How our Grand Prix Correspondent answered the eternal question
“At almost every race meeting I go to people ask one particular question, and that is ‘Who is the world’s best driver today, Moss or Fangio?’ I have numerous stock answers to this query and among them are ‘probably some unknown van driver in Patagonia has the combination of reflexes and judgment that would beat all the reigning champions given the chance.’ Another is that ‘Hawthorn must not be overlooked, because he has won two major grand prix events, both in open battle and each was a decisive victory,’ but eventually the questioners boil things down to the difference between Fangio and Moss.
From the English driver’s own words, Fangio is the best – in my own words, I add, but for how long I would not like to say. Taking this season’s races, on almost every grand prix circuit there has been a corner that Fangio could take faster than Moss, using identical cars, or both using the same car.
An example of this very slight difference between the two is the tunnel at Monte Carlo, where you enter into complete darkness and only see the light of the exit after you are fully in the tunnel. Even using the same car in practice Fangio could go through the tunnel without lifting, while Moss admitted freely that try as he might he always eased the throttle a fraction as he entered the tunnel.
Another place on the same circuit was the hairpin at the Gasworks, where I timed a whole collection of drivers in practice from a mark on the approach to another on the exit of the hairpin. The time was just over seven seconds and every lap Fangio was one or two-fifths faster than Moss. The main reason for doing this timing was a private arrangement with Moss to find out whether he could take the hairpin quicker in second or third gear. No matter what Moss did Fangio was always faster through the corner.
Taking the opposite extreme, I did a similar thing in practice for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa. On this occasion I timed everyone round the long high-speed curve at Stavelot, a distance occupying some 15 seconds at a speed of around 100mph. Again, Fangio was a consistent half-second faster than Moss. These few vital fifths of seconds, or even tenths, all add up in a race and, added to Fangio’s superior track-craft through having more experience of open grand prix battles, I would rate him Number 1. As I said earlier, for how much longer is another matter.”
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