- January 17 down the years
Fangio starts his era of dominationWhat happened on January 17 in Formula One history?
The traditional season-opener in Argentina was won by Juan Manuel Fangio in his Maserati, his first win on his way to four successive drivers' titles. Reigning champion Alberto Ascari was absent as his new Lancia was far from completion. Drivers arrived to find they had to re-learn the circuit - after a serious crash in 1953, organisers decided it would be safer to reverse the direction of the track to anti-clockwise. A rain-affected race had its share of drama. Mike Hawthorn was disqualified after getting a push start, while Fangio benefited when Ferrari ordered its drivers to slow down. Its team manager had lodged a protest more than the permitted three mechanics had worked on Fangio's car at a pit stop, and so confident was he it would be upheld he told his drivers to ease up.
What seemed at the time to be the end of an era as Lotus announced it was withdrawing from F1 because of chronic financial problems. Formed in 1952, Lotus had been an ever present since it made its F1 debut in 1958, going on to win six drivers' championships and seven constructors' titles. "I am confident that there is a path through all this to long-term security," said owner David Hunt, brother of former champion James. "Other than Ferrari, the Lotus name is arguably the strongest in grand prix racing. What I want to avoid is allowing the team to be put in a situation where it is going to struggle around at the back of the grid and have its name dragged further through the mud." Sadly, that just what happened in 2010 when the brand returned under Malaysian ownership. It laboured near the back of the field all season and a fight subsequently started over who had rights to the name - manufacturer Proton or team boss Tony Fernandes. At least that was dragged through the courts rather than mud.
Jaguar was the first team to unveil its new car ahead of the season and eight days later became the first to crash it when Eddie Irvine went off the circuit in Valencia at about 140mph, wrecking the front end on the tyre barrier after skating across the gravel trap. He was uninjured, the car was less fortunate. "Eddie was familiarising himself with the new car," said a team spokesman. "It was nothing to do with driver error."
Lloyd's insurance broker John Riseley-Prichard was born in Hereford. He crashed out of the only F1 race he entered, the 1954 British Grand Prix, and retired from motor racing altogether after witnessing the carnage of the 1955 Le Mans 24-hour race. After problems with the law he moved to Thailand where he died in 1993, at the age of 69.