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1957 French Grand Prix

The third round of the 1957 Formula-1 World Championship took place on July 7 in France at the Rouen-Les Essarts circuit, which was honored for only the second time to host the national Grand Prix, displacing the already familiar track in Reims this year. However, compared to the 1952 configuration, which was used during the first Grand Prix in Rouen, the track has undergone quite significant changes, and its distance has increased to 6.542 km, while the number of laps in the race has been reduced to 77.

Rouen 1957.jpg

After two confident victories at the previous two stages, Juan-Manuel Fangio arrived in France as the undoubted leader of the championship, and the entire Maserati team hoped that the Argentine would be able to continue his winning streak here, even despite his lack of experience on this track.


As you know, the four-time world champion received very serious injuries in Monza at the beginning of 1952, due to which he had to miss almost the entire season, and thus the Argentine then missed the only opportunity to try out the Rouen track, which now put him in a not very favorable position compared to his main rivals. However, the Modena team itself approached the third stage fully armed, and, as in Monaco, brought to the track not only their lightweight 6-cylinder 250F cars, but also one 12-cylinder bolid, which, as they hoped, would show itself more competitive here than in Monte Carlo.


As for the drivers, this time the team was represented only by the main line-up, which, in addition to the Argentinean, included Carlos Menditeguy and Harry Schell, as well as Jean Behra, who returned to action after one missed stage.

Unlike Maserati, its main rival, Scuderia Ferrari, had nothing much to brag about after two rounds, and despite high expectations, the Italian team still had only 4 points so far. Nevertheless, the new Ferrari 801 cars still managed to show very good speed both in Argentina and in Monaco, and in the Scuderia they hoped that already in this Grand Prix the team’s drivers would be able to fully realize their potential.


As for the line-up, as in Monaco, the Scuderia was represented by Peter Collins, Mike Hawthorn and Maurice Trintignant, while the team's fourth driver was the returning Luigi Musso, who replaced Wolfgang von Trips.


The British teams, in the break between the second and the third stages, faced very serious troubles, as a result of which their line-ups underwent very significant changes, while the Connaught team due to financial problems was forced to leave the World Championship at all, leaving their drivers Stuart Lewis-Evans and Ivor Bueb out of business. In the Vanwall team, everything was in order financially, but two weeks before the Grand Prix, first Tony Brooks was out of action, who received numerous injuries in the "24 Hours of Le Mans", and then also Stirling Moss, who, during his vacation in France had a very bad experience in water skiing and got himself a serious nose disease. Needless to say, after the success in Monaco, where the British team managed to secure their first podium, the loss of two main drivers became a real nightmare for Tony Vandervell, and, sorting through the remaining free racers, the head of Vanwall was ready to simply bite his elbows in despair. In the end, Tony managed to come to an agreement with BRM driver Roy Salvadori, who was only too happy to leave the Bourne team and get behind the wheel of one of the best cars in the field.


The second place in the Vanwall team took the former Connaught driver Stuart Lewis-Evans, who managed to make a good impression on Vandervell with his debut race in Monaco, during which he managed to finish 4th and earn his first points. As for the Vanwall cars themselves, they differed from the modifications used in the previous Grand Prix by a more streamlined nose.


Meanwhile, having lost Salvadori, Alfred Owen, in his turn, had to look for a replacement for him, and as a result, the new BRM driver was the American debutant Herbert MacKay Fraser, who joined the leader of the Bourne team Ron Flockhart.


As for the last British team, Cooper, their second driver Les Leston was also replaced, and Jack Brabham's new teammate was the Englishman Mike MacDowel. The last participant of the third stage was the only private racer Horace Gould, who competed in his unchanged Maserati 250F. It should also be noted that this French Grand Prix was marked for the first time by the complete absence of French cars in the field, and local fans now pinned all their hopes on their favorites Jean Behra and Maurice Trintignant, who drove for Maserati and Ferrari, respectively.



Qualifying in Rouen was another demonstration of the truly great talent of Juan-Manuel Fangio, who, finding himself on this track for the first time, said “This is for me” and, getting behind the wheel of his car, began to filigree through all the turns of Rouen-Les Essarts, not allowing anyone to doubt his superiority.


In the end, with the Argentine's fastest time standing at 2'21.5, Juan-Manuel considered the job done and returned to the pits, while all his rivals could only applaud the world champion's amazing control over his car. At the same time, Fangio again, as in Monaco, tested a new 12-cylinder car, which looked much better here than on the narrow streets of the principality, but its lag behind its 6-cylinder counterparts was still visible to the naked eye.


The track in Rouen turned out to be very suitable for Maserati at all, and Fangio's teammates Jean Behra and Harry Schell also were very fast, eventually taking 2nd and 4th positions on the starting grid.


The Ferrari drivers also looked very good, taking 3rd, 5th, 7th and 8th positions, with Luigi Musso surprisingly being the fastest this time.


Meanwhile, the new Vanwall drivers were clearly cautious, getting used to their new cars, and ended up only taking 6th and 10th places, once again forcing Tony Vandervell to lament the absence of Moss and Brooks.


The last place in the top ten was taken by another Maserati driver, Carlos Menditeguy, who did not look very confident on the Rouen track, clearly inferior to his faster teammates.


As for BRM, they again failed to impress with their speed, remaining outside the top ten, as did the Cooper drivers, whose low-power cars simply did not allow them to fight on equal terms with their rivals in 2.5-liter cars.



On the day of the race, the organizers of the Grand Prix announced that starting the engines on the cars by a push-start was unacceptable and would be punishable by disqualification, which, of course, led the drivers and mechanics into a state of jitters long before the start. When the minute readiness was announced, all hell broke loose. The mechanics rushed to the cars, dragging long cables from the batteries behind them, began to stumble over them and interfere with each other, so when half-minute readiness was announced, the starting field still resembled some kind of web, in different parts of which the hapless mechanics were still frantically struggling, feverishly trying to start disobedient cars with mechanical starters. Seeing all this confusion, the person with the flag was forced to delay the start a little, and only when the last mechanic left the starting grid did the Grand Prix finally begin.


Start. Behra manages a great start, and it is the Frenchman who enters the first turn in the lead, but even before the end of the first lap he is passed by Musso, who intercepts Jean's leading in the race! However, the real hero of the start becomes BRM newcomer MacKay-Fraser, who gains six positions and moving up to 6th place at once! Unlike the American, Hawthorn and Salvadori start badly and end up only in 10th and 11th positions, respectively.

Position after 1st lap: Musso, Behra, Fangio, Collins, Schell, MacKay-Fraser, Trintignant, Lewis-Evans, Menditeguy, Hawthorn.
Lap 2: Fangio attacks Behra for 2nd and passes him!


Lap 3: The engine in Trintignant's Ferrari begins to misfire, and the Frenchman misses Lewis-Evans and Menditeguy, dropping to 9th.


Meanwhile, Salvadori makes a mistake in the penultimate turn, leaving the track, and when returning back, the Englishman leaves behind an oil trail, on which the following Flockhart immediately slips! Feeling that the car is going to spin, the Scotsman tries to straighten it, but to no avail, and as a result, the BRM, somersaulting, flies straight into a ditch on the side of the track!


Marshals immediately run up to the scene of the accident, and after inspecting the wrecked car, they find the driver nearby, who was lucky enough to fall out of the cockpit and this time escape with only a leg injury. As for Salvadori, at the end of the lap he pulls into the pits to re-fix the oil tank cap, after which the Englishman returns to the track.


Lap 4: Fangio passes Musso and thus becomes the new race leader!


Besides, on the same lap, Menditeguy attacks Lewis-Evans for 7th and takes the lead!


Lap 5: Having a clear track in front of him, Fangio immediately picks up the pace and shows the best lap in the race!


Meanwhile, the Argentinean's teammate Behra cannot hold back the attacks of the pursuing Collins, and he lets the Englishman into 3rd place!


Besides, on the same lap, Brabham and Gould, who occupied the last two places in the peloton, simultaneously drop out of the race with damaged suspensions, broken in a small collision.
Lap 6: Menditeguy wins another position, passing MacKay-Fraser, and thus the Argentinean is already 6th!


In addition, on the same lap, due to worsening problems with misfire, Trintignant enters the pits for repairs, dropping to last place.
Lap 7: Hawthorn, who has been keeping a low profile for some time, finally steps up and passes Lewis-Evans for 8th place.


Lap 10: Hawthorn catches up with MacKay-Fraser and, after a successful attack, also leaves the American behind!


Position after 10 laps: Fangio, Musso, Collins, Behra, Schell, Menditeguy, Hawthorn, MacKay-Fraser, Lewis-Evans, Salvadori. Having shown a series of the fastest laps, Fangio is already more than 5 seconds ahead of his pursuers!


Lap 12: MacKay-Fraser doesn't give up and counterattacks Hawthorn to regain 7th place!


Lap 13: Hawthorn in his turn counterattacks the American and takes the lead again!


Lap 15: Collins, now the fastest Ferrari driver, attacks his teammate Musso and gets ahead, taking 2nd place!


Lap 17: Menditeguy catches up with Schell and after a short struggle leaves his teammate behind, thus already getting into the points!


Lap 18: Schell doesn't give up and counterattacks the Argentine, regaining 5th place!


Lap 19: The fight for points continues and Menditeguy takes the lead again!


Position after 20 laps: Fangio, Collins, Musso, Behra, Menditeguy, Schell, Hawthorn, MacKay-Fraser, Lewis-Evans, Salvadori. Fangio is still the fastest driver on the track and is now 11 seconds ahead of Collins in 2nd!


Lap 21: Hawthorn, unable to break away from MacKay-Fraser, is again attacked by the American and eventually lets him through!


Lap 24: Trintignant, whose engine is still misfiring, pulls into the pits once again, this time for good.
Lap 25: Collins sets the fastest lap of the race 2’23.0, clearly not going to give up the world champion without a fight!


Meanwhile, MacKay-Fraser, who was spending a fantastic debut race and had already managed to gain a small lead over Hawthorn, pulls to the sidelines due to problems with the transmission! Besides, on the same lap, Schell starts having problems with engine overheating, and the American lets Hawthorn through!
Lap 26: Fangio responds to Collins with an even faster lap of 2’22.8!


Meanwhile, Menditeguy makes a mistake and flies off the track into straw bales, damaging the nose of his car and letting three rivals through at once! In addition, on the same lap, Lewis-Evans passes Schell, who was experiencing engine problems, while his teammate Salvadori drops out of the race due to burnt valves.
Lap 27: Collins starts having problems with the gearbox, and the Englishman slows down, saying goodbye to his last hopes for victory in this race!


Besides, on the same lap, Lewis-Evans passes Hawthorn in the battle for 5th place, and thus the young Englishman now claims points again!


Lap 28: Musso catches up and easily passes Collins, who is experiencing problems with the gearbox, and thus the Italian returns to 2nd!


Lap 29: Smoke starts pouring out of Menditeguy's damaged car, but the Argentine continues the race no matter what!
Lap 30: One of the cylinders on Schell's engine stops working, and the American is passed by Menditeguy in his smoking car!
Position after 30 laps: Fangio, Musso, Collins, Behra, Lewis-Evans, Hawthorn, Menditeguy, Schell, MacDowel.
Lap 31: Lewis-Evans pulls into the pits complaining that the steering is too tight, and Tony Vandervell withdraws his second car for safety reasons! Meanwhile, the smoking engine on Menditeguy's car is eventually blown to pieces, thus leaving only seven cars in the race! In addition, on the same lap, MacDowel enters the pits and hands over his Cooper to Brabham.
Lap 34: A crack forms in the exhaust pipe of Behra's Maserati, causing hot fumes to flow directly into the Frenchman's cockpit!
Position after 40 laps: Fangio, Musso, Collins, Behra, Hawthorn, Schell, Brabham. Fangio continues to confidently lead, bringing his advantage over Musso already to 25 seconds!


Lap 44: Within 10 laps, Hawthorn manages to completely reduce the gap to the exhaust-suffering Behra, and Mike passes the Frenchman without any struggle, already taking 4th place!
Lap 62: Due to severe wear on the left rear tire, Fangio slows down a little, and his mechanics in the pits immediately roll out a new set from the garage, preparing to receive the Argentine at any moment.
Lap 63: The Scuderia mechanics notice the preparations of their rivals and immediately signal Musso to speed up, hoping to still compete for victory at the end of the race!
Lap 65: Musso heeds the instructions and sets the fastest lap with a time of 2’22.2, thereby reducing his gap to Fangio to 16 seconds!


Lap 67: Trying to catch up with the world champion, Musso makes a mistake and spins at the hairpin, as a result of which his gap to the Argentine grows to 28 seconds again!


Lap 69: Completely exhausted by exhaust fumes, Behra stops his Maserati just before the finish line, abandons the car and stands by the side of the road, waiting for the winner to finish!


Last lap: Fangio, without stopping for a pit stop, calmly brings the race to a victorious finish and thus wins the third Grand Prix in a row, further strengthening his leadership in the championship!


Finishing second and third are two Ferrari drivers, Musso and Collins, who, having failed to defeat the world champion today, still win the first podium for the Scuderia this season. Fourth place also goes to Ferrari driver Hawthorn, who, thanks to numerous problems with his rivals, still manages to score a few points, while in fifth position is Schell, who still manages to bring his Maserati to the finish line, despite two broken cylinders! As for Behra, after the winner's finish, the Frenchman also pushes his car to the finish line, which ultimately brings him 6th place.


Interesting facts:

- Luigi Musso's first fastest lap.

Driver standings


Alternative GP results

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