With forearms corded in flexure and cheeks hollowed by the slipstream, he took risks, holding a gear higher than usual and coping with the consequences: speed at the cost of stability. Skimming hedges and skirting ditches, he stirred dust and the collective soul. Collins and Hawthorn, though they responded bravely and skillfully, were on this day mortal men hunted by motor racing’s winged messenger.
Fangio set a new lap record, then dipped below his pole time – and then smashed it. He knew in his heart that he could not – nor would want to – go any faster. He had peered over the edge and seen a side of the sport and himself that he did not care to explore further. His that day was a mix of genius and madness, his overtakes of Collins and Hawthorn scruffy verging on uncompromising. He was not himself: he was the prototype Senna.
Race over, the eager young Englishmen, one blond and the other bronzed, behaved on the podium as if they had finished one-two. Swept up in the moment, they were thrilled by the occasion. They had played their part and that was enough.