A New Season: The 1956 Argentinian Grand Prix

Mindset of the Driver.

So, with the 2013 Formula 1 season underway, GP Evolved takes a fresh look at the ‘upcoming’ 1956 Formula 1 season.  For the serious fan of any sport, the beginning of a new season is unique.  It is familiar in its routine; yet, unfamiliar in what it may hold.  But for the driver, it must be a different experience altogether.  While modern motorsport is by no means safe, the drivers of the fifties would have been looking ahead toward a soaring mortality rate.  It must have always been on their mind.  The fear must have required a cold, hardened approach to the sport.  To win was to put your life on the line.

As someone that sits in an office all day, I wonder whether I can even know what that sort of determination must have been like?  For those of us who don’t put our lives on the line, can we ever truly understand what it is like for those who do?  But on another level, it nearly borders the absurd to think that men would risk their lives not to ensure societal safety, but merely to be quickest around a track.  And, I think there is a simple beauty in the pursuit of speed.  But, the driver…the mindset of the driver continues to elude me.  What possessed these men to set aside all worldly concerns, including their own bodily safety, to be the first one to go around a track a pre-ordained number of times? 

I do not have a clear answer to this question.  But, I suspect there is an aspect of control.   Specifically, I believe “the driver” likely has a desire to impose order on the chaotic.  But, I am just speculating at this point and will need to delve deeper into the stories of men like Fangio, Moss, and Stewart to truly understand what made them throw caution to the wind and take off in the dangerous F1 car of yesterday? 

To come full circle, safety – or rather, fear of death – would have been a chronic issue for the drivers of the 1956 season.  With the tragedy of Le Mans, 1955, still a recent memory, one can only pretend to understand the steely determination it would have taken to get in that car regardless of the odds.  In short, I believe that separates the 1956 Formula 1 driver from modern drivers such as Alonso or Vettel.

 The 1956 Argentinian Grand Prix