Maserati 250F: the Racing Icon

  • 02 December 2023
  • 2 min read
  • 5 images
Maserati 250F: the Racing Icon image

Photo credit: Maserati, Wheelsage

Why. To be the best, to outperform its local rival, Ferrari, and it did just that. Maserati’s first triumph was in 1954, winning the Argentine Grand Prix with Fangio. Its performance was so formidable that Fangio, while driving the Maserati 250F, secured enough points to win that year’s world championship, intriguingly, behind the wheel of a Mercedes! But how was this possible? It was possible because Mercedes was late in rolling out its new Formula 1 cars. Fangio, not wanting to miss any races, arranged to start the season with Maserati. The points he gathered with Maserati helped him secure the title. It’s important to remember that in those years, Formula 1 gave the title to the drivers, while constructors competed in the Sports category for their World Title. It wasn’t until 1957 that Maserati, with Fangio behind the wheel, would clinch its own World Championship, remarkably with the same 250F model.

Maserati 250F: the Racing Icon - 1Juan Manuel Fangio at the wheel of the Maserati 250F wins his fifth Formula 1 World Drivers' Championship in 1957.

Who. Maserati had changed ownership and city: the Maserati brothers, founders of the company, sold their Bologna-based business to the industrialist from Modena, Adolfo Orsi. Maserati’s racing tradition was well known - a Maserati had even won the famous Indianapolis 500 in 1939 and 1940 - and Orsi wanted to reaffirm the excellence of the Trident brand. He had two engineers who marked the history of racing cars: Gioachino Colombo and Vittorio Bellentani, who gave life to the project for a new and highly-competitive Formula 1 car. They were joined by the talented Giulio Alfieri, who later became a key technical leader in Maserati’s growth and was responsible for the 3500GT and the unforgettable Birdcage. This team ensured their cars won right from their debut.

Maserati 250F: the Racing Icon - 2The Maserati 250F was developed by engineers Giochino Colombo, Vittorio Bellentani and Giulio Alfieri.

What. With a focus on simplicity and lightness: the 250F was designed with a compact and lightweight inline six-cylinder engine mounted at the front. To achieve the best weight distribution, it adopted a transaxle system, with the gearbox and differential at the rear. The engine was positioned to allow the transmission shaft to pass beside the driver, ensuring the lowest possible centre of gravity and optimal aerodynamic penetration. The car, with its harmoniously streamlined shape, immediately impressed for its purity. During the 250F’s lifespan, a V12 engine was also attempted, which was also used on other Maserati models, but the real 250F remains the original.

Maserati 250F: the Racing Icon - 3The front-mounted engine was an inline six-cylinder with a transaxle system with the gearbox and differential at the rear.

Where. Naturally, in Modena, on Via Ciro Menotti, where Maserati is still located today, and where Ferrari was before moving to Maranello. The rivalry between Maserati and Ferrari during those years was intense. The city itself was divided between Ferrari and Maserati fans, who would tease each other when either team faced setbacks. A notable prank involved placing a hay cart in front of Ferrari after a loss, suggesting the Prancing Horse needed to feed due to apparent weakness! The 250F remained competitive for many years and was a popular choice among private racing teams for its simplicity, durability, and performance.

Maserati 250F: the Racing Icon - 4Juan Manuel Fangio's last Formula 1 victory came at the 1957 German Grand Prix at the wheel of the Maserati 250F.

When. There are two significant moments in the history of the 250F: its immediate victory in 1954 and its World Title win in 1957. Its career could have continued, but Modena and its region, a stronghold of a very hard-line communist party at the time, presented challenges. Adolfo Orsi, the owner of Maserati and other businesses including a large foundry not far away, faced attacks and boycotts, leading to economic damage and even violent social conflicts. Maserati suffered greatly from this, and after winning the World Title in 1957, it was forced to withdraw from racing. Despite the talent within, Maserati entered a long period of decline. It was a regrettable phase for motorsport, which could have benefited greatly from this group of exceptional talents.

Maserati 250F: the Racing Icon - 5After winning the 1957 Formula 1 World Championship, Maserati was forced to retire from racing.