The ’58 Italian GP: A New Archetype Rises.

Upshifting from the armchair philosophy of the last post, we now switch to psychology.  Carl Jung advanced an interesting notion: namely, that we are impelled to mimic certain deep-set prototypical behaviors of our ancestors.  As I understand it, these are a priori forms from which we are propelled to adopt in our speech, character, and actions.  In other words, we are pre-disposed to acting in certain ways.  Think of it as biology with a twist of mysticism.  Now, I am not suggesting that I am somehow adopting the entirety of crazy Carl’s theses and arguments.  However, the concept of an archetype is an expedient metaphor for certain types of drivers.  For, not every champion is motivated by the same thing.  Consider Senna and Prost: they did not get along because their motivations were diametrically opposed.

Driver Archetypes.

A driver can embody different archetypes at different stages of their life and career.  In fact, most tend to embody more than one at a time.  Thus far, three driver archetypes have presented themselves.

The Old-Man.

Old Man Fangio OutlineConsider, the first driver’s of the Formula 1 championship were all pre-war racers.  Younger men had been off at war.  Alberto Ascari and Juan-Manuel Fangio both cut their teeth before the second World War shut down racing.  In fact, I recall reading that Ascari had to be persuaded to return to his career as a racing driver.  The younger drivers would rely on the older generation to learn the craft.  In terms of the Formula 1 champioship, the chicken really did come before the egg.  What I mean by that is there were masters of the craft from the inception of the sport.  Indeed, Grand Prix racing had existed for decades before anyone decided to make a championship out of it.  And so, the knowledge of the old-man has always been an ever-present force in Formula 1 racing.

Juan-Manuel Fangio, in particular, embodies the stereotype of the elder grandmaster.  He was the first to be called a “master” of Grand Prix racing.  This is not to mention that fact that he is the type of guy that seems to have been 44 for thirty years.

The Socialite (Playboy).

hawthorn_laughplayboy (n.) 1829, “wealthy bon vivant,” from play (v.) + boy.

In essence, the early racing culture was centered around aristocrats and debutantes. The Bentley Boys were the original gangsters of high society. These guys hootenannied and hopscotched across Europe in their British Racing Green Bugattis.  The Bentley Boys were the original bro’s.  Racing has always been an expensive sport.  For this fact alone, it has always-to some extent-been a sport for the wealthy.  In the early days, Barons, Counts, and other titles of privilege were common among drivers.  They were known as much for their carousing as their skill on the track.  They drove with straight arms, locked at the elbow, simply because it was fashionable.  Nino Farina would be the first to ask, “Um guys, why aren’t we bending our elbows?”

Mike Hawthorn is the prototypical socialite and playboy.  In the late 50’s, these guys rocked a style that made those Mad Men, look like amateurs.  In the middle of winter, these guys would hit the race in sunny Beunos Aires.  Then, consider their plan for the next few months: Hang out until Cuba.  Race  Party.  Hit Miami.  Party more.  Go to New York.  Party.  On boat back to Europe, party.  Go to Monaco.  Party hard.  Then, the real racing season got underway.  Mike Hawthorn was the de facto party leader of the late 1950’s crew.  Their antics were nothing short of epic.  This approach to racing ([life]style over purpose), constitutes our second archetype of drivers.  (On a side note, I would consider Stirling Moss of both this archetype and the subsequent archetype – the mechanic.)

The Mechanic.

Mechanical Grand Prix CarJung supposed that the archetypes are ancient.  But, when you think about, so long as humans have existed, they have used tools.  Whether it be a perfectly balanced wood and stone tool or a wailing Italian V12, the concept is the same.  Under the right circumstances, humans can develop a profound connection to an object when that object requires skill and mastery to operate.  As humans, we seem to find this interaction deeply satisfying.

On a base level, “the mechanic” archetype may or may not embody an emotive connection to the machine.  I see a direct lineage between Phil Hill and Michael Schumacher.  Although very different, both approached driving as a science to be tweaked and hacked to your advantage.  The mechanic is in it for the love of the machine.  To some extent, we have a part of this archetype inside of us.  Imagine that once, when your car was newer, that you drove on a twisty road.  Remember that sense of just being “in the zone” and feeling every inch of the road.  That sense of perfection is what “the mechanic is seeking.”  His method is through understanding how to best operate his machine, tuning the vehicle to his preferences, and pushing for the newest technologies.

(To be continued…  In the next post I will flesh more out of my archetype metaphor, explain why Phil Hill emodied a new type of driver, and finally, properly introduce Phil Hill).

1958  Italian Grand Prix.

Monza_1957 layoutAs was his practice, the ever-anxious Phil Hill snuck off into the woods before the race to vomit out a bit of anxiety.  He came back with his “I’m good” face on.  For the first time, he sat on the grid in a Formula 1 car.  His chariot was a scarlet Ferrari Dino 246s F1.  He revved the throttle and his V12, like an operatic soprano, sang back.

The flag dropped.  Hill’s start was excellent.  He followed Moss into the first corner, curva grande.  By the time the cars rounded the double-apex at parabolica, Hill dropped the proverbial Hammer, and stormed past Stirling Moss to take the lead.

Before Hill took the lead, farther back in the pack Count Wolfgang von Trips got into some trouble.  In those days, there were no seatbelts, let alone 5-point safety harnesses bolted into a safety cell.  Accordingly, von Trips was thrown out.  He was lucky and came away with a broken leg.

Hill continued his lead into the fifth lap.  But, in those days, Monza was the Talladega of Grand Prix racing.  If that sounds like Greek, let me explain:  Monza was all about drafting.  Drafting refers to the very thin air lying in a pocket just behind a fast moving car.  If a following driver can get into that pocket of air, the decreased resistance has a slingshot effect.  With a skilled driver, you could easily slipstream past the driver in the lead.  In other words, it’s difficult to stay in front.  And so, Hawthorn drafted right past Hull on the fifth lap.  Soon, thereafter, Moss passed the American as well.  Hill knew something was not right, he had a limp around with some sort of tire problem.

Hill kept at it, but simply was not able to catch the leading Moss and Hawthorn.  Eventually, the Hawthorn and Moss stopped for new tires.  Hill led laps 35 to 37, before needing to pit, himself.  In the meantime, Brooks came out of nowwhere.  He led the last nine laps and won the race by 25 seconds.  Hawthorn came in second.  Four more seconds back, American Phil Hill stepped on the third step of the podium in his first F1 race.  He made Enzo proud to see his young driver put his Ferrari Dino 246s F1 on the podium.

Driver’s Championship.

  • Mike Hawthorn – 40 (43)
  • Stirling Moss – 32
  • Tony Brooks – 24

Constructor’s Championship.

  • Vanwall – 46 (49)
  • Scuderia Ferrari – 40 (51)
  • Cooper-Climax – 31

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