• German Grand Prix 1957

'Incredible' Fangio takes title with his greatest drive

Martin Williamson August 4, 1957
Juan Manuel Fangio heads the field before his first pit stop on his way to winning the 1957 German Grand Prix © Getty Images

In what the Times described as "the finest drive of his glorious career" Juan Manuel Fangio won the German Grand Prix after stunning the crowd to overhaul the Ferrari of Mike Hawthorn in the closing stages. He had been nearly a minute behind at the halfway point but repeatedly broke his own lap record at the Nurburgring of 9:41.1 finally setting an incredible time of 9:17.4. There can have been no better way for him to secure his fifth and last world title.

Hawthorn and Peter Collins set the early pace, with Hawthorn breaking Fangio's lap record from the previous year on lap two, only to have Fangio quickly snatch it back. On the third lap, Fangio passed both Ferraris and started to pull away. But his scheduled pit stop was painfully slow and when he re-joined he was back in third. Fangio put his foot down, again lowering the lap record to re-pass the Ferraris.

In fairness to Hawthorn, he fought back, helped by Fangio's seat coming loose. "I had to drive pressing my knee against the side of the car and holding on to the steering wheel to stop myself rolling around the cockpit," he said. Even Hawthorn admitted that "even though Peter and I had been beaten, we thoroughly enjoyed it".

The Vanwalls which had dominated at Aintree had a torrid time on a much more punishing circuit and Stirling Moss battled hard to finish fifth. He had nothing but praise for Fangio. "It was one of the classic drives of all time by perhaps the greatest driver," he said. "I know the world 'incredible' is much devalued these days, but what he achieved is absolutely that."

Afterwards Fangio was to tell his team that it was probably the fastest he had ever driven in his career. "When it was all over I was convinced I would never be able to drive like that again - never," he said. "I had reached the limit of my concentration and will to win."

His words were accurate. It was to prove his 24th and final world championship victory. He had four grands prix and a brace of seconds ahead of him, but he had signed off in the most fitting way.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of digital media ESPN EMEA

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Martin Williamson is managing editor of digital media ESPN EMEA Martin Williamson, who grew up in the era of James Hunt, Niki Lauda and sideburns, became managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group in 2007 after spells with Sky Sports, Sportal and Cricinfo