The Maserati that put Ferrari back in its place

Maserati has a proud history in Grand Prix racing, but the 250F might just be its crowning glory. Driven to victory by Fangio and Stirling Moss, it's a special car

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The colour red doesn’t belong to Ferrari, despite what some tifosi might tell you. It’s well documented that at the dawn of professional motorsport each nation was assigned a colour. Green for Britain, silver was allocated to Germany, France was blue, and so forth.

Italian machines were adorned in Rosso Corsa but, in the mid 1950s, it was Maserati with the scarlet cars to beat, resigning the Prancing Horse to its stable. The Maserati 250F was an era-defining Grand Prix car, one that fought back against Enzo Ferrari’s meteoritic rise.

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The 250F is a purebred racer and one of the most celebrated in Maserati history. It debuted in 1954 as the car that would defend the Italian brand’s honour against other strengthening manufacturers. Piloted by Juan Manuel Fangio at the Argentine Grand Prix, its very first outing, the car delivered on its promise of victory. As well as being run by the factory Maserati team, privateers could buy a 250F and race under their own banner. One such private driver in 1954 was none other than Stirling Moss.

The secret to its success was its streamline cigar-shaped bodywork, relative lack of weight, and a 220bhp 2.5-litre straight-six engine. However, Grand Prix racing is akin to a nuclear arms race with all combatants continuously developing their cars. For 1955 the 250F gained 20bhp, innovative Dunlop disc brakes, and fuel injection.

In 1956 a throughly revised car dubbed 250F T2 not only received a considerably stiffer chassis, but also a 315bhp V12 engine. Moss, now an official Maserati works driver, used to T2 to great effect by claiming victory in Italy and Monaco.

However, the Maserati 250F’s most famed moment came in 1957 with Fangio back behind the wheel. The Nürburgring race of that year was highly competitive and at first Fangio wasn’t the favourite to win. As the race developed this legend was a up a 48-second deficit over 22 laps, setting the lap record 10 times in the process. This spectacular effort resulting in a memorable victory. The car would convincingly win anther three Grand Prix that year.

By 1958 the era of mid-engined racers was upon the front-engined Maserati 250F. Able to carry more speed through the corners without the need for the 250F’s signature four-wheel drifts, these machines were making the Maserati obsolete. That said, privateer teams continued to run 250F for years to come. It was a car that won eight world championship grands prix and assisted Juan Manuel Fangio to two of his titles.

Today Ferrari and Maserati are all part of the same family, with the trident politically unable to challenge Ferrari superiority on the road or track. However, the history books show that the 250F was the car that put the upstart Ferrari back in its place once upon a time.

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