.4, breaking the average speed limit of 200 km/h and receiving a prize from Pommery in the form of 50 bottles of champagne. The second was his teammate Kling, who held his first Formula 1 Grand Prix and lagged behind the Argentine by exactly 1 sec. Alberto Ascari showed his class, becoming the fastest of the rest and losing only 0.1 seconds to Kling, and by the same amount ahead of the best Ferrari driver Gonzalez. Marimon on Maserati was very fast again and showed the 5th result, and Prince Bira also drove a great lap, managing to show the 6th time on the same car. Hans Herrmann was clearly inferior to his teammates in the third Mercedes and became only 7th, while Ferrari drivers Hawthorn and Trintignant also did not perform very well, showing 8th and 9th times, with the Englishman's oil pump failing during training, forcing him to return to the pits on horseback of Ascari's car. The same problem happened to Luigi Villoresi, which is why the Italian showed only the 14th result, and the driveshaft bent on Wharton's car, forcing the Englishman to miss most of qualifying, who became only the 16th. HWM, as expected, with its last year's car could not keep up with rivals, and Lance Macklin took only 15th place on the starting grid, and Roy Salvadori from Gilby Engineering, on the contrary, was quite fast and closed the top ten. Meanwhile, the Gordini team, like last year, chose to skip qualifying in order to focus on the sports car race.




Start. When the national flag is waved, the cars take off, and the two Mercedes of Fangio and Kling do it the fastest, immediately taking the lead in the race!


At the same time, the German manages to start a little better than the Argentine, and he is the leader in the first turn! Hawthorn also gets off to a good start, breaking into 4th place, and Mieres too, who becomes 7th. Meanwhile, Ascari's transmission breaks down at the very begining of the race, and the Italian drives into the pits at the end of the lap to retire. At the same time, coming out of the last corner, Gonzalez attacks Fangio and they cross the finish line almost side by side!


Position after the 1st lap: Kling, Gonzalez, Fangio, Hawthorn, Ascari, Marimon, Mieres, Bira, Herrmann, Trintignant.
Lap 2: Fangio, thanks to the more streamlined shape of his Mercedes, manages to develop more speed than Ferrari, and he retains second place! Meanwhile, Prince Bira manages to get ahead of Mieres, and Jean Behra overtakes Manzon. Also, Villoresi wins back one position, overtaking Schell, and Berger wins back two at once, overtaking Rosier and Macklin fighting among themselves.
Lap 3: Fangio attacks his teammate Kling and takes the lead in the race!


Behind Herrmann in another Mercedes also activates, passes Behra and Mieres, and sets the fastest lap in the race!


Meanwhile, Villoresi also passes two rivals Behra and Manzon and becomes 11th.


Lap 4: The two leading Mercedes start to break away from the third-placed Gonzalez.


Meanwhile, Herrmann passes Marimon and already gets into the points! Behind him, Mieres and Trintignant are fighting fiercely between themselves and changing places several times.
Lap 5: Herrmann attacks Hawthorn and is already in 4th place! Behind Trintignant again bypasses Mieres, and Bira gets ahead of two Maseratis of Salvadori and Villoresi.
Lap 6: Behra passes Mieres and takes 9th place, and Manzon gets ahead of Villoresi and becomes 12th.


Lap 7: Frere passes Schell, rising to 14th place.


Lap 8: Villoresi again manages to overtake two rivals Salvadori and Manzon by one lap, and he comes out in 11th place. Meanwhile, the long straights of Reims, as in previous years, expose the engines of the cars to critical loads, and the power unit on Pollet's Gordini is the first to fail.


Lap 9: Villoresi wins back two more positions, overtaking Behra and Mieres, and comes in 9th place! Behind, the engine fails on another Gordini of Berger, and the Belgian leaves the race.
Lap 10: Another engine explodes, this time on Ferrari of last year's winner Hawthorn! Thanks to the Englishman retirement, Marimon takes 5th place, already getting into the points.


Position after 10 laps: Fangio, Kling, Gonzalez, Herrmann, Marimon, Bira, Trintignant, Villoresi, Behra, Mieres.
Lap 11: Herrmann catches up and passes Gonzalez, and now all three Mercedes are leading the race!


However, Jose-Froilan clearly does not intend to give up so easily and hangs on the tail of the "silver arrow".


Meanwhile, a tight fight continues in the middle of the peleton, and Mieres loses two positions, missing Salvadori and Manzon.


Besides, the engine on Lance Macklin's HWM also fails, drawing a line under the inglorious return of the British team to the World Championship.


Lap 12: Gonzalez counterattacks Herrmann and regains 3rd place!


Behind them, in the middle of the peleton, Behra passes Villoresi and rises to 8th place, and Manzon overtakes Salvadori, getting into the top ten.
Lap 13: Herrmann passes Gonzalez again, and immediately the engine on the Argentine's Ferrari explodes, unable to withstand the heat of the fight!


Jose-Froilan turns to the side of the road, clearly disappointed with the outcome of the race, and Mercedes again take the first three places, which leads Neubauer to complete delight!
Meanwhile, Marimon inherits the 4th place, and behind him Prince Bira and Trintignant are fighting fiercely for a place in the points, as a result of which the Frenchman manages to get ahead.


Lap 15: Prince Bira counterattacks Trintignant and regains 5th place!


Lap 16: The intermediate shaft breaks in Roy Salvadori's Maserati, and the Englishman drops out of the race.


Lap 17: The engine on Herrmann's Mercedes also fails to maintain the pace set by the driver, and smoke starts pouring out of it!


The young German drives into the pits, forced to stop fighting, but he receives an approving nod from Neubauer, who was pleased with Hans' performance. After Herrmann's retirement, Marimon becomes the third, and behind him Trintignant passes Prince Bira again and becomes the 4th!


Lap 18: The Prince does not give up and gets ahead of Ferrari again!


Lap 19: Trintignant goes on the attack again and takes the lead!


Lap 20: The incredible fight for 4th place continues, and now Behra is included in it, who managed to catch up with Prince Bira and Trintignant!


Three cars pass the finish line side by side, and at the end of a long straight, Bira brakes first, releasing two Frenchmen ahead. However, Behra and Trintignant, in an attempt to overbrake each other, drive into the turn too wide , and the prince manages to slip past them on the inner edge!


At the same time, Behra bumps the nose of his Gordini against the fence on the side of the track, but he still manages to get ahead of Trintignant. Meanwhile, Marimon starts having problems with the engine, and the Argentine drives into the pits to replace the spark plugs. After a long repair, Onofre returns to the track last, and Prince Bira takes third place!


On the same lap, two more drivers drop out of the race: the fuel pump fails on Schell's Maserati, and the driveshaft finally breaks on Wharton's car, which caused the Englishman problems throughout the weekend.
Position after 20 laps: Fangio, Kling, Bira, Behra, Trintignant, Villoresi, Manzon, Mieres, Frere, Rosier.
Lap 21: Behra drives into the pits to check his car. When hitting the fence, the bonnet on his Gordini bent, and one of the mechanics began to straighten it to fix it in the closed position. The Frenchman silently watches this, sitting in a car with the engine running, but after a while his nerves can't stand it, he jumps out of the cockpit and pushes the mechanic away, deciding to do the repair himself. At this moment, his Gordini stalls, and the Frenchman in a rage rips off his helmet and throws it to the ground with all his force! While Jean curses everyone, the same mechanic fearfully returns to the car and starts working on the bonnet again, while the others try to start the car. Finally, they succeed, and Behra, putting his helmet on and returning to the wheel, silently drives back to the track, having lost a lot of time and dropping to the last place. Thanks to the Frenchman's pit stop, Villoresi is now in 5th place.
Lap 23: The engine on Villoresi's Maserati loses power, and the Italian lets Manzon through, who is already getting into the points!
Lap 25: Another engine failure takes Mieres' Maserati out of the race.
Lap 26: Villoresi drives into the pits to replace a spark plug, and misses Frere's Gordini.
Lap 27: Rosier's Ferrari also has engine problems, and the Frenchman drives into the pits, leaving the race.
Lap 28: Marimon drops out of the race with a broken gearbox, and now there are only eight cars left on the track!
Lap 29: A light rain begins to fall, and Kling, who has been waiting behind Fangio for a long time, uses it to get ahead of the Argentine!


Position after 30 laps: Kling, Fangio, Bira, Trintignant, Manzon, Frere, Villoresi, Behra.
Lap 34: After several laps of pursuit, Fangio manages to overtake Kling and regain the lead!


Lap 36: Trintignant also has engine problems, and he lets Manzon through to 4th place!
Lap 37: Trintignant drives into the pits with a smoking engine, leaving the race, and thus completes the utter fiasco of the Maranello team, whose three cars could not withstand the loads of the high-speed French circuit!


Lap 38: Fangio makes a mistake in the rain, which Kling immediately takes advantage of, again taking the lead!


Lap 39: Fangio needs only one lap to catch up with the German again, and after a short struggle, the Argentine takes the lead again!


Meanwhile, Prince Bira's glasses start to fog up in the rain, and he slows down, letting Manzon through to third place!
Position after 40 laps: Fangio, Kling, Manzon, Bira, Frere, Villoresi, Behra.
Lap 50: The rear axle breaks on Frere's Gordini, and the Belgian drops out of the race, losing 5th place!


Lap 54: The sun comes out and dries out the track, and Kling attacks Fangio again, taking the lead!


Under these conditions, Prince Bira once again has great visibility, and he begins to rapidly catch up with Manzon.
Lap 56: Fangio follows Kling in a couple of seconds without attempting to overtake, clearly saving up strength for the final dash.


Lap 58: With four laps to go, Fangio goes on the attack and passes Kling!


On the same lap, Prince Bira catches up with Manzon and passes him without much struggle, regaining third place!


Lap 60: Kling does not give up, counterattacks Fangio, and leads the race for the last lap!


Last lap: Fangio keeps close behind Kling for the whole lap, and only after passing the last turn and reaching the finish straight, the Argentine uses a slip stream from the German's car to overtake him and crosses the finish line first with a difference of only 0.1 sec!


Having finished, the drivers fall into the arms of their Daimler-Benz team, which celebrates a winning double in its debut World Championship race!


At the same time, Kling looked a little stunned that he missed the victory in the last meters of the race, but he was clearly pleased with the second place, having demonstrated his skills to everyone in his first Formula 1 race.


The triumph of Mercedes overshadowed the drama unfolding behind: Prince Bira ran out of fuel on the last lap, and at the last moment he missed the opportunity to get on the podium, losing third place to Manzon! However, whatever it was, the Siamese prince still finished 4th, earning points for the first time since 1950! Fifth place went to Villoresi, who made several pit stops to replace spark plugs, and Jean Behra finished sixth and last in this race, who did not score points today only because of his vehemence on the track and at the pit stop.


Interesting facts:

- Juan-Manuel Fangio's 10th victory;
- Karl Kling's debut and first podium;
- Hans Herrmann's first points;
- debut, first pole position, victory and double of Daimler-Benz.

Driver standings


Alternative GP results

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