Every day this week GRR is reprinting excerpts from the new Stirling Moss book, published to coincide with the 60th anniversary of Sir Stirling’s epic victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia – also to be celebrated at the Festival of Speed on June 26-28.
The Formula 1 rules were much changed for 1958, with the maximum permitted distance for a Grand Prix cut from 310 miles to 186 miles – something I regretted – and alcohol fuels banned. That required considerable changes to engine tuning, and Vanwall decided to miss the first Grand Prix in Argentina. Our first Vanwall win came at Zandvoort: I was the team’s sole survivor, but I came home comfortably ahead of the BRMs of Schell and Jean Behra.
(By the last round in Morocco) I had won three rounds, Mike (Hawthorn, Ferrari) only one. But because of the Ferrari’s reliability he had clocked up four more points than me. If I could win the race and earn the extra point for fastest lap, and if Mike finished third or below, I would be World Champion.
Well, I did all I had to do: I won and I set fastest lap. The Vanwall didn’t miss a beat. Late in the race Mike was running third, but in second place was his Ferrari team-mate Phil Hill, and of course the Ferrari pit signalled to Phil to slow so that Mike could move up to second place. Perfectly understandable team tactics, and I don’t resent that at all. But of course I was bitterly disappointed: it was the closest I ever came to winning the World Championship, and I lost it by one point.
I hope this doesn’t sound conceited, but I did honestly feel in my heart of hearts that I was the natural successor to five-times champion Juan Manuel Fangio, having been three times his runner-up.
But what I always say now is this. Lots of people have won the World Championship once. That’s not so special. I’m happy to be thought of as the best driver who never won the World Championship. Special pleading, maybe, but that’s how I feel about it.
Tomorrow: In DBR1 for a sports car showdown at Goodwood
This is an extract from Stirling Moss: My Racing Life (£50) which is available from all good book retailers and direct from Evro Publishing, www.evropublishing.com