The Silver Arrows gets F1 banned in Switzerland

fangio 1954 swiss gp

On this day… 22st August 1954

Juan Manuel Fangio won what was to be the final Swiss Grand Prix for Mercedes-Benz at Bermgarten in Berne.

The Mercedes domination continued as Fangio led from start to finish. Stirling Moss attempted to make a race of it as he quickly overtook the Ferrari of Gonzalez after the race start and set off in pursuit of Fangio.

Moss soon found himself under pressure from another Ferrari driver, Mike Hawthorne and the two Brits duelled ferociously only for Moss’s engine to fail him. Hawthorne too suffered engine problems and Fangio lapped almost the entire field, with P2 Gonzalez escaping his clutches.

This was Fangio’s fifth win of the season and It was here in Switzerland Fangio clinched the F1 driver’s title for the second time.

At the time no one realised F1 would never again return to Switzerland because following the 1955 Le Mans disaster the Swiss government banned all forms of motor racing. Two Swiss Grands Prix were in fact held in 1975 (non-championship) and 1982 – but both races were held in France.


History of the Swiss Grand Prix

Bremgarten (1934–1939, 1947–1954)

Grand Prix motor racing came to Switzerland in 1934, to the Bremgarten circuit, located just outside the town of Bremgarten, near Bern.

The Bremgarten circuit was the dominant circuit on the Swiss racing scene; it was a 4.52-mile (7.27 km) stretch made up of public roads that went through stunning countryside and forests, sweeping from corner to corner without any real length of straight.

From the outset, Bremgarten’s tree-lined roads, often poor light conditions, and changes in road surface made for what was acknowledged to be a very dangerous circuit, especially in the wet- even after it stopped raining and the sun came out, the trees covering the circuit were still soaking wet, and water would drip onto the tarmac for at least an hour. Conditions at this circuit were similar to that of the Nürburgring in West Germany.

The first Swiss Grand Prix was a non-championship race; it was won by Hans Stuck in an Auto Union; British driver Hugh Hamilton died in a horrific accident in his Maserati. The car’s left front wheel broke, Hamilton lost control and then the whole car violently hit a tree, and continued going for about 70 feet before it hit and was stopped by a bigger tree, shattering the car and killing Hamilton (who had not been thrown from the car) instantly.

Despite this occurrence (there was hardly any, if any, thought put into safety in those days), the Swiss Grand Prix counted toward the European Championship from 1935 to 1939, during which time it was dominated by the German Silver Arrows.

Grand Prix racing returned after World War II, and the Bremgarten track remained the home of the Swiss Grand Prix. The first pre-war race was won by Frenchman Jean-Pierre Wimille, and in 1948 it was designated the European Grand Prix, in a time when this title was an honorary designation given each year to one Grand Prix race in Europe. This event saw veteran Italian racer Achille Varzi die during practice in an Alfa Romeo.

Helmets were not compulsory in those days, and Varzi, whose Alfa had overturned during the accident, was crushed by the car and had no chance (Varzi was not wearing a helmet, and cars did not have roll-over protection in those days).

The race also saw Swiss Christian Kautz die in a Maserati after going off the road and crashing into an embankment at the second Eymatt corner; the race was won by Carlo Felice Trossi. Frenchman Maurice Trintignant was nearly killed in another accident after crashing and being thrown out of his car and landing unconscious on the track. Three drivers including Nino Farina went off and crashed while trying to avoid the motionless Frenchman, who survived after multiple serious injuries and spending 8 days in a coma.

1950 saw the Swiss Grand Prix being inducted as part of the new Formula One World Championship (although at the time, all the races were run in Europe except the Indianapolis 500, but this race was not run to F1 regulations).

This race was won by Italian Nino Farina, who would go on to be the first Formula One world champion. 1951 saw Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio dominate in his Alfa after taking advantage of Farina’s wrong decision not to make a pit stop to change tyres during changing wet-to-dry conditions, and 1952 saw Briton up-and-comer Stirling Moss run as high as third in his underfunded Alta-powered HWM, and Italian Piero Taruffi scored his first and only F1 victory; it was also the only championship race not won that year by his Ferrari teammate and countryman Alberto Ascari.

Pre-war great and three-time Swiss GP winner Rudolf Caracciola was competing in a support sportscar race and crashed into a tree, and the violent accident that ensued ended up breaking one of his legs, which effectively ended his long racing career.

1953 saw Ascari battling back after a pit stop to fix the misfiring engine in his Ferrari; he came back out in fourth and stormed round the circuit, passed Fangio in a Maserati, his teammates Farina and Mike Hawthorn to take victory. Ascari also won his second Drivers’ Championship at that event. 1954 saw Fangio (now driving a Mercedes) lead from start to finish in rainy weather and he took his second Drivers’ Championship from countryman José Froilán González.

In 1955, however, the Swiss Grand Prix at Bremgarten was to be no more. After the Le Mans disaster in France that year which killed more than 80 people, the Swiss government declared circuit motor racing to be an unsafe sport and it was promptly banned; this forced the organizers to cancel the Grand Prix that year. The ban was lifted in 2007, although too late for Bremgarten, which had been abandoned and was never used again for motor racing.

Dijon-Prenois, France (1975, 1982)

The Swiss Grand Prix returned in 1975 as a non-Championship Grand Prix just across the border, at the Dijon-Prenois circuit, France. Swiss Clay Regazzoni won the race. The Swiss Grand Prix only ran once more, when it returned to the Formula One (F1) World Championship in 1982.

The 1982 race, also held at Dijon, was the first F1 win by Finland’s Keke Rosberg, driving for Williams, in what proved to be his Championship-winning season. Rosberg displayed a spirited drive in which he passed several cars, was held up by for some time by backmarker Andrea de Cesaris, then caught and passed polesitter Alain Prost. Although both the 1975 and 1982 races were held on French soil, the Dijon circuit was near the French-Swiss border, with both races organized by the Swiss Automobile Club.


On 6 June 2007 Swiss Parliament voted to lift the ban of circuit racing in Switzerland, 97 in favor and 77 opposed.[1] However, the legislation was subsequently not ratified by the Swiss Council of States (the Senat) and the ban is now highly unlikely to actually be lifted.

Credit: Wikipedia

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.