The Maserati 250F is featured at this year’s Autosport International show as one of the great racing cars of the last six decades.
The 250F earned its place in F1 history with the two world championship titles Juan Manuel Fangio won in it – and thanks to its classical good looks.
It was more a competent than an innovative car. One of the last front-engined machines to win the world championship, it was one of the best examples of its type before nimbler rear-engined racers consigned them to the history books.
In 1954 the works Maserati 250Fs were campaigned by Fangio and Onofre Marimon from the first round. Fangio gave the car a debut win on home ground at Buenos Aires and followed it up with a second win in the third round at Belgium.
But at the very next race he had switched teams – to Mercedes, where he won again in their W196. Fangio went on to win his second championship that year thanks in part to the 250F. Tragically, Marimon was killed driving his during practice at the Nurburgring.
Also driving a 250F in 1954 was Stirling Moss – but he paid for is, entering it as a customer car. It cost him £5,500, which would be around £110,000 today. But Moss specified a few significant detail differences on his car compared to the factory models, such as having the accelerator pedal on the right instead of the left.
He enjoyed one of his breakthrough performances with the car at Monza in 1954. He led the Italian Grand Prix convincingly until the engine seized nine laps from home. Fangio inherited the win, but Moss was acclaimed as the moral victor – and joined Fangio at Mercedes for the 1955 season.
Thanks to its popularity as a customer car, the 250F was still seen at Grand Prix races as late as 1960. During its many years’ service the 250F went through numerous evolutions and developments. One of the most significant of which was the replacement of the original six-cylinder engine with a V12. First appearing in 1957, the new engine increased power from 270bhp to 310bhp.
Fangio also returned to the team in 1957 and won his fifth and final world championship driving the six-cylinder car. The maestro’s final Grand Prix win came at the wheel of a 250F, which he used to overcome a deficit of over a minute to the Ferraris of Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins at the Nurburgring. He passed the pair of them and sealed his title with the win.
Though the 250F’s tally of victories (below) may seem meagre compared to some of the other cars featured at the show, this does not take account of the successes it enjoyed in non-championship races.
But the true significance of the 250F is that it allowed so many people to participate in the world championship. There were races in the 1950s where more than half the field were driving 250Fs, most of them private entrants or independent teams.
That – and the irresistible appeal of a sleek, red Italian racing car – is what makes the 250F great.
First race: 1954 Argentinian Grand Prix
Last race: 1960 United States Grand Prix
Total races: 43
Pole positions: 8
Fastest laps: 10